After Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle, we decided to round off the cathedrals and chapels with Sacré-Cœur, a basilica which sits atop the highest point in Paris. As evidenced by the great views and the hundreds of people outside, this is a prime spot for a picnic. If you forget food for your picnic, Sacré-Cœur is in the famous artists’ neighborhood Montmarte, surrounded by cute restaurants and cafes. Note that this isn’t really a “day trip;” we were at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise earlier and spent a couple of hours here in the afternoon.
We took la ligne duex du métro (line two of the metro) to Anvers (just off the edge of the above map), and walked through the touristy alleyways leading up to the neighborhood’s center.
Unlike Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle, Sacré-Cœur is much more modern, completed only in the early 1900s. As such, the interior of the church, while beautiful, is nowhere near as intricate as the churches of the 1200s and 1300s. The basilica was built to honor the French soldiers who died in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, and as reparation for the sins of France.
77 architects competed to design Sacré-Cœur, and the honor was given to Paul Abadie. The construction fund consisted of many donations over its 39 years of construction. Unfortunately, Abadie passed away shortly after the first foundation stone was laid.
We took our time approaching the basilica, getting distracted by one of the street performers along the way. As we were visiting during the time of the World Cup, this guy was especially popular.
When we began to watch, he was still standing on the ground, doing typical tricks many people had seen before. Eventually though he began to climb the lamp post and continue amazing the crowd. when he finally dropped the ball, there were plenty of donations and tips waiting.
There are several different levels along the approach to Sacré-Cœur, each offering slightly different panoramic views of the surrounding city. The dome of Sacré-Cœur is the second highest point in the city, only behind the Eiffel Tower.
Entrance to the basilica is free, but absolutely no photography is allowed. To see the interior of the monument, visit the Sacré-Cœur website.
After walking through Sacré-Cœur, we wandered the neighborhood for awhile before stumbling into central Montmarte.
Montmarte is really the entire neighborhood on the hill with Sacré-Cœur, small restaurants and shops, many artists and famous sights from classic movies. Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, van Gogh, Matisse and Degas all lived or worked in Montmarte at some point in their lives. An American in Paris (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952) and Amélie (2001) were all at least partially filmed in this neighborhood.
Today you can find dozens of artists working in the Place du Tertre, where you can get a cheap souvenir painting to bring home, or have yourself painted! The artists prefer you to not take pictures of their work, so I’ll just describe that the square continues to the left of the photo below. There are restaurants surrounding the square, and some have seating within it, so you can watch the artists as you dine.
The slant toward American tourists in the square was somewhat amusing. It seemed as if almost every artist who did portraits had a sample Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie out on display, among other noteworthy actors.
After walking around Montmarte a bit more, we began the walk back to the metro, purchasing a few more souvenirs on the way.
Earlier I mentioned that this was definitely not a full-day activity. Before visiting the neighborhood, we spent several hours at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, in a completely different part of the city. Next up will be our trip to Versailles, and following that will be Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Keep an eye out!