It’s late at night. We’re sharing a charcuterie and cheese plate in a dimly lit bar near Rue Oberkampf, one of our favorite spots for nightlife in Paris. Our waiter asks us how long we’ve been in the city and what we’ve seen so far. We give him the rundown and he immediately demands we visit Sacre Coeur as soon as possible. “It’s so beautiful, you can’t leave Paris without seeing it,” he says. The next day we heed his advice and hop on the subway to Montmartre to check it out. If you’re headed to Sacre Coeur, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Don’t: Take the funicular. Really. The funicular only makes sense if you’re at least 95 years old (or physically impaired). Climb each step and enjoy all the flowers, the people, and the views as you go. Keep in mind, it can be very crowded here so you’ll have to be patient at times but it’s absolutely worth it.
Do: Bring a picnic. The top of the hill is one of the best places to relax and have a snack. Even with the crowds you’ll be able to find a place to sit on the stairs, or in the grass and take in one of the best views of the city. On a clear day, you can see for miles from up here.
Don’t: Engage the string men: near the bottom of the hill, as you begin your climb, you’ll be approached by at least one man who tries to wrap bits of colorful string around your wrist. He’ll ask you where you’re from and try to get you into conversation before demanding payment for the bracelet. Just firmly say “non merci” and keep moving.
DO: Watch the street performers. There are plenty of people vying for your attention near popular tourist sites in Paris, but we found the most impressive street performers at the top of the hill here. The guy below was entertaining a huge crowd, taking clothes off, putting clothes on, climbing lampposts all without ever dropping the soccer ball. It’s really something you have to see to understand just how impressive it is. His name is Iya Traore and he’s pretty well-known. You can see him in action here and here.
Don’t: Miss out on Chocolate shops in Montmartre. After heading back down the hill and into the city we were on the lookout for something sweet. We wandered into Maison Georges Larnicol where we were greeted by giant chocolate sculptures and rows of delicious-looking candies. There was also a giant case full of Macarons. Piled high in delicate pyramids, the brightly colored cookies begged me buy them. Out of respect for their charm, I obliged.
I’m glad we followed our waiters recommendation, he was right; Sacre Coeur is one of those places you must see in Paris.