How To Visit Montmartre? A Short Guide To An Iconic Neighborhood
This neighborhood is one of the most famous and historical places of Paris. It is known for its antique street lights and stairs, the Sacré Coeur, and a unique panorama view of Paris. Montmartre is charged with History and has long been the home of many Parisian artists. This article aims to provide a short guide – how to visit Montrmarte.
Before becoming part of Paris in 1869, Montmartre was an independent town, deriving its name from old French “martre”, meaning “martyr”. This was in honor of Saint-Denis, a martyr that was beheaded there, victim of anti-Christian persecution. If you pay attention, as you visit Montmartre, you will be able to find the “Rue des Martyrs”, named in honor of this historical character.
The Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
Built at the top of the Montmartre hill, 130 meters above sea level, the Sacré-Coeur was inaugurated in 1875. The motivation that pushed the government to build this church derives from the Parisian Commune uprisings of 1871, as the monarchist president at the time wanted to atone for the sins of the Parisian people (especially the violence against priests, and secularization demands during the Commune).
Small anecdote: to solidify the building that was being built on a hill, it was necessary to dig 83 38 meters-deep wells.
To visit this Basilique, there are two possibilities: 1) Walking the stairs all the way up, or 2) Taking the “Funiculaire” (funicular), a little wagon that can take you up the hill.
The Saint Pierre de Montmartre Church
Facing the Sacré-Coeur, is the Eglise de Saint-Pierre de Montmartre. It is known to be the one of the oldest churches of Paris and was built in 1134. It has a roman and gothic style. The Calvaire cemetery is in this church, sheltering, among others, Felix Desportes’s grave (first mayor of Montmartre, elected in 1790).
A few meters away from the cemetery, is the château d’eau de Montmartre ( a water tower) built in 1835 to provide water for the district.
The Place du Tertre
Across the Mont Cenis street and up the Norvins road is one of the most famous squares of Paris, The Place du Tertre.
Quick advice: In this square, like in many others in Paris, you need to be careful. Some pickpockets could try to steal your personal belongings.
Quick advice 2: Beware of what the Parisians call “Attrapes-touristes” (tourists trap). These are restaurants and shops with extremely high prices and mediocre quality products.
It is in this square that many known artists of the 20th century like Picasso, lived and got together. Today, many painters, photographers and silhouette cutters sell their art in this legendary spot. This square is also symbol of the old town of Montmartre with houses that date back to the 13th century.
You might also be interested in: Montmartre Impressionist Art Walking Tour Including Skip-the-Line Musee d’Orsay Ticket
Around the Place du Tertre
There are many traditional restaurants and brasseries in this area, such as La Mère Catherine, known for its long history. Up the Norvins street, you will see La Bonne Franquette, a four hundred years old restaurant that served famous artists such as Monet, Zola, Van Gogh, Renoir or Toulouse-Lautrec.
Farther up the Rue des Saules, lies a stunning place, that will make you forget that you are visiting Paris. Take a moment to admire the thousand years old vines of the Clos Montmartre. It is in Montmartre that the Wine Harvest Celebration started in 1934.
Quick advice: These vines are usually closed to the public. To visit them, check the special opening dates on the internet to visit this Montmartre wonder.
For art and history lovers, the Musée de Montmartre rue Cortot is a great place to visit. Located in an ancient mansion, this house hosted many artists like Renoir, or Utrillo, that lived there for a while. During your visit, you will discover paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Utrillo, Steinlen, Modigliani and many others.
The gardens of the museum have been redesigned to fit Renoir’s representation of the place when he lived there.
Another interesting museum of Montmartre is situated in the Halles Saint-Pierre, rue de Steinkerque. This place was built in 1868 in a “Baltard” syle. The metal infrastructure is very representative of the Second Empire (mid-late 19th century) industrial style. This museum hosts multiple temporary exhibitions of high quality, a nice library and a cute little teahouse.
The rue Saint-Vincent will lead you to the legendary cabaret Au Lapin Agile. This small pink pastoral house was a real gathering place for artists, poets and singers like Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso or even André Salmon that got together to write, draw, or chat around a drink. Charlie Chaplin even came there once when he visited Paris.
Another famous cabaret of the area is Le Chat Noir, founded in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis. This cabaret is situated at the 85 Boulevard Rochechouart. At the time, it was where Parisian bourgeois mingled with the “Bohème” (artists, prositutes, comedians…).
For a more romantic getaway, go to the Place des Abbesses, square Jehan-Rictus. In the heart of this little park, cradled by the sound of accordéons, admire this blackboard with a thousand “Je t’aime” (I love you), translated in nearly 300 languages. This Mur des Je t’aime (Wall of I love you’s) is a symbol of peace and love where lovers go for an unforgettable moment. This work of art, created by Claire Kito and Frédéric Baron is 40 m² wide.
The Eglise Saint-Jean de Montmartre is located the across this square. It is also called Saint Jean de Briques due to its exterior decoration. It was the first church built with reinforced concrete. It was constructeed in 1894 by Anatole de Baudot, with an Art-Nouveau style, very original for a religious building. It is a historical monument since 1966.
At the number 20 of the avenue Rachel, you will find the Cimetière de Montmartre (the Montmartre Graveyard). Inaugurated in 1825, it spreads over 11 hectares. Among the graves, you can find the tombs of Dalida, Offenbach, Stendhal, François Truffaut, Michel Berger and Emile Zola, major icons of France’s artistic history.