We said goodbye to Bayeux and the Normandy region to head to Paris, where I volunteered to work at WordCamp Europe (an event well worth a completely separate post). I had some free time on the first day I was in Paris and wanted to make sure that I saw a couple of sites in particular that I missed when I was here last year: Sacré-Coeur and the catacombs.
Last year, we stayed near the Eiffel Tower in a completely different arrondissement and the stark white basilica of Sacré-Couer was visible from miles away. Visibility is helped by the fact that the basilica sits on top of a pretty high hill. The fact that you can see it from so many points in the city makes it feel deceptively close, but it was pretty far from where we were in the city last year and our itinerary was packed so we had to forego a visit. This year, we stayed in Montmartre, so Sacré-Couer was a much easier location to get to. If you’re in a different area of town and want to visit, do yourself a favor and take the metro. Paris traffic is a total nightmare and it’s often much quicker and way cheaper to take the metro than to get a taxi or Uber.
This is a very touristy section of Montmartre so there are plenty of crowds around. Just follow the masses of people and you’ll find yourself on one of the streets that leads straight to the basilica.
Paris was hot in June y’all, and there’s nothing like climbing 8,000 stairs (slight exaggeration…) to really make you sweat. There are of course vendors in the area happy to sell you an icy-cold bottle of water for a euro or 2, in addition to various trinkets and other inexpensive souvenirs.
I should note that you will need to consider your attire before a visit – it’s not super-strict but they will ask you to cover your legs if you’re wearing anything too-short. Anything knee-length (or close to) seemed to be fine. If you are wearing short-shorts to beat the heat, bringing a light-weight scarf and tying it as a skirt works. I didn’t see anyone asked to cover shoulders but it’s worth checking on just in case.
There are a few shaded places you can stop and rest if the heat or the steps leave you breathless on the way to the top of the hill.
Once you get to the top – the views! Ç’est très magnifique!
Photography was not allowed inside the basilica, which was a major bummer. I did notice many people completely ignore this and snap away, which to be honest, made me irritated. The signs are clear and noticeable so there is no excuse for this – it’s just an example of people assuming the rules only apply to others. I found it to be very disrespectful behavior, particularly since this is an active house of worship.
Tourists are not exempt from the responsibility to follow the rules and display proper behavior at houses of worship or other religious sites (regardless of whether or not you observe that or any religion), grave markers, and any other place that calls for one to be respectful. OK, that’s the end of my rant. 🙂
Once you’ve finished with your visit to the basilica, you will definitely want to go to the very top – the dome. You’ll need to exit the basilica and counter-intuitively, take a short set of steps down to the entrance to the dome.
And here’s where those stairs get brutal, y’all. Be prepared.
There are multiple signs posted to warn you that there are 300 (!!) stairs to climb. Similar to Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe and several other old sites in Europe, they are spiral stairs. For some people, it can feel quite claustrophobic since the staircase is very narrow and circles up and up, with no visible end in sight. There are a few crevices and crannies where you can stop for a bit of rest if you need without blocking the stairs for others.
Now, if you thought the view from the basilica was amazing, just wait until you get to the Dome!
I would highly recommend a visit here if you’re in Paris and if you can handle the stairs. It’s a good workout so in addition to seeing a magnificent place of worship and incredible views of Paris, you can also justify eating that extra croissant or pain au chocolat or having that extra glass of wine. Enjoy!