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Things to do in Montmartre is one way to approach this area of the 18th arrondissement in Paris. With a list in hand of things to check off, climb one of the many staircases and get familiar with this bohemian district.
But don’t forget the most critical element of a visit to Montmartre Paris.
It’s not about the list.
It’s about breathing in the vibe that comes with this neighbourhood, Montmartre in Paris. Notice the wisteria and roses draping over stone houses. Stop and marvel at the uneven, ancient cobblestones underfoot. Sit on a bench and recall that the likes of artists such as Picasso, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec once strolled along these very streets and sat in the cafés.
Play peek-a-boo with the Eiffel Tower.
Harness your inner “flâneur/ flâneuse” or wanderer. To “flâner” (pronounced: flan-ay) is to embrace a way of walking through Paris – to see and be seen and to observe local life. Meander solo in the City of Light or with a friend but what better place to stroll than this village, Montmartre in Paris.
Top Things To Do In Montmartre, Paris
1. Go Early Morning Exploring In Montmartre Paris
Montmartre in Paris buzzes during the day. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris and it is easy to see why. Cobbled streets, historic buildings, Place du Tertre where the artists paint, views of the city and the shining white basilica. Go early.
Parisians will be out with their dogs, jogging up and down endless stairs, chatting at corners and the artists are setting up before the crowds roll in. You might even have Montmartre Paris all to yourself!
2. Admire Sacré-Coeur
Montmartre neighbourhood’s crowning glory is the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Gleaming white, it stands like a sentinel over Paris. Sacré-Coeur, in itself, is an experience and one that millions of visitors take part in each year. Walk up all the steps past picnickers on the lawn, buskers and the everpresent scammers. Turn and take in the panoramic views over Paris.
Enter Sacré-Coeur and marvel at the domes from within. Golden mosaics and angelic statues look down from above.
Don’t forget to climb to the top of the dome for marvellous views over Paris. It is a tight climb up the spiral staircase with over 200 stairs but seeing for miles is more than worth it!
And lastly, admire Sacré-Coeur from all her angles!
3. Have A Portrait Drawn In Place du Tertre
A visit to Montmartre Paris is not complete without stopping by lively Place du Tertre. Artists, who can wait up to ten years to get a coveted spot here, chat by their easels’ blank canvasses ready for whoever comes their way. It’s easy to while away some time here and be mesmerized by artists generating portraits on the spot. Pull up a chair, perhaps it’s your day for a caricature or sketch.
TIP: This spot in Montmartre’s neighbourhood is very popular – watch out for pickpockets.
4. Visit Saint Pierre de Montmartre
The back of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, the oldest church in Montmartre, is visible from Sacré-Coeur. Dating from the beginning of the 12th century, Saint Pierre de Montmartre is one of the oldest churches in all of Paris. For more than 600 years it was a centre of pilgrimage acting as both a parish church and part of the Abbey of the Benedictine Sisters of Montmartre. It is the only vestige of the ancient abbey that exists today.
Standing at the front of the church look left to see Paris’s oldest cemetery, the Cimetière du Calvaire. It only opens its bronze door to the public once a year, on November 1st. Peek through the gorgeous door and glimpse the tombs of illustrious citizens that lived centuries ago in Montmartre Paris.
5. Pull Up A Chair At Le Consulat
This coffee house and restaurant stand as a symbol of the old Montmartre neighbourhood. The building is one of the oldest houses on the Butte. Renowned artists such as Picasso, Sisley, Van Gogh, Toulouse- Lautrec and Monet all gathered here. Can you imagine?!
Nowadays, Le Consulat, although an Instagram favourite, continues to inspire artists. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and get a table. Don’t go too early, like I did, as it doesn’t open until 11 am.
6. Marvel At La Maison Rose
The Pink House
This iconic Montmartre house is a stunner. Situated at the corner of Rue Aubrevoir and Rue des Saules, La Maison Rose, in Montmartre Paris, has been serving coffee for over 100 years. This historic building has seen Picasso, Camus and other greats gather. The plaque on the side of Le Consulat indicates that the artist Maurice Utrillo was born here.
7. Eye The Vines At The Clos de Montmartre
The Clos de Montmartre has been in operation since the 12th century when nuns and monks were in charge of making wine. Every year, the Montmartre vineyard produces a small amount of wine that is auctioned off for charity. Mark your calendar for the yearly wine festival in October.
Out early one summer day exploring Montmartre Paris in my “flâneuse” mode I noticed the gate to the vineyard ajar. I asked the gardener if I could step in and take a few pictures unencumbered by the fence. And just like that, I was in the secret vineyard in the Montmartre area of Paris.
8. Visit Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent
Saint-Vincent Wild Garden
Right beside the Montmartre vineyard is the only protected wild garden in Paris. Since 1985 it has been left alone to grow with unfettered abandon. Birds and natural plants apparently thrive. It is closed to the public except by guided tour on the first Sunday of every month at 10:30 and the third Wednesday at 14:30.
9. Attend A Cabaret At The Lapin Agile
Montmartre in Paris was known for its cabarets by the end of the 19th century. Au Lapin Agile Cabaret has been a popular cabaret since 1860 and still to this day entertains guests with music and singing. Be prepared to sing along with some old French favourites if you can get a ticket.
There’s that white rabbit jumping out of the pot holding a bottle of wine! Originally painted by André Gill in 1875, the rabbit (le lapin) and the name are still going strong today.
10. Drop By Le Musée de Montmartre
This museum, housed in one of the oldest houses in Montmartre, is a place where artists including Utrillo and Renoir, once lived. The garden holds a version of the swing, where Renoir painted his famous painting “Le Balancoire.”
11. Wander In Cimetière St- Vincent
Not far from the Musée de Montmartre is the charming Cimetière St-Vincent. Wander and find the artist Utrillo’s resting place. He was born in the Montmartre neighbourhood and portrayed the area in many of his paintings. Unleash your inner “flâneuse” here. There are plenty of locals paying their respects or having a picnic in the shade. If you love wandering cemeteries, here’s how to visit the most famous Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise.
12. Gaze At Dalida
Dalida, a beloved French pop singer, lived in a beautiful home in Montmartre Paris. An internationally famous singer for over three decades, Dalida ended her life tragically in 1987. Her legend and her voice live on today. At Place Dalida, Dalida’s bust, revealed in 1997, is a tribute to her. Apparently, touching her breasts brings good luck.
13. Climb Staircases In Montmartre Paris
Be prepared to get your exercise in Montmartre Paris. Staircases abound! I love scooting down a steep staircase knowing that the croissant I devour will be worn right off when I return to the top of the Butte!
If staircases are not your thing, there is an electric bus called the Montmartrobus that crosses the hill. (See More Travel Info.. below for details)
14. Observe Parisian Life In Square Suzanne-Buisson
Square Suzanne Buisson in Montmartre in Paris is a favourite at any time of the day. At dawn, early risers lay on yoga mats and walkers stride across it. In the late afternoon I love to sit in full “flâneuse” mode and observe Parisians living their lives. Parents and caregivers chat and children are invested in their play against a chorus of clanking pétanque balls all under the watchful eye of Saint-Denis, the first Bishop and Martyr of Paris.
15. Ponder Le Passe-Muraille
Passer Through Walls
Wouldn’t it be marvellous to be able to walk through walls? Stone walls to be exact. This statue portrays the hero of the short story, Le Passe-Muraille, by Marcel Aymé. He woke up one day and suddenly walls were penetrable! Rub the statue’s hands if you want a little extra luck with your writing! Done – he is a leftie, after all!
Standing there one summer day, two young brothers came running up to see the statue. The older explained in earnest what this Passe-Muraille was all about. Parisians from a young age know their city and historic monuments.
16. Have A Coffee At Le Refuge
Scoot down the stairs from the Métro station Lamarck-Caulaincourt straight to Le Refuge, a classic French café. Or, if you are coming from the other side of the hill, climb the stairs, knowing there is coffee waiting at the top.
17. Stroll In Le Cimetière Montmartre
Métro: Place de Clichy
This cemetery in Montmartre Paris is not the little one (Cimetière St-Vincent) diagonal from the Montmartre vineyard. Rue Caulaincourt crosses right over the cemetery making it necessary to descend the staircase under the road. Voilà, there is all the cemetery exploring you could wish for at your fingertips.
Look for the writer Émile Zola, film director François Truffaut, pop singer Dalida and artist Edgar Dégas, whose family name on the tomb is spelt “de Gas.”
18. Find The Windmills In Montmartre Paris
Métro: Maison Blanche; Abbesses
The Moulin Rouge is the most famous and obvious of the Parisian windmills. But there are two other remaining wooden windmills in Montmartre.
Montmartre hill used to be dotted with windmills that ground flour and pressed grapes and Impressionist painters such as Utrillo, Renoir and Van Gogh immortalized the existence of these Parisian windmills.
Where are the wooden windmills that still exist in Montmartre Paris? One of the windmills is on private property and only visible in the winter or early spring. The other stands proudly above a restaurant, Le Moulin de la Galette at 83 rue Lepic. Did you see Renoir’s painting at the Musée d’Orsay entitled Le Bal de la Moulin de la Galette? It’s a throwback- you’re standing right where Renoir stood!
19. Examine The Mur Je T’Aime
Montmartre in Paris has another very popular stop, the beautiful Square Jehan-Rictus. Its famous “I love you” wall heralds those 3 coveted words in every language in the world. The white script against 511 indigo tiles is the creative expression of artists Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito. There are a lot of selfies happening in front of the wall! In true “flâneuse” style, sit for a while on a bench under a leafy tree and just observe.
20. Take Note Of The Métro Entrance At Abbesses
The Métro station at Abbesses, on line 12, is the deepest métro station in the city. Its entrance is seen in the movie Amélie and is unforgettable as it is designed in the Art Nouveau style by Henri Guimard. There are only two remaining glass-covered entrances to Paris métro stations and this one was not originally located here but moved to the Abbesses station in 1974.
So take the list to Montmartre in Paris, but don’t forget to take your time.
Make your own discoveries.
Wander down the far side of the hill.
“Flâner” a little.
Let me know how it feels.
Until next time,