Although some may poke fun at Sacré-Cœur’s unsubtle design, the view from its parvis is one of those perfect Paris postcards. More than just a basilica, Sacré-Cœur is a veritable experience, from the musicians performing on the steps and the groups of friends picnicking on the hillside park. Touristy, yes. But beneath it all, Sacré-Cœur’s heart still shines gold.
Begun in 1875 in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War and the chaos of the Paris Commune, Sacré-Cœur is a symbol of the former struggle between the conservative Catholic old guard and the secular, republican radicals. It was finally consecrated in 1919, standing in utter contrast to the bohemian lifestyle that surrounded it.
Some 234 spiralling steps lead you to the basilica’s dome, which affords one of Paris’ most spectacular panoramas – up to 30km on a clear day. Weighing in at 19 tonnes, the bell called La Savoyarde in the tower above is the largest in France. The chapel-lined crypt can also be visited (for an additional €2), but is less interesting.
If you don’t want to walk the hill, you can use a regular metro ticket aboard the funicular.