Every so often during our stay in Paris we have been able to climb above the canyon of gray dull buildings. Each time we have emerged, we have noticed a brilliant white building with onion shaped domes perched atop a hill. What could that building possibly be? Sacre-Coeur of course! Sacre-Coeur sits atop the highest point in Paris at a whopping 420 feet. If one is lucky enough to see the sun in December, Sacre-Coeur will shine brilliantly white and immediately draw one’s eye. At sunset it will turn a pinkish color and look magnificant.
Curious about this beautiful building, this past week we decided to adventure over to the neighborhood of Monmartre to see Sacre-Coeur. We hopped off at the Anvers Metro stop and began our ascent to the top. At the base of Sacre-Coeur is an eclectic mix of tourist shops, musicians, cafes, artists, a park and a few pushy people selling trinkets. Even the Anvers Metro stop sign is unique, as it is one of the few Art Nouveau Metro signs left in Paris designed by Hector Guimard. To avoid the endless steps we could have taken a funicular to the top for the cost of a metro ticket, but we decided to climb the steps. The walk was well worth it. As we went up the steps, the view became increasingly breathtaking both literally and figuratively and it is by far the best view of Paris
Although Sacre-Coeur looks old, it is relatively new compared to some of the other behemoth churches in Paris. It was built approximately a century ago after the Prussian war to atone the “sins” of France. The brilliant white walls are due to the gypsum rock as gypsum rock whitens as it ages. The interior is impressive with detailed mosaics, but no photography is allowed. The original stained glass windows were blown out due to the concussive force of Allied bombs during WWII. The current stained glass is pretty and tells the story of Joan of Arc, but it is nowhere near as impressive as some of the other stained glass we seen while in Paris.
To experience an even better view of Paris you can pay 6 euros for an adult and 4 euros for a child to climb the dome. While trying to purchase our tickets, I attempted to explain in apparently very bad French that we would like tickets for the dome only and not the crypt. The ticket person politely asked, “Please speak English. It will be easier.” Her English was much better than my French! The 300-step spiral staircase up to the dome is even narrower than that of Notre Dame and I began feeling dizzy with the endless spiral upward, but alas we came to the top. The cost and climb was all worth it. The city spread out below our feet. We were also lucky as the sun peeked out behind some clouds and lit up the city beautifully.
After our descent from the dome, we wandered around the streets of Montmartre seeing one of the only two surviving windmills in Paris and some unique art. It was also fun to window shop at some of the eclectic shops. We enjoyed a picnic at the base of Sacre-Coeur eating delicious stuffed baguette pizzas with chorizo.
If you are looking for some of the best views of Paris, lots of interesting art and a fun day out with children, Sacre-Coeur is the place to go.