La Basilique du Sacré Coeur sits at the top of Montmartre Hill in Paris, the highest point in the city. During our time in Paris, we were able to get a glimpse of Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart in English) twice – once from Notre-Dame Cathedral and then again from the Eiffel Tower.
Before we left for France, a friend mentioned that her favorite place in all of Paris was Sacré Coeur and urged us to pay it a visit while we were in the city. She claimed we’d find the view there to be “the best in Paris”. While I think that claim is subject to debate, the views from Sacré Coeur were indeed fantastic and we also very much enjoyed walking around Montmartre and seeing the basilica itself.
When we arrived at the foot of Montmartre, we discovered we would either need to climb 270 steps or take the funicular to the top of the hill. After climbing 700 steps at the Eiffel Tower earlier in the day and taking the 90 steps out of the Abbesses Metro station on our way to Montmartre, you’d think we’d have chosen the funicular, but you’d be wrong. We tackled those 270 steps with all the other
cheap frugal tourists.
When we finally reached the top, we found this energetic fellow entertaining the crowds surrounding Sacré Coeur by shimmying up a lamp post and hanging precariously from it while performing some sort of circus-style routine. With the expansive views of Paris behind him, it made for quite a show. (And a cool photograph!)
After taking a stroll through the area surrounding the basilica, we decided to see the church while we still had some daylight. Our real intention in coming to Sacré Coeur was to get photos of the city at night, so we were just biding our time on the hill until sunset. So far on our trip, the only time we’d seen Paris at evening was from the Arc de Triomphe on our first night and I really wanted to see it once more before we returned to London the next day.
The sun was just beginning to set as we approached the basilica, and the way the light reflected off the stone on the exterior of the church was absolutely gorgeous. Random fact: The stone used on the church’s exterior actually exudes a chemical that essentially protects the church from pollution and weathering, ensuring it stays gloriously white for all eternity. The basilica will turn 100 next year and still looks brand new, so I guess it works!
Photography is absolutely forbidden inside La Basilique du Sacré Coeur, but I didn’t realize that until I’d already taken a couple photos as we wandered through the basilica’s beautiful interior. Apparently, this unfortunate rule is strictly enforced. While we were sitting in the church watching the nuns go about their business, I saw a guard march up to someone taking a photo and demand they delete the photo from their camera! I have never seen that happen before, and it made me very grateful no one had seen me snapping the above two photos. Yikes.
After resting for a bit inside the church, we returned to our spot outside to get some photos of the city as night began to fall. We noticed the storm clouds right away, and I only had a few seconds to snap a photo before it began to pour. We took cover under a tree in a little park behind the church and waited the storm out. By the time it passed, we were absolutely soaked. That, combined with the chill in the air, made standing outside absolutely miserable. I knew we wouldn’t be able to wait in the cold for the city lights to come on while drenched, and I was just beginning to get rather discouraged when something amazing happened – a giant rainbow formed directly over Sacré Coeur!
I took the above shot from where we were standing under our makeshift shelter and then realized, with the way the rainbow was forming, it would also be directly over the city. I, very ungracefully, scaled the fence surrounding the park we were in and ran for the area in front of the basilica. I wasn’t sure how long the rainbow would last and I wanted to capture it before it faded!
But instead of fading, it only grew bigger and brighter, eventually turning into a double rainbow stretching across the landscape in front of us. It was absolutely magical, and it made standing in wet clothes while shivering from head to toe completely worth it.
While I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get to stick around and snap some evening photos, maybe it’s not such a great loss. From the ground at Montmartre, the only view I could find of the Eiffel Tower was through some trees a good distance from the basilica (to the left if you’re facing the church). So even if we’d stayed until nightfall, I don’t think I’d have gotten the night shots of the Eiffel Tower I wanted without paying to go into the dome at the top of the basilica. (And I’m not even entirely certain the dome is open after dark, actually.) The shots I got in the daytime made visiting Sacré Coeur well worth the effort, though!
I’ll end this with the single photo I got of the Eiffel Tower while we were at Sacré Coeur. The sky was doing some pretty amazing things that evening and I love the color in this one. This was like the fifth sky color we saw in a two-hour time frame!
Entrance into La Basilique du Sacré Coeur is free, but if you’d like to go into the dome, the cost is €6 and you’ll have yet another set of stairs to climb, 300 to be exact. Unlike the inside of the church, photos from the dome are allowed. Also, if you prefer not to take the 270 steps from the base of the hill to Sacré Coeur, the cost for the funicular is one Metro ticket. If you take the steps, be prepared to be heckled by vendors trying to sell you all sorts of souvenirs!
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