Montmartre, Sacre Coeur Cathedral

Montmartre is one of the most charming areas of Paris, full of individual houses that have lots of character. This is my favourite part of Paris and is only a short walk from the Eurostar Gare du Nord International railway station. On top of the Montmartre hill near the attractive cathedral of Sacre Coeur is the charming cobbled street, artist quarter. This small square is a preserved historical gem. It is what most tourists think all Paris looks like.

Montmartre cathedral

Turn right outside the main entrance of the Gare du Nord railway station and at the 8 road junction take Boulevard de Magenta. Turn left at the Boulevard de Rochechouart and keep walking until you come to the Metro station called Anvers. Turn right up Rue de Stienkerque to the base of the Sacre Coeur, Montmartre. Walk up through the park to the cathedral of Sacre Coeur. If you have problems walking up hills there is a funicular railway on the left hand side of the park.

Montmartre means the mountain of the martyr. Saint Denis was decapitated on the highest hill in Paris about 250AD. He was a missionary sent by the early Christian church of Rome in to convert the Gaul and Roman pagans in France. He became the Bishop of Paris. Denis, upset the powerful pagan priests by his many conversions. This lead to his execution by beheading. The location was chosen as it was believed to have been a pagan holy place.

According to the religious stories on the lives of the Saints dated from around 1220, after Saint Denis had his head chopped off, he picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon. The place where he stopped and died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, It became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the river Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts. He became the patron Saint of France. The cry 'Saint Denis, Saint Denis' often combined as 'Montjoie! Saint Denis!' became the war-cry of the French armies.

Sacre Coeur Basilica

La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre

La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre is the correct name for the cathedral. Abbesses and Anvers Metro stations are the nearest. It opens daily from 6am to 11pm. This striking building with towers and white onion domes looks a bit like a wedding cake. It is 83m high and was built between 1875 and 1914. Prominent businessmen raised the money necessary to build this mock Romano-Byzantine architectural extravaganza. Apart from the Eiffel Tower, the views from the dome offers unsurpassed views of Paris as it is 200m above sea level.

The front steps and balcony of La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre offers some of the best views over Paris. The road called Rue Maurice Utrillo is to the right of the La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre if you are looking at it from the front. It is one of the most photographed streets in Paris because of its picturesque steep flights of steps, old street lights, handrail and attractive town houses.

Montmartre Cemetery

Montmartre Cemetery is called the Cimetiere de Montmartre can be found in rue de la Barriere Blanch. The nearest Metro station is Place de Clichy. There are a few famous occupants but the main reason to visit the cemetery is to observe the typically French gothic ornate and sometimes macabre tombstones and sculptures.

Travel books