Sacre Coeur & Montmartre
As the second most visited monument in Paris, you should make time to visit the Sacre Coeur during your stay. This beautiful church embodies a palpable Roman-Byzantine style chalked in white. The interior is decorated with impressive mosaic scenes spread across the ceiling. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Basilica is a place of worship for many, but it’s also worth visiting just to take in the views over Paris from the highest point in the city. What a lot of people don’t know about the Montmartre Basilica is that it holds a lot of secrets inside its Travertine stone walls, which we’ve uncovered below.
How to get to the Basilica
As an unmissable landmark in Paris, you won’t want to miss out on the chance to check out the Sacre Coeur. The Montmartre area is quite broad, so unless you’ve got the stamina for a long walk from the city centre, you’ll need to rely on public transport. Your best bet is to make your way to Anvers station, which will bring you the closest to the Montmartre hill. Take lines 2 and 12 of the Metro system or keep an eye out for buses labelled 30, 31, 80 and 85. These buses will take you to the Anvers Sacre Coeur bus stop at the bottom of the hill.
Once you reach the foot of the Montmartre hill, all you have to do is begin your uphill trek. The fastest way to reach the top is to take the main stairs at the main entrance, or if you prefer to soak up more scenic views, you can catch a bus to Blanche station and begin your walk from the Moulin Rouge. Entrance to the Basilica is entirely free. You can even show up with a group without making a reservation. The doors open from 6am to 10.30pm, giving you plenty of time throughout the day to visit.
Exploring the Sacre Coeur
When you enter the Basilica, you can explore at your own pace or book yourself a walking tour to learn more about the history of the Montmartre church. When you enter, you should take a few moments to download the app Tupuy. This will enable you to access the audio tour for the Basilica of Sacre Coeur for free. Pop in your earphones and listen to your virtual guide talk you through the history of the building.
The first thing you’ll notice is the massive mosaic on the ceiling. It’s the largest of its kind in France and measures 480 m². Most people make their way to the spiral staircase to take in the stunning views from the top of the dome first, but make sure you don’t miss a visit to the crypt. Discover the entrance at the bottom of the staircase on the left of the Basilica and prepare to be amazed at what you’ll find. Monumental statues of religious figures surround the area, as well as tombs of Cardinals Guibert and Richard. You’ll also see the urn containing Alexandre Legentil’s heart, who was the ‘initiator of the National Vow.’
Back inside the main church, take the 300 spiralling stairs to the very top of the dome. Here, you’ll see the whole of Paris, offering some incredible photographic opportunities you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoy the 360° panoramic view of the city and listen out for the organ playing from inside as you marvel at the sights.
Facts you didn’t know about Sacre Coeur
Long before its construction, the peak of the Montmartre hill was a hot spot for worshipers of various religions. Its high point made believers feel as though they were closer to God. So, when the time came to build the Basilica Sacre Coeur, the top of Montmartre was clearly the perfect choice. Since then, it’s become the second most visited church in Paris with around 10 million visitors each year.
One of the most interesting Sacre Coeur facts is why the church was built in the first place. Back in 1870 when the Prussians defeated the French army, Alexandre Legentil wanted to create a place for the French people to go to that would give them peace and comfort following the pain the city had gone through. It’s Alexandre Legentil’s heart that lies in the urn inside the underground crypt of the Basilica. It’s become one of the most peaceful places to visit in Paris. With its stunning architectural style and white colour, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to it each year.