By Jason Vu

On my last trip to Paris, one of my favorite places to visit was the hill of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. At the top of this hill was the beautiful white-domed Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, known more commonly as the Sacre Coeur. Completed in 1914, the Basilica was built as an act of penance for what was seen as the moral decay of the city following the Franco-Prussian War and the rise of the Paris Commune. Now back in Paris, I was determined to make another visit to this extraordinary shrine.


On an early morning before our regular class meeting, I made my way to Montmartre using the metro. The stop I left at led directly to the base of the tall hill and from there, I made my long trek up the hundreds of stairs leading to Sacre Coeur.

Me at the bottom of Sacre Coeur, getting ready for the hike up


Needless to say, I was sweaty and tired when I reached the top of the hill, but it was more than worth it to arrive at the highest point in Paris. After taking in the view for a little bit, I made my way into the Basilica to take a closer look at the sacred space. Due to the strict rules on taking any pictures at all inside, I was unable to snap any shots but believe me when I say the interior was as magnificent as the exterior!


Upon finishing my tour of the inside, I stumbled upon another to enhance my experience of Sacre Coeur. For just 7 Euros, I could climb 300 stairs to the top of the central white dome of the Basilica. Given that this was most likely the highest point in all of Paris, I decided that I needed to go. Starting at the very bottom of Sacre Coeur, I began to climb up the long stairs that led to the summit of Paris.

Halfway to the top of Sacre Coeur!

View from the top of Sacre Coeur’s main dome


Out of breath and sore, I had lost track of time until reaching the top of the dome. Instantly, my legs felt like jello being so high up and I remember gasping aloud when I looked down to see how far up I was. Nonetheless, the view I was treated to was like nothing I’d ever seen before. In the distance, I could see some of Paris’s most well-known monuments—the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe—dwarfed by the immensely higher Sacre Coeur. After taking a moment to sit in the stone benches provided for visitors to rest in, I began my trek back down to the ground.


With about a thousand stairs climbed all before lunch, I decided that I needed to take a break from climbing stairs for a bit. Luckily, Montmartre provides a small tram that goes up and down the hill for those who don’t want to climb the stairs. Even better, the Navigo Transit Card that our program provided us allowed me to use this service for free! With my morning visit to Montmartre complete, it was time for me to head to class. While this meant I had to say goodbye to Sacre Coeur, this would definitely not be the last time I come back!

The funiculaire going down from Sacre Coeur to Paris

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019.