Built between 1876 and 1910 as an act of national penitence for defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, the Sacre-Coeur has become one of Paris's most famous landmarks. Its fame has been heightened since its appearance in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's latest film, Amelie.

The white basilica sits atop the Butte Montmartre in the north of the French capital. The style of the building is bizarre - it is a sort of mock-Byzantine blancmange. For this reason, it has never been a favourite with aesthetes. The basilica was built as a show of Catholic strength at a time when there was bitter conflict between the church and state.

Nowadays, however, the Sacre-Coeur is little more than one of the many tourist attractions in Montmartre. The hundred or so steps leading to the church are filled with swarms of tourists watching the street performers on the road below. They look like the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Nevertheless, the Sacre-Coeur is an essential when visiting Paris. It remains an imposing structure, and the views across Paris from its high Montmartre position really are worth braving the crowds for.

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