On a recent trip to Paris, I got to re-experience some of the most well-known sights, as well as to discover some new things that were equally as exciting. I’ve visited Paris several times now, and every time I return, I find there are new things to see and that there will be things I have not noticed before in places that I have previously been. I often think that when you go on holiday, it is the things you are not expecting to see that are most exciting and enjoyable.
One area of Paris where this was particularly true was Montmartre. This is the hill to the north of the city which has the Sacre-Coeur at its peak. A wide variety of other well-known and slightly more hidden attractions can also be found on the way up, and it’s a great way to spend a day. It’s also a lovely area, with some nice traditional French bakeries and restaurants, though it is also one of the more dangerous areas of Paris at night.
The Sacre-Coeur itself, found at the very peak of the hill rivals the Notre Dame and many of the other churches for their beauty and grandiosity. I’d seen the outside before, but this was the first time I’d actually entered the cathedral. The sheer size of the place hits you as you walk through the door, and the marvel of the place is made even greater considering how early in history it was made and the limited tools that would have been available for building it. Perhaps even more impressive is the view from the top of the Montmartre hill, which is similar to that at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but is a completely natural view surveying the city, making it even more spectacular. As you walk down the hill you are greeted by more and more layers of beautiful stonework and fountains so that each to you look up at the cathedral the view becomes more and more beautiful.
Going down the hill further, into the main town, you will walk down roads of cute little traditional French bakeries and pubs, and some great souvenir shops if you want to get relatively cheap gifts for friends at home. Much cheaper than the souvenir stalls that are found along the Seine and elsewhere in the centre of the city. Within this section of the city can be found the Moulin Rouge, an old French bohemian theatre, made more famous by the film of the same name. During the late 19th and early 20th century, this theatre was the height of fashion and the wealthiest men from across France would come to watch the showgirls perform. Today the Moulin Rouge is a considerably smaller affair but its unique and iconic architecture, centred on a large red windmill, is still worth going to admire.
The way up the Montmartre hill can be long and tiring, but if you take it slowly and take time to go into the shops and enjoy the sights on the way up, you will hopefully not notice. Unfortunately the closest Metro station is at the bottom of the hill, but there are other methods of transport that you can use, for example a train that takes you from the closest Metro stop up to the Sacre-Coeur, and a cable car that takes you just from the road at the bottom of the hill up to the top, but you’ll have to pay for both of these.
If you’re visiting Paris any time soon then I recommend you spending a day in this area, since there’s just so much to do and it’s an easy way to avoid the busier crowds in the centre and get to know the city like a local.
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