on June 6, 2003
If you’ve climbed up the stairs at any major monument to see a view of the city, you can’t have missed the white stone basilica that sits on a butte overlooking Paris. That’s Sacré Coeur, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Christ.
It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the great European cathedrals, but I think it’s worth a visit to the top of Monmartre (the name harkens back to the martyrs tortured and killed there ‘mons martyrium’). The exterior reminds me of a Russian church, or perhaps one of middle eastern origin – certainly not French. But inside, it boasts the same frescos and stained glass that you’d find in the French cathedrals.
Its dome is the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Though I have to admit we were stair-weary so we didn’t want to climb any more. Because of its hill-top location, the steps in front of the basilica itself offered a fair-enough view of the city in front of it.
At the base of Monmartre, there’s a funiculaire – basically an elevator-type contraption – that will take you to the top of the hill and save your feet yet more stairs. If you have a Metro pass, it will work to get you onto the funiculaire and to the top of the hill. Monmartre has long been known as an artist’s haven, and street artists are all around to sell tourists their works. We were also told that it was a great area for finding interesting cafés, but when we were there, it was late afternoon and we weren’t yet hungry.
All around, I’d say visit Monmartre and the Sacré Coeur only if you have extra time, but don’t sacrifice a crucial Paris monument or museum over it. It’s located in the 18th Arrondissement, which is a pretty far hike or a pretty long Metro ride.
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