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See all of Paris from the Sacred Sacre Coeur Basilica

Published by Bill Lehane, Writer

Country: France

The Experience

Standing tall in the heart of the City of Lights, the elegant stone edifice of the Sacre Coeur Basilica rivals only the Eiffel Tower in defining the Paris skyline. The dome top of the Sacre Coeur Basilica, which reaches over 200 meters high, is open to tourists and offers a view over all of Paris up to 30 miles away in every direction. As well as gaining an unrivalled view of the city, you can observe people from all walks of life that gather on the steps outside the Basilica and stream into the charming streets of Montmartre.

A venerated pilgrimage site, Sacre Coeur Basilica welcomes thousands of tourists from all over France and around the world every year. Perched over Montmartre, the name signifies the ‘Mount of Martyrs,’ christened after Saint Denis (the first bishop of Paris dating from the 3rd century) who is buried at the Sacre Coeur Basilica site. The site of this huge church originally hosted an abbey which was destroyed during the French Revolution. The Sacre Coeur Basilica itself was approved afterwards in 1873, although construction headaches and World War I meant it was not consecrated until 1919.

The Sacre Coeur Basilica’s Romano-Byzantine interior features a great mosaic entitled ‘Christ in Majesty,’ which is among the largest in the world. You can also see the beautiful stained glass windows and fine pipe organ. However, the highlight of the Sacre Coeur Basilica is the Dome, which reaches 83 meters high from within the church. Once you have taken in the view from atop the Sacre Coeur Basilica and weaved back down the many steps, enjoy a break at the bottom by riding the carousel featured in the famous movie Amélie.

Afterwards, why not drop over to Place des Abesses and get something to eat while admiring the view of the Sacre Coeur Basilica. 'Saint-Jean' and 'Sancerre' are the Montmartre district's oldest and most popular cafes. Art fans will not want to miss nearby Place due Tertre, known as the city's 'Artists Square'. There you'll find the home of almost three hundred artists as well as samples of some of the finest art to come from Paris in recent centuries. By now, you'll have visited one of the world’s most famous holy sites and got a real sense of the beguiling beauty of the Montmartre district.

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When to Go to Sacre Coeur

Most major airlines have direct flights to one of the city's main airports: Roissy-Charles de Gaulles and Orly, with a variety of transport options to get to the city proper. Be aware that Paris-Beauvais is a hefty 55 miles from the French capital, adding an extra ninety minutes to your journey.

As a world famous tourist destination, Paris gets very crowded in summer. Consider travelling in off-peak times like spring and autumn, but be prepared for rain! The best time to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica is during the morning before the crowds set in and it is still cool. Another good option is a mid-afternoon visit to enjoy a picnic on the grass under the Basilica.


Odds n' Ends

The Paris transport system is priced very equitably, and you will find you can traverse the city on the extensive metro network for very little cost. A single-journey ticket costs just €1.60, and you can transfer to as many different lines as you like on one ticket provided you do not exit to street level. A range of passes and travel cards are available, but for visitors the simplest and cheapest option is to buy a carnet, or ten-ticket book, from any corner shop for €11.40. Tip: You can share these little white tickets among your travel party and they are also valid on Paris bus lines.

The Metro stop at Places des Abbesses, on Line 12, leaves you a ten-minute walk from the Sacre Coeur Basilica. The service runs from just after 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. Another option is to go on the district's dedicated bus line, and starting from Place Pigalle, the Montmartrobus takes you to all the principal spots of the district. It runs daily from 7.30 a.m. to after midnight.

For religious visitors to the Sacre Coeur Basilica, there is a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated three times daily, with confession and other special services throughout the week.

All visitors are asked to dress appropriately and observe silence as much as possible.

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