Many would argue that the best view in Paris is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. In my experience, the most magnificent and unique outlook in Paris is to be had at the very top of a beautiful church named the Sacré-Cœur. A visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur, pronounced sah-kray-kohr) offers a view that encompasses La Défense, the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower, the Panthéon, the Bois de Vincennes, the Buttes-Chaumont and the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The top of the dome is the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel tower. I’ve been told that with binoculars in hand, all the monuments of Paris can be seen from the Sacré-Cœur.
The Basilica is located in Montmartre, a quintessentially French neighborhood on the north side of the city making it a magical place to visit, any time of year, any time of day. Montmartre is a hive of activity for writers, artists and sculptors alike. In addition to the phenomenal view and enjoyable experience of strolling through the neighborhood of Montmartre’s, cobblestone streets, elegantly aging apartments, and lively plazas, the Sacré-Cœur is also a historical and architectural star.
Montmartre, the home of the Sacré-Cœur, has historically always been a place of worship: from the Druids of ancient Gaul, through the Romans with their temples, to the Church of Saint Peter. The Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, was approved for construction by the French Parliament in 1871 as a representation of the new “moral order” in Paris after the agitated events that took place during the Franco-Prussian War. The completion of construction of the Basilica including the Bell Tower, Apse Mosaic, Crypt, Grand Organ and the surrounding reflection gardens took nearly 40 years to complete.
The architectural style of the Sacré-Cœur is very different from other churches in Paris which are primarily constructed in the Gothic style of the middle ages. The Sacré-Cœur is inspired by the Romano-Byzantine architecture found in Italy. Design aside, one of the churches most noticeable differences from others in the city is its gleaming white exterior. Looking up at the street from Champs-Élysées it almost appears that the church is made of whipped cream given Sacré-Cœur’s glistening white appearance and domed peaks. It’s surprising that the not even 150-year-old church’s façade has remained so pristine. This is due to the calcite in its stone from the nearby quarry of Château-Landon. Each time it rains, the special travertine stone bleaches with age to a gleaming white.
I recall, during my first trip to Paris, that the Sacre-Coeur was not even on my radar. Thankfully, I met up with an old friend who lived in Paris and they insisted on showing me around Montmartre. Not sure if it was the view, the grandeur or the architect of Sacré-Cœur but for something that wasn’t even on my list of places to visit, it ended up being one of the top highlights of my trip.
Exploration of the Sacre-Coeur with your concierge is part of our Montmartre Walking Tour as well as our Paris Night Lights evening drive tour.
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