Sacré-Coeur – Tips for Visitors

Paris has an iconic skyline and the Eiffel Tower isn’t the only landmark that makes it so. High up on a hill overlooking the city sits the Sacré-Coeur. Day or night, you can see this famous basilica from various points in the city, but it’s worth making the trip up to Montmartre to admire this historic building up close, take in the views over Paris, and explore a bit of this wonderful area. Here is some basic info plus some of our tips for making a visit to the Sacré-Coeur.

The magnificent Sacré-Coeur
The magnificent Sacré-Coeur

Facts & History Behind the Sacré-Coeur

The Montmartre hilltop has long been a place of worship dating back to the days of the Druids of Gaul and the ancient Romans. Various temples and abbeys stood here before the Sacré-Coeur was built.

In comparison to many of Paris’ churches and other historic buildings, the Sacré-Coeur is not very old. Following France’s defeat by Prussian troops in the early 1870s, Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a sign of penitence and to instill faith and hope in the French people.

The Archbishop of Paris approved the vow, architect Paul Abadie was selected to create the plans, and building began in June of 1875. The construction was completed in 1914, but the consecration of the church and additional work, such as the laying of the famous mosaic, were not completed until 1923.

Today, the Sacré-Coeur is second most-visited church in France behind the Notre-Dame. Around 10 million people visit annually!

It was a bit quieter on a rainy October day
The area was a bit quieter on a rainy October day


The Sacré-Coeur was built on the crest of Montmartre. This hill was the highest point in Paris until the Eiffel Tower was built in the late-1880s.

The Sacré-Coeur is quite a unique building in multiple aspects. Paris has many gothic churches, but the this one features Roman-Byzantine architecture inspired by churches from the Byzantine era, like the Hagia Sophia. Architects chose a durable travertine stone that is known to “self-clean.” When it rains, the stone releases calcite, which maintains the basilica’s bright white appearance.

Inside the Sacré-Coeur is the famous Apse Mosaic, or Mosaic of Christ in Glory. The detailed image depicts Christ surrounded by Mary and various Saints. It is the largest mosaic in France and one of the largest in the world. The Savoyarde Bell in the tall bell tower is also one of the largest in the world, weighing in at around 19 tons.

Sacré-Coeur exterior details
Sacré-Coeur exterior details

Getting to the Sacré-Coeur

The closest metro station to the Sacré-Coeur is Anvers served by Line 2. From there, walk up Rue de Steinkerque to Louise Michel Square and park where the funicular is. You can take the short funicular up the hill and then the short set of stairs to the top, or you can walk the whole length the stairs through the pretty park to the front of the Sacré-Coeur. Tickets for the funicular use the same system as other public transport (i.e. metro, bus, RER).

There are a couple buses that will drop you near the church as well. Bus 40 runs right out front of the Sacré-Coeur, and buses 84 and 54 run near the Anvers station.

There are many other metro and bus stations in the area though. Click here to see more info on the transport lines, stops, and maps. The stations and stops are also well marked on Google Maps.

Additionally, there is the Montmartre train, which runs a route with a guide through the area. The Sacré-Coeur is along its route.

The steps leading through the park at the base of the Sacré-Coeur
The steps leading through the park at the base of the Sacré-Coeur

Fees & Hours

Visitors can enter the Sacré-Coeur basilica free of charge. Note that there is usually a line out front for security, but it moved pretty quickly when we visited. It is open daily from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Mass occurs Monday through Friday at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 6:30 p.m., and 10 p.m., with an additional Mass on Friday at 3 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, Mass occurs at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 10 p.m. with an additional Sunday Mass at 6 p.m. For schedule updates and info on other events, check the official website.

If you want to climb up into the dome of the Sacré-Coeur, you must purchase a ticket. The official webpage doesn’t state prices and mentions that they vary, but it was €6 per person when we visited. Access to the dome is to the left of the basilica. Buy tickets upon arriving –  they cannot be booked online in advance. The dome is open to visitors daily from 10:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing. Hours are subject to change based on season and weather.

The Bell Tower and crypt are currently not open to visitors, but check the webpage for updates.

Visitors waiting in the line out front
Visitors waiting in the line out front


This is a sacred religious site where many come to pray and attend Mass. It is expected that all visitors wear appropriate clothing – avoid super short skirts and shorts and low-cut tops. Keep noise to a minimum to respect those who have come to pray.

Visitors may not take photos inside the basilica.

Visiting the Sacré-Coeur

We made our way up to the Sacré-Coeur on a rainy afternoon after doing some exploring through Montmartre. The line out front was brief, which we were happy with since it had started to rain again. If you want to avoid crowds, it is best to go close to when it opens.

Once inside, you can instantly see why this building is so special. The long hall stretches in front of you and the massive domes stand tall overhead.

Matt in front of Sacré-Coeur

Just inside, there is a small shop and reception area where you can purchase various religious items, books, a guide booklet for €5, or ask any questions you may have to the helpful members on duty there.

As you walk around the basilica, there are many things to take in, from the details in the stonework and the intricate mosaic to the beautiful altars and skylight in the main dome. We took our time to stroll around, spending about 30 minutes inside.

The views over Paris are great from in front of the Sacré-Coeur. But if you want to get up even higher, you can opt to climb the dome. The panoramic views from the top are beautiful and there are some binoculars if you want to take more detailed peek at the city. Note that there are 300 stairs to climb to reach the top and an elevator is not an option.

Foggy views over Paris
Foggy views over Paris

The grounds around the Sacré-Coeur are quite beautiful as well. There are nice green spaces to sit with fountains nearby and many flowering gardens in the summer, steps leading up to the church that make for a great photo op, and some great spots to take in the view over Paris. This is a popular place to watch sunset and see the city light up at dark.

Extra Notes

One important thing to note is that the area around the Sacré-Coeur is a popular spot for scammers. The most well-known scam to take place here is the bracelet trick where scammers will somewhat forcibly attach a “friendship bracelet” to you and then demand payment for it. We didn’t see too much of this, but we were there on a rainy day in the off season when there weren’t as many tourists walking about. As always, watch for pickpockets and read up on some of the other most common scams in Paris.

Scams do happen pretty much everywhere though. We found Montmartre area to be really wonderful. The streets beyond the Sacré-Coeur are full of great restaurants and cafés, shops, artsy murals and installations, cabarets, and more. It’s a lovely place to explore before or after your visit to the famous basilica!

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