Honestly, you’ll never need a reason and you’ll never need a rhyme to step back a few hundred years to Montmartre. When I speak to friends who have lived in or visited Paris, the general consensus is that Montmartre is everyone’s favourite so here’s my take!
Around the end of the 1800’s, this quaint little corner was a mecca for artists and writers who visited the bars and cabarets that built the area’s reputation. In 1860 the area joined with Paris making up most of the 18th arrondissement but it has retained its cute village atmosphere with tiny squares, winding streets, beautiful buildings and art everywhere. It is also known as the Butte as it is up on a hill and from here you can get some pretty spectacular views of Paris so it is not to be missed!
The most famous building is without a doubt The Sacré-Cœur aka the Sacred Heard Basilica of Montmartre. This Romano-Byzantine basilica was built as a memorial to the French soldiers killed during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). After 39 years of construction, it was completed in 1914 but not consecrated until 1919 (probably due to the First World War). It now stands proud watching over the city from the highest point of the Butte.
The best time to visit the Sacré-Cœur is on a weekday morning without all the crowds and I did just this a few weeks ago and decided to go up one of the top 3 highest points in Paris but unlike the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse, there are no lifts so you have to walk up the 300 tiny stairs. The spiral staircases are very tight and it was tough on a hot day but so unbelievably worth it. At this time there were hardly any other tourists up there so I could enjoy the views in peace.
The bell tower is 83m (252ft) high and contains on of the world’s heaviest bells. It weighs an outrageous 18.5 tonnes. How they got it up there is an myth to me.
Inside is also incredible but as a rule abiding citizen I didn’t take any photos as there are signs everywhere telling you not too. Here is a picture from google images:
From in front of the basilica, the best thing to do is look out over Paris and then turn to your right and wander through the streets to Place du Tertre. Here you will find a small square surrounded by people drinking wine in restaurants but with artists exhibiting their work in the centre. If you would like to buy some art from Paris, here is the place to be. Some are quite pricey but stunning and show all different views of Paris with all different colours (if you want something cheap then walk along the Seine by Ile de la Cite).
Another small square to visit is Place des Abbesses at the bottom of the hill. The Abbesses metro station is the one I usually arrive at and is one of the few original Art Nouveau stations. Next to this station you will also find one of the most adorable parks: Square Jehan Rictus Place des Abbesses. It’s probably one of the smallest but contains Le Mur des Je T’Aime (Wall of Love) with over 311 declarations of love in 250 different languages.
Another thing not to miss in Montmartre is the cafes and restaurants. Here are two of the most famous cafes; Le Consultat and La Maison Rose:
And the best brunch I’ve had in Paris at The Hardware Société:
Once upon a time there were over 30 windmills dotted along the Montmartre skline but nowadays only two remain; Moulin du Radet and the rebuilt Moulin de la Galette which is now a restaurant. My heart melted when I first stumbled upon this but I haven’t eaten there… yet!
Despite not being one of the original windmills, everyone knows the Moulin Rouge. In 1900 it became a dancehall and despite the cancan originating in Montparnasse, it is most commonly associated with the wild dance shows here. The history of this building has lived on through film, art and literature but now includes magic displays and computerized lights. It looks best at night but as I haven’t been to this area of Paris at night yet, here’s another picture from Google images:
For me, the best thing about Montmartre is just going for a wander and getting lost in the beautiful little streets. It is probably the best leg workout you can do in the whole city but with that comes the best views. If I ever lived in Paris again, I would pay anything to live in Montmartre. Before I leave I need to visit the two museums here (Musee de Montmartre and Musee de la Vie Romantique) but maybe I’ll update my blog when that happens on a rainy day!
How to make the most of it: Arrive early in the morning to visit the Sacré-Cœur and then stay for lunch and a glass of wine in bustling Place du Tertre
How to be a twit: Climb to the top of the beautiful holy, sacred basilica and then graffiti it at the top. There is probably a place in hell for you, don’t worry.
Notable things nearby: You can’t come to France and not try French wine but why not take it one step further and visit the secret vineyard called The Clos Montmartre or if you’re around in October there is a 5 day grape harvest festival.
A final anecdote: One of Pablo Picasso’s favourite restaurants here was Le Lapin Agile and whenever he had lunch there he would pay with a painting. One time when the owner asked why he never signed any of them he answered “that’s because I only want to buy lunch not your whole restaurant”. Imagine if my spirograph drawings could buy me food…
Until next time!