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Taste of high life in Montmartre
The magnificent Sacre Coeur or Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the top of Montmartre. Picture: Niall McIlroy/The West Australian

It's the highest point in Paris and one of the best neighbourhoods to capture the soul of the French capital.

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The winding cobbled streets of Montmarte have been the scene of beheadings, notably of Saint Denis, and in 1814 Cossack soldiers fired on the city below.

But it is also a place of creation; the Jesuit order was founded here and those trigger-happy Cossack soldiers introduced the term bistro (Russian for "quickly") to Paris.

In the mid-19th century, the neighbourhood was a haven for some who became the world's best artists, from van Gogh, through Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec to Picasso and Dali. Their works are commemorated both in galleries and in the cheap knock-offs painted by artists in the neighbourhood square, the Place du Tertre.

The roads are skirted by terraced houses, bars and restaurants and reach a stunning apex at the magnificent Sacre Coeur (or Basilica of the Sacred Heart) constructed to commemorate French losses in the 1871 Franco-Prussian war.

It's an extraordinary edifice with a huge white dome, intricate arches and sneering gargoyles and, like the neighbourhood over which it looms, is extremely photogenic.

Montmartre, Paris. Picture: Niall McIlroy/The West Australian

FACT FILE

• For bookings phone your local travel agent or Tempo Holidays on 1300 558 987, email: info@tempoholidays.com , or tempoholidays.com.

Niall McIlroy visited France as a guest of Air Asia X and Tempo Holidays.