Montmartre - Sacré Coeur, Paris
Be Careful!! There are a few Rasta-guys who put strings around your wrist and begin making you a lovely multi-colored bracelet before you can get away!! After they finish, they expect you to pay 20 Euros for it!! I don't think so! They grabbed me and my daughter before we knew what was happening. Luckily we only had 5 Euro on us and they took it. I told them I'd give them the bracelet back.....
Unique Suggestions: Avoid these guys...do not make eye contact and don't let them grab your arm!
Fun Alternatives: Take the funicular to the top and you can avoid these guys pretty much - plus miss all the lovely stairs :-)
I recently visited Sacre Coeur and Montmartre (June 10th) with my daughter and several of her classmates. We all looked forward to our evening in Montmartre and our dinner in the square, especially the girls. In fact most of the girls planned to have their portraits made by the local artists as a gift for their parents and as a reminder of the trip.
After a wonderful and memorable dinner, small groups took turns having their pictures painted or sketched. Trying to capture as many memories as possible, I followed several around through the square and took pictures while the artists worked. We had been warned on numerous occassions about pickpocketing while in Paris, and I thought I had followed our guide's instructions pretty well. Unfortunately, the pickpocketers in this area seem to prey on tourists doing exactly what I was- taking pictures. When I walked up on my daughter having a sketch made, I unzipped my purse for a split second, grabbed my camera, and leaned in to the crowd to take a picture. A college-age group (looking like tourists themselves) leaned in over me/on top of me, and before I could snap a picture, one of the girls had her hand in my purse. I believe they were looking for someone like me to drop their guard for a second, and the square presented the perfect opportunity due to people leaning into the crowd to observe the local artists at work.
Three chaperones in our group had the same experience, and after the third encounter, our guide immediately wisked us away to the nearest metro stop.
The evening was still wonderful, despite the incidents, and Sacre Coeur was breathtaking (literally and figuratively). I still view the experience as one of the best nights of our trip, I simply regret our evening being cut short due to the pickpocketing. There was so much more to see and do in the area...I will have to go back again, but maybe next time without a purse!
Unique Suggestions: You may want to keep your cameras in hand or on a strap, not back and forth in purses, and be on guard when others lean in especially in the artist square.
It's been four years that I first visited Paris and I've always found these guys around Monmartre. They're tall and strong and offer you to put any of your fingers inside a tie of a "magical string" they have. They seem very kind and all but, if you cooperate, they'll pull off from one of the extremes of the wool string and your finger will be their best capture. They may ask you for 5 or 10 or 20 euros in exchange of its liberation.
Unique Suggestions: Don't even pay attention to them or anyone who says that your face (nose/chin/hands...) is extremely beautiful and want to make a picture of them for themselves. Just imagine that they don't exist.
I can attest to the previously mentioned tourist traps, the bracelet guys will pursue you. Anyone who goes to the basilica will have to deal with them I'm afraid. When I went to the Sacre Coeur there were only 4 of the bracelet guys there. One approached me and I said "No" he persisted and I went into a pretty clear "Nonononononononononono!' he chuckled, patted me on the back and they left me alone.
Unique Suggestions: There were only 4 bracelet guys when I went because I went before 8am. Really early. So early the hill was almost deserted. It was a lovely morning, and Montmartre was almost the Montmartre you can see in Amélie. I really enjoyed the hill because there were no freaking tourists there. It was beautiful. But soon the crowds began and I moved on from Montmartre, but I'll never forget my deserted morning there.
Writers complain about the bracelet guys. These people are all over the world in one way or another. You do not have to be rude. Just look them straigt in the eye and say, "no thank you," and keep walking. They are only as pushy as you let them be. Monte Marte is beautiful and you shouldn't let this type of thing bother you.
Unique Suggestions: It's not a matter of if you have to go to Sacre Cour. Go. You do not have to be rude to the bracelet guys. Just be polite, look them straigt in the eye, smile and say, "no thank you," and keep walking. They are only as pushy as you let them be. Monte Marte is beautiful and you shouldn't let this type of thing bother you.
Fun Alternatives: There is no reason to not go. It is beautiful at the Cathedral. Near by are lots of open air shops and restaurants.
We found the Sacre Cour a real dissapointment. The part of the city the church is in is shady, and almost scary. Walking up the hill through the cheezy tourist shops was not much fun, then to be accosted by the wrist band bandits was a real turn-off. The area around the church was filled with portrait artist and others wanting to scam you we didn't even bother. It was definately the worst part of our trip, overall uncomfortable and unmemorable. The best part of the site is the view of Paris from atop the hill, but for a view do the Eiffle or even Arc de Triumph.
Unique Suggestions: We read here on VT to stay clear of the wrist band bandits and we did, but they tend to block the steps coming down the hill to corner you into their trap. Just barge right on through them and don't allow them time to talk to you, keeps your eyes directed from their view. Don't wear a wallet in your back pocket and keep a hold of your valuables.
Fun Alternatives: Just don't go if you can help it. The church is nice but certainly not the best in Paris. Visit the church of the Magdaline for a good alternative.
The Sacre Couer is a beautiful place to visit, especially at night. But beware of young males who prowl around. If you give them your hand they will tie a knot around your finger and make friendship bracelets, and once they have tied them around your wrist it is impossible to take them off or hand them back, so you have no option but to pay. My partner and I ended up paying seven euros for two bits of string, and that took considerable haggling!
Unique Suggestions: Don't get into a conversation or make eye contact with these people, as they make it very difficult to walk away. One thing which did seem to work - a French girl laughed at them and said "Je suis n'pas un tourist!" ("I am not a tourist!") and they left her alone.
Sure, we all know about the guys that try the string around the finger/wrist trick, but be aware that they will rip you off in other ways. My wife was walking ahead of me when I noticed the scam artists approaching and talking to her. I got there in time and avoided their tricks. She was wearing a fancy-looking necklace and bracelet, although it was costume jewelry. She walked ahead and sat on a bench that was on the perimeter of the property. One of the guys looped around the bushes and was coming up from behind her when she noticed him and hastily got off the bench and resumed walking to the church. We are pretty sure he wanted that necklace. Watch out.
Unique Suggestions: You don't have to remove all your jewelry, watches, rings, etc., just the ones you want to keep! There are police in the area, so it may not be that bad, but why take chances? Don't give them the chance to rip you off...just say no and walk on.
Beware when you are entering the main stairs/train to the top Sacré Coeur, there are a lot of guys trying to sell braclets to you. They will ask you if they can see your finger. If you do, they will try to tie a braclets onto your figer and ask for money. They are quite pushy and just ignore them. They will try to engage in a conversation by asking "Where are you from". Just ignore them.
Unique Suggestions: If you do have to go up the main stairs of Sacré Coeur or taking the train up, then keep your hand in your pocket and don't answer to the street braclets seller.
Fun Alternatives: If you don't mind the stairs, you can actually take some of the side street to go up the hill and by pass all the pushy braclet sellers.
Beware of the people at the foot of the basilica who will approach you and ask for money or something else. Best thing is to ignore them and they dont pester you for long. just walk staright where u wanted to and dont pay any attention. If u indulge in a small talk they will try to coax money out of you or ask you to buy some stupid thing at an exorbitant price
In the neighborhood is Place du Tertre where you will find many caricature artists. Do make sure u decide upon the price u will pay for the caricature before u sit down.
kEEP AWAY from the wierdos with braclets on the way up to Sacre Coeur....very pushy guys! Take a side path to get there and the view will be worth the wait....the best view of Paris apart from being on the top of the Eiffel Tower
Be careful when entering the grounds of the Sacre Coeur, there are street peddlers who will come up to you and ask you to hold out a finger, and if you do, they attach a little piece of string, rapidly do up braid, and then tie it onto your wrist....after all this, they then ask you to pay for it!! About 5 euros I believe!!
When I wandered onto the grounds, they approached me but I knew better, so I just waved him off and continued to walk on, but he followed and hasseled me, saying things like "No? Well where are you from then?" I didn`t think it was vital for him to have any information, and as I just continued to walk away, he began to holler things at me in his language.....so beware!!
Quite a scam, so just be careful and don`t let them get to you!!
When walking from the Sacre-Coeur to the Montmartre square, there will be a lot of painters trying to rip you off. If you are a firsttimer there, it's easy to mistake these people for the REAL painters. Just keep walking until you get to the square!
Also, be warned that while climbing up the steps to the church, there will people coming up to you, trying to sell you a wrist band or something.
They ask you to stick out your hand, so they can start weaving the wrist band around it. They will tell you that you don't have to pay, but in the end, they'll ask you for a tip - so you pay anyway. If you want a wrist band it's ok, if you don't just keep on walking.
Walking in front of the steps to the church and the pay toilets at the bottom of the steps, you will get approached by street vendors asking you to just "Help them out for a second" by using your finger to tie a bracelet. Once they are finished, they will demand that you buy it from them for about 10 Euros.
You can just walk away in a huff if you just don't want to pay but the best way to avoid it is to just keep walking with your hands in your pockets when they approach you.
Unique Suggestions: Walk with your hands in your pockets.
Scope out where the vendors are.
Walk fast by the vendors.
Don't make eye contact.
Politely refuse if they approach you.
Fun Alternatives: This is a fun location and very romantic. There's a buzz in the air even in the middle of Febuary with lovers kissing with abandon on the steps in front of the church overlooking the city of Paris.
Be sure to visit at sunset and walk through the streets behind the church for an enjoyable walk.
The Place du Tertre in Montmarte has alot of artists who will draw your portrait or paint scenery. This is not cheap mind you. But walking around as they can't afford a place in the square are various portrait artists or caricturists. They charge quite alot too. And they will try to get your attention by approaching you outright. Sometimes they use compliments about your looks to get your attention. Don't bother unless you really want to.
Unique Suggestions: Just walk on by.