Tales of Adventure: Montmartre at Sunrise


Ahh… it feels good to be back talking about travel! My favorite subject. I know what you’e thinking right now… how did I manage to get a photo of one of the most iconic landmarks in Montmartre, Paris without hardly even a single person? N’est ce pas? Ah well… I can’t always guess your mind. But it’s true, I did manage to snap this shot without hardly a tourist in sight. How? Well, ma chérie… in order to get a photograph without people, you must arrive at your destination before the people… meaning, before dawn. Sunrise!


That’s right. One fine morning in May, two of my friends and I decided to brave the wee morning hours and strike out up to the 18th arrondissement, to the neighborhood known as Montmartre. The Bohemian capital of an artist’s city. How could it not be magical? Well… let me tell you a story…


By now, if you have been following my blog for a little bit, you will probably have heard me say that nothing in Paris is as you expect it to be. Sunrise at the Sacre Coeur is no exception. Oh, not because we overslept and missed it. We were perfectly on time. The problem was, no matter how many times we circled or how many angles we tried, the sun was constantly behind a building. There was simply no angle where we could properly watch the sun rise. Miscalculation on our part. Otherwise, it would have been lovely. That is… if there hadn’t been a public holiday the night before…


You see, my friend Hilary and I are looking rather fresh for being up at 5:30 in the morning. This is because, unlike the rest of les français… we were not up all night drinking on the steps of Montmartre. That’s right – all the steps leading up to the majestic Sacre Coeur were covered with evidence of last night’s party. Bottles, rubbish, and worse littered the steps all the way up to the top of the hill. I don’t need to tell you that the smell was enough to put us off of our quest, but we were determined. Tourists often are, and we hadn’t crossed that threshold into locals just yet (since this day I have actually drank wine on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, but that’s a story for another time.).


These are the step, significantly cleaned up from the scene that greeted us when we first arrived. Apparently the city workers had been hard at work while we were busy chasing the sun behind buildings. How silly we must have looked, but it was rather serene to be able to enjoy a normally overly crowded spot without the usual throngs of people. Eventually, we bowed our heads to the Goddess called Paris, and began to descend back to the streets below. It was still quite early at this point, but a very generous cafe owner offered to let us sit at a table and have coffee before his establishment actually opened. Again, to be able to enjoy this area and this view without the hindrance of people… that alone was worth the trouble of the alarm clock!


We sat, in the dark (until the cafe properly opened at least) drinking our cafes et croissants… soaking in the view before the city awakened. I have to admit it was quite beautiful, once we removed ourselves to a safe distance from the smell. It looks so serene, perched up on that hill. I, however, am completely unable to take a serious photograph, hence the silly pose. Let her have all the regal qualities. I’ll settle for the quirky guest appearance.

Was it exactly the experience we imagined? Certainly not. But then, when in life is anything what we expected it to be? Paris teaches this lesson, again and again. And she’s such a beautiful teacher, the pupil hardly minds the lesson.

  • Even if it wasn’t a perfect experience, your photos are great! I love being able to see places without the throngs of people!

    • Haha it was that element of it not working out as expected that made it so perfect though! It was so serene to be there before the crowds, especially since it usually crawling with people. Definitely one of my favorite Parisian memories! 🙂

  • Foreign Geek

    Montmartre was my most fave place in Paris! I would love to visit it again someday and seeing your pics, I would love to experience it without the crowd as well. Ahhh it’s all so dreamy <3

    • It is a fabulous area of Paris! Great shopping boutiques, great cafes, and gorgeous views. Definitely try to go early in the morning – it’s a whole different vibe than during the day. 🙂

  • Oh I love Montmartre. Good on you for getting up so early! Your pictures are great!

    • Thank you! It was really just so beautiful in that soft morning light. We really lucked out on the day too – not a cloud in the sky! 🙂

  • Good tip! I have never seen it without the crowds. Paris after midnight is also one of my favorites. When the street cleaners are out, the streets are calm and the river is bathed in that lovely yellow light. Love it.

    • Oooh yes late at night is beautiful as well! They don’t call it the City of Lights for no reason, and everything seems to slow down at night. We used to do picnics by the Seine at night sometimes, across from Notre Dame. I loved watching the dinner cruises go by beneath the lit up cathedral. I could definitely live there again lol. 🙂

  • Montmartre is my favorite part of Paris its so beautiful!

    • It is a truly special spot. It’s a more colorful neighborhood than others, but that’s what keeps in interesting. Plus that view is unmatched!

  • Oh this is just so beautiful and that’s so cool you guys did that! I would’ve totally been up for it! Anything to miss a crowd and enjoy the purity and innocence of a moment. And I love your last picture!mit almost looks superimposed! 🙂

    • It was on our “bucket list” experiences for Paris that semester – we wrote down everything we wanted to make sure to do on a piece of paper, and ended up crossing pretty much all of it off! Little did I know then that I would end up spending 3 years in that city. 🙂

  • Sacre Coeur at sunrise is a little different to how I remember it. I may have mentioned that I visited because of a post of yours that I read. I’d never been before and read a post of yours that listed Sacre Coeur as one of the ‘must-sees’ in Paris. As I was due a trip to Paris shortly after that, it got moved to the top of my list, but it kept raining and so I kept putting it off. Anyway, the morning of the day I was leaving and the weather wasn’t any better, but I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on it again, and so I went in the rain. It was wet, windy and cold, and needless to say I wasn’t enjoying it much as I dragged myself up the hill. But, as I reached the top and entered, everybody was stoney silent and taking seats, so I did the same. Turns out I’d arrived just in time for a service, and it was incredible. I stayed for the entire thing and at moments I honestly had tingles, it was just magical, and made the toil of getting there all worthwhile. I guess I wouldn’t have had that experience if it wasn’t for your blog, so for that, I thank you!

    • Wow Robert thank you for sharing your story here!!! You have no idea how much it means to me that you had such a fabulous experience there. Really really really glad it lived up to all my praises! It is a bit off the beaten track way up on its own in the 18th, but well worth the visit. I never made it to a service there, but from your words it does sounds absolutely incredible! 🙂

  • Oh yes places at sunrise are the best! I love the morning light the best for photography so I am a bit biased. That one sunburst photo is the best! So lovely. Wish I could see it in person.

    • I’m no stranger to being up in the morning, though usually it was to go to work with the horses so I didn’t take the time to appreciate the light. It is special though! Might have to make it more of a habit. 😉

  • So beautiful! Even if you couldn’t really see the sun, the lighting is still incredible. I stayed near Sacre Coueur when I visited paris and It was such a nice area. I saw it only amidst the throng of tourists though, haha!

    • Thank you!! That part of Paris is just so beautiful anyways, it makes almost no difference if the sun was hidden. 🙂 I have plenty of photos with the throng of tourists too… should do another post with the two shots side by side for comparison… with people and without! lol