Discover the village of Montmartre in Paris

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Situated in the 18th arrondissement, the iconic ‘Butte Montmartre’ is one of Paris‘ most famous districts. Full of contrasts, encircled by busy boulevards, it has kept the atmosphere of a village remarkably intact with intimate squares, winding narrow streets, tiny terraces, and long stairways.


Montmartre: a bit of history

The top of the hill of Montmartre has been a sacred site where druids were thought to have worshipped there. The Romans had built temples dedicated to gods Mars and Mercury, hence the name ‘Mons Martis’.

St Denis in Square Suzanne Buisson © French Moments

Statue of St. Denis in Montmartre (Square Suzanne Buisson) © French Moments

A first Christian chapel was built on the site circa 270 AD in honour of Paris’ first bishop, St Denis. According to the legend the Patron Saint was beheaded there by the Romans. After his execution the body of Denis would have picked its head up and started to walk while the mouth was delivering a complete sermon. The body stopped its stroll somehow and at the site where he fell completely dead was later erected a small shrine: the present-day St Denys-la-Chapelle. The name was eventually anglicised as Sydney.

In the Middle-Ages, a royal abbey grew up around the chapel. The Montmartre Abbey, founded by King Louis VI in 1133 was a Benedictine abbey for women.

Montmartre Abbey in 1626

Montmartre Abbey in 1626

The abbey of Montmartre was dismantled in 1792, during the French Revolution and its occupants executed or scattered. The 70 year old abbess, Marie-Louis de Montmorency-Laval was guillotined on the 24th of July 1794 and her body buried in the Picpus cemetery.

With the creation of départements in France, the commune of Montmartre was included in the département of Seine (now Paris). The village was temporary renamed as Mont-Marat during the Revolution in honour to the radical politician assassinated in 1793.

In 1860, the village of Montmartre was annexed by the city of Paris. The mount was known for its stone quarries and gypsum mines, windmills as well as vineyards. From the mid-19th century, it became popular place thanks to the opening of many cafés, cabarets and dancing halls (guinguettes).

Montmartre Hill circa 1842 by Hippolyte Bayard Molinos

Montmartre Hill and the windmills circa 1842 by Hippolyte Bayard Molinos

During the tragic events of the Paris Commune of 1871, hundreds of commune members hid in the chalk mines at the top of the hill. The government ordered the exit to be dynamited, hence killing all rebellious men.

In the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the hill of Montmartre was a mecca for painting, with the presence of great painters such as Degas, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Utrillo. In the aftermath of World War I, painters and artists left Montmartre as the village lost its appeal in favour of the Montparnasse district in the Left Bank.

The Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1876

The Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1876

Today mobs of tourists ascent the hill to admire the stunning view over the roofs of Paris before heading to the little square of Place du Tertre where portrait artists and souvenir shops await them eagerly. Despite the masses of tourists, there are still a few picturesque streets that have kept their village-looking charm away from the hustle and bustle of hot spots such as Sacré-Cœur and Place du Tertre.


Sacré-Cœur and surroundings

Square Louise Michel

Montmartre June 2015 16 copyright French Moments

Square Louise Michel, Montmartre © French Moments

The square known until 2004 as Square Willette is a steep green area extending upwards to the top of the hill in a series of terraces with lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs, and trees.

The 222 steps that lead up to the top can be avoided by walking on one of the gently sloping paths that run alongside the garden.

The square offers fantastic views of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and the roofs of Paris.

Another option to reach the top of the hill is to climb the stairs of bordering streets: Rue Maurice Utrillo or Rue Foyatier.

Stairs of rue Foyaltier in Montmartre © French Moments

The stairs of rue Foyaltier © French Moments

The great view from the parvis of Sacré-Cœur extends to the central and eastern districts of Paris: Notre-Dame, the Panthéon, the Bastille Opera…

Montmartre June 2015 7 copyright French Moments

The view from the forecourt of Sacré-Cœur © French Moments

Find out more about the ascent to the forecourt of Sacré-Cœur.

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur Montmartre, Paris © French Moments

The Sacré-Cœur basilica © French Moments

The majestic basilica of Sacré-Cœur is one of Paris’ most visited monuments. The sanctuary stands like a whipped-cream edifice atop the hillock of Montmartre, sharing more resemblance with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul than the nearby Notre-Dame cathedral.

Find out more about the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

Parc de la Turlure

Parc de la Turlure in Montmartre © French Moments

Parc de la Turlure seen from the dome of Sacré-Cœur © French Moments

Situated behind the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the public garden offers fine views of the Sacré-Cœur church and the northern and eastern suburbs of Paris.

Church of St. Peter of Montmartre

Saint-Pierre de Montmartre 01 © French Moments

The old church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre © French Moments

The construction of the sanctuary started in 1134 and completion took place in the second half of the 12th century. Built in Romanesque and early Gothic styles, it is Paris’ oldest parish church after St. Germain-des-Prés.

St. Peter of Montmartre was the abbey church of the royal abbey which buildings were initially located to the south of the church. During the French Revolution the church was desecrated and became a Temple of Reason. St. Pierre was used as a warehouse for munitions during the Paris Commune events.

St. Pierre of Montmartre is flanked by Paris’ smallest graveyard, the Cimetière du Calvaire (the Calvary Cemetery).

Find out more about the Church of St. Peter of Montmartre.

Water Tower of Montmartre

Water Tower of Montmartre © French Moments

The Water Tower of Montmartre © French Moments

Situated in the rue du Mont Cenis not far from the Sacré-Cœur stands the tall Water Tower of Montmartre, built in 1927 with the same white stone of the basilica. Still in use, it has a capacity of 700m3 and supplies the houses situated on the top of the hill.


Place du Tertre and surroundings

Place du Tertre 04 © French Moments

Place du Tertre © French Moments

The little shaded square of Place du Tertre is situated just a stone’s throw away from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and is the highest square of Paris at 130 m.

Today the Place du Tertre is the tourist centre of Montmartre with cafés, restaurant, art galleries. Across the square, various artists set up their easels in the afternoon, tempting the visitors with their works of art: personalised charcoal portraits, water-paintings, drawings, sculptures, etc.

Find out more about the Place du Tertre.

Place du Calvaire and Rue Poulbot

Place du Calvaire © French Moments

Place du Calvaire © French Moments

In 1805 a calvary was set up at the top of the Montmartre Hill not far from St. Peter Church. Until 1873 the square was named Place Sainte-Marie. It is now a pedestrianised cobblestone square dotted with typical parisian lampposts and benches. It is continued by the rue Poulbot where the Espace Dalí is found. The museum hosts a permanent exhibition of around 300 original artworks of Salvador Dalí.

Espace Montmartre © French Moments

Espace Montmartre © French Moments

Carrefour de l’Auberge de la Bonne-Franquette

Montmartre Walking Tour 13 April 2016 16 © French Moments

Rue de Norvins © French Moments

The streets of Montmartre have kept their village-like charm thanks to strict regulations in building developments. This is particularly visible at the crossroads with rue Norvins, rue des Saules and rue Saint-Rustique.

Montmartre June 2015 1 copyright French Moments

In the streets of Montmartre © French Moments

Often painted by Maurice Utrillo, the cobblestone streets and their small houses refer to the idea of Old Montmartre that first comes to mind.

Rue Saint-Rustique, which connects La Bonne-Franquette to the Rue du Mont Cenis, is Paris’ highest street at 130m. The street was painted by Utrillo in 1926.

Rue Saint Rustique in Montmartre © French Moments

Rue Saint Rustique, one of Paris’ highest streets © French Moments

Rue du Chevalier de la Barre

Rue du Chevalier de la Barre 01 © French Moments

The touristy street of Rue du Chevalier de la Barre © French Moments

Linking the chevet of the Sacré-Cœur to the rue du Mont-Cenis, the narrow little street of rue du Chevalier de la Barre owes its name to Jean-François Lefèvre, Knight of La Barre (1746-1766) who was allegedly sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Rue du Chevalier de la Barre 02 © French Moments

Rue du Chevalier de la Barre © French Moments

Today the street is bordered by tacky souvenirs stores and often overrun with tourists. It offers an interesting view of the dome and turrets of the Sacré-Cœur rising above the roofs.

Rue Chevalier de la Barre and Sacré-Coeur © French Moments

The touristy street of Rue Chevalier de la Barre and Sacré-Coeur © French Moments

Place Jean Marais

Place Jean Marais © French Moments

Place Jean Marais © French Moments

The crossroads with rue du Mont Cenis and the Place du Tertre has taken the name of Place Jean Marais (1913-1998) since 2007. French actor Jean Marais lived in Montmartre from the 1970s to his death in Cannes. The little square is the forecourt of the St. Pierre of Montmartre church.


Rue Saint-Vincent

The rue Saint-Vincent is bordered by three interesting sites: the vineyard of ‘Clos de Montmartre’, the old looking house of the Lapin Agile cabaret, and the small cemetery of St. Vincent.

The vineyard of Montmartre

Vineyard of Montmartre in Summer 04 © French Moments

Vineyard of Montmartre © French Moments

The small patch of vineyard situated on a steep hill in rue Saint-Vincent seems at odds in Paris. Tourists may not know that the Île de France was once a wine-making region and vineyards were found in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Rueil-Malmaison, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Suresnes… Since 1932, the vines of Montmartre have continued the centuries-old tradition.

Find out more about the vineyard of Montmartre.

Au Lapin Agile

Lapin Agile 02 © French Moments

Lapin Agile © French Moments

The crossroads with rue Saint-Vincent and rue des Saules is one of the most beautiful spots in Montmartre. There stands the traditional cabaret Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) where literary meetings were held in the beginning of the 20th century.

The rustic stone house was formerly known as Cabaret des Assassins in reference to the murder of the owner’s son by a band of killers.

A sign painted by humorist André Gill in 1875 inspired the owner to change the cabaret’s name. It represented a rabbit escaping from a saucepan (Lapin à Gill = Gill’s rabbit).

Lapin Agile 01 © French Moments

In front of the Lapin Agile © French Moments

The cabaret was bought in 1903 by cabaret entrepreneur Aristide Bruand and became a popular place for penniless writers and artists during the Belle Époque (Apollinaire, Modigliani, Picasso, Utrillo). Au Lapin Agile gained a worldwide fame due to the paintings of Picasso (‘Au Lapin Agile’,1905) and Utrillo.

Today the cabaret plays vintage French songs.

The St. Vincent Cemetery

The small cemetery is the resting place for a few celebrities: painter Utrillo, writer Marcel Aymé and Swiss composer Honegger.


Around the rue de l’Abreuvoir

The picturesque rue de l’Abreuvoir leads to the Place Dalida and the romantic Allée des Brouillards and the little park of the square Suzanne Buisson. A bit further on is the peaceful haven of Villa Léandre.

Place Marcel Aymé

Place Marcel Aymé in Montmartre © French Moments

The man who could pass through walls, Place Marcel Aymé © French Moments

Not far from rue de l’Abreuvoir and at the crossroads with the avenue Junot, rue Girardon and rue Norvins is a little square named after French writer Marcel Aymé. The square has a statue set on a wall by Jean Marais ‘Le Passe Muraille’. It refers to a 1943 story written by Marcel Aymé (the Man who could walk through walls) which talks about a man who discovers he had the ability to walk through walls. Touching the statue’s left hand is believed to transfer some of his magical ability to the toucher which is why it is more polished that the right hand!

Rue de l’Abreuvoir

Place Dalida copyright French Moments

Rue de l’abreuvoir, Montmartre © French Moments

Rue de l’Abreuvoir is one of the most picturesque streets in Montmartre. It connects the Place Dalida to rue des Saules.

It was already mentioned in 1325 under another name, ruelle qui va au But. It takes its name from the old drinking trough that was situated at number 15.

The street is bordered by medieval-looking houses. The townhouse at number 4 belonged to Commandant Henri Lachouque who was a historian fond of Napoleon and the Great Army. A sundial on the façade features a rooster and the motto ‘quand tu sonneras, je chanteray’ (when you will ring, I will sing) which seem to refer to the Austerlitz sun.

Rue de l'Abreuvoir in Montmartre 01 © French Moments

4 Rue de l’Abreuvoir © French Moments

Rue de l'Abreuvoir in Montmartre 03 © French Moments

The sundial of number Rue de l’Abreuvoir © French Moments

Impressionnist painter Camille Pissaro lived at number 12. 

La Maison Rose in Montmartre © French Moments

La Maison Rose © French Moments

The Pink House (Maison Rose) from the first half of the 19th century was featured by many artists in their paintings, including Maurice Utrillo.

Place Dalida

Place Dalida 02 © French Moments

Place Dalida © French Moments

In 1997, the corner of rue de l’Abreuvoir and rue Girardon was named after Dalida (1933-1987), a glamorous French singer who committed suicide at the peak of her career.

Place Dalida 01 © French Moments

The bronze bust of Dalida, Montmartre © French Moments

A bronze life-size bust of Dalida is a reminder of the singer who lived nearby in rue d’Orchampt.

Allée des Brouillards and Place Casadesus

Allée des Brouillards © French Moments

Allée des Brouillards © French Moments

The secretive Allée des Brouillards starts from the Place Dalida. Opened to the public in 1929, the lane provides a charming atmosphere with its lampposts and balustrades, without forgetting the dome of Sacré-Cœur in the distance. French painter Renoir used to live at number 6.

 

It ends at the Place Casadesus with a typical street view of Montmartre.

Square Suzanne Buisson

Square Suzanne Buisson © French Moments

Square Suzanne Buisson © French Moments

The green square was part of the grounds of the Château des Brouillards, a folly built in the 18th century. Its name refers to Suzanne Buisson, a politician and resistant who died in deportation during WW2.

In the square, a statue depicting St. Denis holding his head. The legends goes that on that very spot the first bishop of Paris took a pause to wash his decapitated head before continuing his journey to the present-day city of Saint-Denis.

Villa Léandre

Villa Léandre © French Moments

Villa Léandre © French Moments

Just off the avenue Junot, the cobblestone street known as ‘Villa Léandre‘ is a haven of peace. The cul-de-sac is bordered by a group of perfect Art Deco houses built in 1926, including a few houses built with bricks and bow-windows reminiscent of England.


Rue Lepic

The old quarry street of rue Lepic is one of Montmartre’s most famous streets. It takes its name from General Louis Lepic (1765-1827) who earned Napoleon’s gratitude at the Battle of Eylau in 1807.

Café des 2 Moulins, Rue Lepic © French Moments

Café des 2 Moulins, Rue Lepic © French Moments

Winding up the steep mound of Montmartre, rue Lepic has gained worldwide exposure with the movie ‘Amélie’ whose main character works at the Café des Deux Moulins (number 15). Many celebrities have resided in the street including French writer Céline, and painters Van Gogh and Willette.

The rue Lepic gives access to Montmartre’s two surviving windmills commonly named ‘Moulin de la Galette’: Moulin du Radet and Moulin de Blute-Fin. The first one was built in 1717 and the second in 1622.

Moulin de la Galette © French Moments

Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre © French Moments

The windmills inspired many painters: Corot, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Willette.

At the bottom of the rue Lepic on the corner of Boulevard de Clichy and Place Blanche stands another windmill: the Moulin-Rouge. The cabaret was founded in 1889 by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler at the bottom of the Hill of Montmartre.

Moulin Rouge © French Moments

Moulin Rouge © French Moments

Find out more about the windmills of Montmartre.


Place Émile Goudeau

Place Emile Goudeau Paris in the Spring © French Moments

Place Emile Goudeau, Montmartre © French Moments

The shady square of Place Émile Goudeau was frequented from 1900 by a number of artists and writers (Picasso, Max Jacob, Apollinaire) who met and lived in shabby conditions at Le Bateau-Lavoir (number 13). Formerly a piano factory, the wooden house was home to talented artists and poets of the day. It was there that in 1907 Picasso painted his famous masterpiece ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’. The place was burnt down in 1970 and rebuilt since as a concrete replica to house artists’ studios and apartments.

Montmartre Place Goudeau © French Moments

Picasso used to live there, at Le Bateau-Lavoir © French Moments 


Place des Abbesses

Metro station, place des Abbesses © French Moments

Metro station, place des Abbesses © French Moments

The busy little square of Place des Abbesses was named after the 46 abbesses that directed the royal abbey of Montmartre destroyed during the French Revolution.

It features a stunning entrance to the metro station of Abbesses (line 12). Designed by Hector Guimard (1867-1942) in Art Nouveau style, the metro entrance has a glass roof with green wrought-iron arches and amber lights. Unlike the other surviving Guimard metro entrance at Porte Dauphine (line 2), Les Abbesses does not have panelling.

The square hosts a little Christmas market each December.

On the South side of the Place des Abbesses is the St. John of Montmartre Church, built in reinforced concrete in 1904 by Baudot.

Saint-Jean de Montmartre © French Moments

Saint-Jean de Montmartre © French Moments

The animated rue des Abbesses is a must-see street for shopping with deli stores (including fruit and vegetable, caterers, bakeries, cheese-shop…) and touristy cafés.

 

Rue des Abbesses © French Moments

Rue des Abbesses © French Moments


  • Our pages on MONTMARTRE


  • Visit the Tourist Office of Montmartre located place du Tertre.

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    Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre, Paris © French Moments


     

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    About Author

    Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

    3 Comments

    1. Bon jour Pierre

      My goodness you are a wealth of knowledge! I enjoy your comments, information and photos IMMENSELY!!!! Thank You SOOO Much !!!!!!
      Cindy Kozlowski

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