The district of Montmartre in Paris was once a rustic village high above the city While you are in Paris, take a full day to experience a different side of Paris. Here you can walk in the footsteps of some of our famous artists, writers and musicians. Colorful and quaint sights of a past era will await you. The Montmartre District is often called the Butte, meaning “The Hill.” This former village that produced vine, wheat and gypsum for Paris, eventually became a part of the city.
Let's Begin Our Walk
Before you head for the crowded tourist attractions around Basilique Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Basilica) and Place du Tertre (artist’s square), explore other areas of Montmartre. There are quiet neighborhoods with narrow cobble-stoned streets, gardens and squares. Many artists, including Van Gogh, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec lived worked and played Credit: Alvesgasparhere. Cafes, shoddy cottages and cabarets add to the bohemian atmosphere.
You can walk up the steep hill, but there are other ways to reach Montmartre. Try taking the Montmartre bus, or the petit train that takes you on a tour through the main parts of the village. This mini train is great fun for the kids and gives you a quick tour if you are short of time. Taking the funicular railway up the hill is another option.
Cimetiere de Montmartre, the Montmartre cemetery is one of the most well-known cemeteries in Paris. Names such as Berlioz, Dumas, Degas and Nijinsky are among many others that appear on the grave markers. They all spent some of their lives in Montmartre.
Moulin Rouge, the Red Windmill, was rebuilt into a dance hall in 1902 when racy can-can dancing was becoming so popular. This establishment was the subject of many paintings and posters by Toulouse-Lautrec. It was the place to see gaudy dance shows, and has remained a popular “hot spot” to this day. This area is a “rough” part of town. Watch your back and your back pocket!
Moulin de la Gallette, the Biscuit Windmill, was a wheat grinding mill built in 1612. Much later it became an open-air cabaret.
Place du Tertre is a charming street artist venue. It is crowded with tourists and artists who want to paint your portrait. Cafes are plentiful. LaMere Catherine café dates back to Napoleon times. Russian troops occupied Paris in 1814. When they came into the café, they would bang their fists on the table and yell “bistro” (quick), thus the origin of the word “bistro,” which means a place where simple hearty food and wine is served quickly.
Musee de Vieux Montmartre is a museum that is housed in the oldest building on la Butte which was built in 1650. It overlooks a tiny vineyard, the only one remaining in Montmartre. A number of artists, writers and musicians lived here. Displays tell the story of the artists and their lifestyles.
Au Lapin Agile, is one of the most popular nightspots in Paris today. Today, as in the days of the bohemian era, many people come here to participate in and enjoy the sing-a- longs featuring French folk songs.
Square Jehan Rictus Within this very small charming square, surrounded by trees, you’ll find a special wall called Le Mur des Je t’aimes (I Love You Wall). Couples and singles from all over the world come to this little garden wall to see “I Love You” written in 250 languages. Sit on one of the benches and think about past, present and future lovers or just “dream.”
Basilique Sacre Coeur ( Sacred Heart Basillica) This beautiful church took 40 years to build. The outside is made of gypsum stone. It secretes calcite when it gets wet. The more it rains, the more it gleams shiny white. Its bell is one of the heaviest in the world. In the front of the church, there is a wide stairway where you can sit and gaze out upon a panoramic view of Paris. You might try climbing the 260 spiral stairs to the dome of the church where you will be treated toa spine-tingling view of Paris below. A return visit to SaCredit: Josa Piroskacre Coeur, after a tasty dinner at one of the many restaurants available, will be well worth your while. Seeing the Sacre Coeur at night is a breath- taking sight to see.
Enjoying a leisurely day discovering hidden places and gaining insight into the historical significance of Montmarte is time well spent? Gaining a feel for the bohemian life the Montmarte artists lived, and an appreciation for their great accomplishments is a wonderful personal experience.