A walk through the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris finds you in a story of history as you stroll past old cabarets, famous artist’s homes and hangouts, and history dating back to the 16th century with Henry IV. In the northwest corner of Montmartre and up six flights of windy stairs you find the tiny flat we stayed in. Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement, was the hub of our time in Paris. Don’t worry, we didn’t miss all of the main sights in Paris like the Louve, Eiffel Tower, D’Orsay Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Champs Elysee, among others, but the Montmartre neighborhood is where we chose to really explore as well as eat, shop, and stay.
Montmartre used to be just outside of Paris proper, declaring it separate because of the licentiousness of the area at that time, and with cheaper rent it became home to many budding (now famous) artists like Salvador Dalí, Edith Piaf, Claude Monet, Maurice Utrillo, Pablo Picasso (studio pictured above – Le Bateau Lavoir) and Vincent van Gogh. Movies such as Amélie and La Môme were set right in Montmartre. One morning we woke up early, grabbed an espresso and went in the cool morning air on a little self guided tour through the neighborhood and scenes of famous artists’ paintings, their cafes and their homes. We hiked up to the Sacre Coeur. We loved Montmartre for its history and intrigue and food and wine and small streets and…you get the idea.
Just a block from our flat were a few cafes and an award winning pastry shop. On our way into the city every morning we would grab a couple almond croissants then jump on the nearest metro to see the sights. In the evening we’d return to our little neighborhood and find a place to eat, thus avoiding the tall tourist prices of dining near the main attractions of Paris. We discovered a plethora of great restaurants that were also hiding out in Montmartre, one of which delivered my favorite meal of the trip and my husbands favorite meal of all time (Le Bal).
Dining recommendations for Montmartre:
Le Bal, 6 Impasse de la Defense, a modern-European eatery tucked away in an alleyway just off Rue Clichy. Do whatever it takes to find this place.
Bistro Poulbot, 39 Rue Lamark, a cosy place for a traditional 3 course French meal about $30/person, we split rissotto with escargot and artichokes and profiteroles covered in warm chocolate sauce for dessert.
Terrasse Chauffe, great cafe to stop in for a cheese and meat course with a few glasses of wine. It’s just down the stairs from the Lamark Caulaincourt Metro stop.
Le Grenier a Pain, 38 Rue de Abbesses, won best baguette in Paris for 2011, we grabbed sandwiches to go here for our train ride
Delmontel, 39 Rue de Martyrs, the pastry shop where we picked up fresh almond croissants every morning
*a little tip: you can order house wine by the 1/2 liter (50cl) which is served in carafe or pichet and is less expense than a full bottle. The half liter gives you just enough for two people to have two glasses of wine. Simply ask “un demi de vin rouge/blanc/rosé.” If you just want one glass each order the 1/4 liter (25cl).
Sights of the Montmartre:
Vigne de Montmartre Paris’ only active vineyard,on Rue Saint-Vincent
Abbesses Street for shops and fruit stands
for a full walking guide through Montmartre check out Rick Steve’s Paris Guide
Lodging in Montmartre:
Our favorite sights in Paris:
Though we enjoyed every minute of our time in Paris, here are a few of our favorite sights, some of which may not make it on normal guide-books.
Musee d’Orsay, our favorite museum in Paris
walk along the Siene River
Sainte Chapelle, supposedly houses Jesus’ crown of thorns and has the most breathtaking stained glass I’ve ever seen
I have a small piece of advice for you, if you travel abroad to a big city like Paris, choose an interesting neighborhood, like the Montmartre, to stay in and then pick shops and restaurants in that neighborhood to explore. It can be overwhelming to try and choose your itinerary for just a few days in such a great city so narrowing it down to a neighborhood to explore, especially for dining, helps! We did this in Venice and Rome too, making it much more feasible to really get to know an area and tune into the local scene.