The Sacre-Couer: Everything you need to know!
The Sacré-Coeur is one of my favourite sights in Paris. Ever since I saw the movie La Fabuleuse Destin d’Amelie Poulin, I have loved Montmartre and its hilltop basilica with all my heart. Although the basilica is a real tourist hot-spot, it is more than worth planning in a visit to this white Parisian sentinel. The basilica boasts great architecture, with sculptures, mosaic and stained glass windows. The Sacré-Coeur stands out for its bright white appearance and the phenomenal location on top of the Montmartre.
If you are looking for the best hotels to stay at in Montmartre, you might want to have a look at my post about the 6 best and highest rated hotels in Montmartre.
Construction and design
A competition was held in 1873 basically crowdsourcing the design of the Sacré-Coeur. This competition was finally won by Paul Abadie and construction began in 1875. The construction took a very long time. Even so long that the designer of the Sacré-Coeur Paul Abadie never saw the building completed because he died before the last brick was laid and mortared. The basilica opened for the first time in 1891 to the public.
The Sacré-Coeur is modelled after the shape of a Greek cross. This means that all ends of the cross are the same length. A nice fact: the stones that make up the Sacré-Coeur are travertine stones. This type of stone forms the secret of the Sacré-Coeur and why, after all this time, it has kept its amazing white colour. It is in fact a kind of limestone that constantly separates calcium. This keeps the basilica white as snow.
The main reason for building the basilica was to commemorate the casualties of the Franco-Prussian war that took place from 1870 to 1871. Another reason why the Sacré-Coeur was built was as penance for the "communards" crimes. This was a two-month uprising in Paris after and during which 20.000 communards were executed and more than 7000 were jailed.
Funicular to the Sacré-Coeur
Getting to the Sacre-Couer might be an ordeal for some. With more than 250 steps you will probably be a tad out of breath when you finally reach the top. If you don’t want to take the steps you can always take the funicular. A ride on the funicular to the Sacré-Coeur costs just as much as a ride on the metro: you need a t-ticket. You can buy this ticket in every and all metro stations.
Of course, you can walk directly to the Sacré-Coeur, but the best part is to first take a few side roads to get through the Montmartre district. It is really a very nice neighborhood, full of art, recognizable places from movies, cosy restaurants and beautiful sights
Visit the Sacré-Coeur
The Sacré-Coeur is open every day from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. During this time you can go in and have a look at the décor of the – quite sober, basilica. The entrance to the basilica is completely free so this is a perfect stop when you are looking for a budget trip to Paris.
For current opening times and other information regarding attending masses etc. it is best to take a look at the official website of the Sacré-Coeur.
Visit the dome of the Sacré-Coeur
If you are still full of energy after taking the steps up to the top of Montmartre, you can also visit the dome of the Sacre-Coeur. You will find the entrance to the steps on the left hand side by the entrance. You will have to take over 300 steps to get to the top, but once there, you will have a spectacular view over Paris. A visit to the dome of the Sacre-Coeur will cost you €5.
Audio guide for the Sacre-Coeur
Would you like to find out more about the history, architecture and construction of the Sacré-Coeur? Then you can download an audio guide online. Unfortunately, no tours in the basilica itself are given. This is to ensure as much peace as possible in the basilica as not to disturb people coming here to pray.
Tip: the Sacré-Coeur is heated inside during the winter. It is a nice place to warm up a bit when it is cold outside.
View of Paris from the Sacré-Coeur
As I have said countless times before: the view over Paris from the Sacré-Coeur is really spectacular. It is one of the highest points in Paris and you look over the entire city. Every time I visit Paris I make sure to visit the top of Montmartre at least once, just so I can marvel at the view.
Street vendors at the Sacre-Coeur
Watch out for street vendors and scammers at the Sacré-Coeur! One of the most common ways to scam tourists near the Sacre Coeur is through men making a "friendship bracelet" around your arm. They grab your hand and wrap a half-made bracelet around your arm. They will then try to talk to you and quickly finish the bracelet while you are walking/trying to get rid of them. Don't let this happen and continue immediately! A lot of tourists feel obliged to pay up once they notice the bracelet has been finished. You shouldn’t! Once you tell them you will not pay and you do not want the bracelet, they get the bracelet off your arm and with one tuck on a cotton string, the bracelet falls apart. Also pay attention to your things because pickpockets are always operating near Montmartre.
Accessibility with public transport
The Sacré-Coeur can be reached by public transport in various ways.
By metro: The Château Rouge metro station (line 4) is the closest metro station to the Sacré-Coeur, but I would not say that this is definitely the best metro station to get off if you want to see the Sacré-Coeur. It is actually nice to walk through the Montmartre district so a different metro station would be more fun, depending on which sights you want to visit in Montmartre. I usually get off at Abesses or Anvers.
By bus: a so-called "Montmartobus" runs especially for tourists who want to visit Montmartre. This bus runs through all the narrow streets and passes various sights such as the Sacré-Coeur, the Place du Tertre (square with all painters) and the vineyard of Montmartre.
The Montmartrobus stops at these metro stations:
By bike: There are several Vélib stations in the Montmartre where you can park your bike and then walk up to the Sacré-Coeur.
Other Paris attractions close to the Sacre-Couer
House Tristan Tzara
Henri de Toulouse Lautrex house and studio
Appartement de Theo Van Gogh
Tomb of Dalida
Cafe des Deux Moulins
Musee de Montmartre
Place du Tertre
Le mur des je t'aime
Le Moulin Dated
Le Passe Muraille
Theatre des Abesses
Villa des Platanes
Les Trois Baudets