Montmartre can be a complete tourist trap. I wonder if it isn’t possibly the single biggest disappointment for many visitors to Paris. Yet Montmartre is beautiful, it’s a village lost in time, the Paris of years gone by, lived in not only by famous, sometimes almost mythical ghosts, but by real people who are passionate about their little piece of Paris, and who love and nurture it. You just have to know where to go, and where not to.
Start at the back of the ‘Butte’ – the hill that Montmartre sits upon. Walk up from Lamarck Caulaincourt and you will find yourself in the heart of the village. See the Maison Rose, the pink house made famous by Utrillo’s painting, pass the Lapin Agile, the (in)famous Cabaret (still in existence today) where Picasso and others would drink and pay with paintings as they were penniless (did you know in 1905 Picasso gave a painting – ‘Au Lapin Agile: l’Arlequin au verre’ to the owner, Frédé, who later sold it for $20 – in 1989 it sold for $41 million and is now in the Met in New York…Picasso is the Harlequin and Frédé is playing the guitar). Don’t miss the beautiful vineyard, and if you want to learn more about the area and it’s fascinating history, pop into the wonderful Montmartre Museum.
Le Chateau des Brouillards
rue de l’Abreuvoir
La Maison Rose
Clos Montmartre Vineyard
Le Lapin Agile
I personally think the views of the Sacré Coeur from the back are the most beautiful.
I have to be honest I’m not a big fan of the Place du Tertre (the Artist’s square with all the painters), but it is interesting to walk through and will take you down the front of the ‘Butte’ towards Abbesses, which is another very interesting part of Montmartre, much more lively and full of wonderful food shops and cafés, including the bakery that won the highly coveted ‘Best baguette in Paris 2015′! Don’t miss Jean Marais’ sculpture of the Man Who Walked through Walls (read the story by Marcel Aymé), the old windmills known as the Moulin de la Galette, originally for grinding flour (Montmartre had many of them in the days when it was a village outside Paris) and later a dance hall immortalised by Renoir amongst others – check out his famous painting in the Musée d’Orsay. Also stop by the Bateau Lavoir, once the studios of Picasso, Max Jacob, Modigliani, Juan Gris and the birthplace of cubism.
Moulin de la Galette
Moulin de la Galette
Finish on the rue des Abbesses and the rue Lepic. Fans of the film Amelie Poulain can see the Café des Deux Moulins where she worked and the grocery store Collignon, if you haven’t seen it, make sure you watch it after your visit! The ‘I love you wall’ is also at Abbesses, and is fun to look at – a wall that we normally would associate with being a symbol of separation and barriers is transformed into a place of love and sharing.
Best baguette in Paris 2015
Wallace fountain, place des Abbesses
I love you wall
Place du Tertre
Montmartre is one of my favourite parts of Paris. Whilst up there recently I met a 93 year old lady who told me she had lived there since 1933, and that nothing much had changed – except that maybe there were a few more cars! Get some comfortable shoes on (there are cobblestones everywhere) and a street map, and lose yourself in a part of Paris that is different to any other.
- metro Lamarck Caulaincourt or Abbesses. if you prefer to go up via the Moulin Rouge, take the metro to Blanche.