Top 15 Things to do in Montparnasse
Updated by Jordan on February 2020 and by Farah in July 2022 and by Vanessa in October 2022
If nowadays Montparnasse mainly refers to the train station, that wasn’t always the case. For a very long time the name Montparnasse was to Paris what Camden in now to London: the place to be for creatives and artists!
What to see in Montparnasse?
Plan your visit to Montparnasse
- Montparnasse Tower: 56th Floor Panoramic Terrace – get your tickets with Tiqets.com
- Skip The Line Paris Catacombs Tour – A 2-hour tour of the Catacombs with Viator
As you may know, if you have followed our Montmartre Free tour, until the late 1910’s, all the artists would gather in Montmartre for its cheap way of life and its peculiar atmosphere. However, this neighbourhood was a bit far from the centre. And this is when Montparnasse stood out as the perfect compromise: it was much closer to the heart of Paris but wasn’t very popular yet, so living there was quite affordable.
The world-famous painter Pablo Picasso was one of the first artists to leave Montmartre and settle in Montparnasse, and behind him followed a flood of intellectuals and artists like Cézanne, Jean-Paul Sartre, Giacometti, Dali or Ernest Hemingway. All this intellectual and artistic effervescence really contributed to the creative and libertarian atmosphere that characterized Montparnasse in the Roaring Twenties, which can be considered as the Golden Age of Montparnasse.
Today, Montparnasse might not be the center of artistic life but if you follow my steps, you will catch the sight of Montparnasse’s ambiance in the twenties. You’ll also discover the best spots in the neighborhood.
So here are the Top 10 Things to do in Montparnasse.
>> Read more about Impressionism in Paris: the painters and the city
>> Learn everything about Montmartre and join our daily and free walking tour
1. Enter the Empire of Death
If you have got a steady stomach, the first thing to start with are the Catacombs of Paris. During the time of Revolutionary Terror in the 1790s, many cemeteries of Paris were closed for sanitary reasons. But the remaining bones of the six million corpses had to be put somewhere and the best idea they found was actually to bury them under Paris. But they are not just piled up and covered with mud: they give form to a macabre but romantic underground maze covered with skeletons and skulls.
Isn’t it the best way to start the Top 10 things to do in Montparnasse to discover what is underneath? Get there in the morning when there aren’t a lot of queues yet and also bring a jacket because the 14°C will make you shiver more than just of fear…
You can purchase tickets directly there or you can Join a Walking Tour (tickets to buy on Viator).
>> Our guide to visit the Catacombs
>> A guided tour of the Catacombs
catacombes de paris – 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris
open tuesday – sunday 10AM//8:30PM
metro station denfert rochereau
2. Take a Look Back in the past with the Paris Observatory
Built in 1667, it is the oldest observatory still in use. It is actually one of the observatories that helped to launch the field of meteorology in Europe. This observatory started construction in 1667 for the Sun King’s, Louis XIV of France, astronomers! He ruled over France for a whopping 72 years and 110 days! Today, the observatory is still at the heart of French astronomy and considered a major institution in the world of science today!
The building is made of many very cute little rooms that look quite old fashioned. My favorite one is the dome which has a very elegant 9 meters long telescope. If you want to feel closer to the sky while in the city of love and magic, the Observatory is the place to go.
paris observatory – 61 Av. de l’Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
3. Discover Contemporary artists at the Fondation Cartier
I told you that following the top 10 things to do in Montparnasse meant linking the present to the past. This foundation was created by the very famous French jewelry maker “Cartier”. But the goal of this artistic centre has nothing to do with jewelry: it is actually to discover and promote new contemporary artists from France and all around the world.
This aerial building playing with light and reflection hosts temporary exhibits on photography, paintings, videos, fashion, live shows. Last but not least, you can end your visit in the garden of the foundation which itself is a work of art. The 35 different species of trees and 200 species of plants will make you forget the busy boulevards and plunge you into an exotic and enchanted atmosphere.
fondation cartier – 261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris
open tuesday 11AM//10PM – wed-sunday 11 am//8pm
metro station: raspail
4. Visit Montparnasse Cemetery
As weird and morbid as it sounds, taking a walk in the cemetery of Montparnasse is especially pleasant and soothing. It is very green and you can spot one of the last remaining windmills of Paris among some other pieces of art. Montparnasse Cemetery is somewhat unique because there are a lot of artists buried here.
Take a walk in the cemetery among some of the most famous artists of the roaring twenties! But mostly you can see the tomb of very well-known intellectuals and French artists like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Charles Baudelaire along with many others.
>> Learn more about 5 famous french writers
> For your lunch, I offer you two options depending on your tastes and your budget (or take a look at other restaurants here).
montparnasse cemetery – 3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris
monday-friday 8AM//5.30PM- sat 8.30am//5.30pm – sun 9am//5.30pm
metro station: edgar quinet
5. Go Fancy and Artsy with the Restaurants
In the 1920’s and later on, all the artists that lived in Montparnasse would split between two cafés: the more literary Le Dôme or the more musical and for painters La Coupole. These two really were the centre of the intellectual and artistic effervescence. La Coupole, for instance, was painted by the very artists that would actually hang out in this café.
Among the most famous personalities that frequented it are Hemingway, Josephine Baker or Giacometti. But nowadays these two aren’t much a place of creativity but have rather became classy restaurants where you can have delicious gastronomy for quite an expensive price! This is the kind of place that comes to mind when you hear the phrase treat yourself.
6. Eat the Best « Crêpes » you have ever tasted
So if you prefer to go the traditional route, the top 10 things to do in Montparnasse can also lead you to discover the present atmosphere of Montparnasse. Straying out from the train station, the surrounding streets like “Rue du Montparnasse” are known in whole Paris and even in all of France for their authentic Breton “crêperies”. You shouldn’t actually leave Paris without having tasted a real French “crêpe” so here is the best place to do so.
My favorite crêperie in the area is Ty Breizh. Besides serving up traditional sweet and savory crêpes, the joint is authentic, friendly, and right in the middle of Montparnasse. If you’re on the hunt for a delicious spot that won’t break the bank, this place fits the bill.
ty breiz crêperie – 2 Boulevard de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris
open monday – friday for lunch 11AM//2:30PM and for dinner 6.30PM//10.30PM
open weekends 11AM//10.30Pm
metro station: montparnasse bienvenue
7. Contemplate the Sculptures of Musée Bourdelle
This museum will let you stroll in the workshops and gardens of the late 19th Century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Even though you may never have heard of him, it is definitely worth the detour. Bourdelle studied under the more famous sculptor, Rodin, for years.
But as it is in the art world, his work definitely doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. The sculptures are impressive and the garden is scattered with them which makes it look, in my opinion, like an old backyard from Antiquity.
musée bourdelle – 18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015 Paris
open tuesday – sunday 10AM//6PM
metro station: falguière
8. Have Fun in Rue de la Gaieté
« Gaité » literally means cheerfulness and this street is aptly named and once again, is a key stop on the top 10 things to do in Montparnasse. It used to host the “guinguettes” of Montparnasse which were popular cabarets of the 19th century.
If “guinguettes” aren’t a place to go out anymore, the street, in order to keep its spirit of joy has adapted and is now crawling with little colorful theaters. If you want to get more than a glimpse of Montparnasse lifestyle, you can book a play at the Bobino theater for instance.
9. Catch the Sunset at the top of Montparnasse tower
Montparnasse wouldn’t be itself without its tower and the many people that criticize its aesthetic actually say that the best view of Paris is from its top: where you don’t see it!
The view is absolutely striking and offers you a whole panorama of Paris. If you can get there for the sunset, you definitely are the luckiest person alive. Get your tickets in advance (on your smartphone) and enjoy a direct access to the elevators to the 56th floor.
>> The best views of Paris at night
montparnasse tower – 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris
open daily 11AM//10:30PM
metro station: montparnasse bienvenue
10. For the night owls: Night-clubbing
If you still aren’t tired of my top 10 things to do in Montparnasse, the last thing you can do is go to one of the clubs that are actually under the tower.
If you’re especially into the “International student spirit”, the Mix Club has some “Soirée Erasmus” every Thursday where you can meet students from all around Europe and share your experience of the Parisian life!
11. Participate in community activities at Les Grands Voisins
Thanks to Les Grands Voisins’ ambitious plan, the former Saint-Vincent-de-Paul hospital, which was located in a barren area between Port-Royal and Denfert-Rochereau, has been transformed into a vibrant live-work utopia. 2,000 individuals, including refugees, artists, and crafters, are already residing and working here, while the initiative is still in the early stages.
Visitors are welcome to stop by for a coffee (pay it forward and buy one for a neighbour, too), a drink at the bar (open in the evenings from Wednesday through Sunday), or to browse the boutiques and ateliers. In the summer, when you can eat at tables in the courtyard, the on-site restaurant L’Oratoire is an excellent place to stop for lunch (three dishes for €13 (£11.50)).
74 Av. Denfert Rochereau, 75014 Paris, France
OPEN DAILY FROM 10AM-12PM
Metro Station: Grands Boulevards
12. Shop on rue Daguerre, Paris
Rue Daguerre is particularly worthwhile to see because authentic market streets are becoming less common in Paris. The 14th arrondissement at its most neighbourhood-specific extends from east to west south of the Cimetière du Montparnasse.
The most intriguing part of the street is on its eastern end, where it intersects with Avenue du Général Leclerc. Stroll or shop along a row of vintage-looking boulangeries, butchers, and greengrocers here. Sip your morning espresso while watching locals load up their grocery carts by reserving one of the terrace tables at La Chope Daguerre.
75014 PARIS, FRANCE
OPEN DAILY FROM 12:00 PM TO 11:30 PM
METRO STATION: Denfert-Rochereau station
13. Visit the Cimetière de Montparnasse to honour renowned authors
Even though Père Lachaise receives most of the attention, there are other interesting cemeteries in Paris. Visit the Cimetière du Montparnasse, the second-largest in the city, to pay your respects to Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Charles Baudelaire.
You’ll find its orderly avenues nearly empty if you arrive early, perhaps with a cup of coffee from the neighbourhood Hexagone Café. For directions to the graves of the cemetery’s most well-known residents, including Serge Gainsbourg, pick up a map at the entrance on Boulevard Edgard Quinet.
3 Bd Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris, France
OPEN DAILY FROM 9AM-:11:30PM
METRO STATION: The Notre Dame Des Champs station
14. A new-fashioned cocktail can be ordered at Rosebud
For more than 50 years, Rosebud’s white-jacketed bartenders have been crafting martinis, manhattans, and Moscow mules at this classic, wood-panelled pub, and it continues to be listed among the top bars in the world.
This is the kind of place where you go to put the world to right while sipping on a few quiet cocktails rather than to see and be seen. You can anticipate a jazz soundtrack and exquisitely crafted classic beverages. Consider ordering a new-fashioned instead of the classic old-fashioned ($14; £12.40; Peychaud’s Bitters, Maraschino, Bourbon).
11 Rue Delambre, 75014 Paris, France
open from 6am to 2am
Metro station: Ternes station
15. Visit the theatre district on Rue de la Gaîté
Theatres are dispersed around the city of Paris since it lacks a theaterland like London’s West End or New York’s Broadway. One of the few places where they are grouped together is La Rue de la Gaîté.
Since the 1870s, this boulevard has served as a centre for stagecraft; here, icons like Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker played alongside music hall royalty from the belle époque. Tutu and Les Franglaises, two musical comedies performed at Théâtre Bobino, are worth seeing out if you’re unsure about seeing a production in French.
Line 13 of the Paris Métro in the 14th arrondissement
75014 Paris, France
Metro Station: Gaîté
Bonus: Discover France from the Gare Montparnasse
This list of the top 15 things to do in Montparnasse wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the famous Montparnasse train station. Actually, this train station is one of the city’s most important, and serves regions to the South and West of Paris. So if you fancy exploring Bordeaux, Poitiers, Brest, or La Rochelle, this is where you’ll board a train from Paris. Happy exploring!
I hope that after this little journey, Montparnasse will mean more than just a Tower or a train station and that it will represent a whole feeling to you. Remember: Montparnasse is about revisiting the past, looking for art and aesthetics but also living the pleasures of today fully!
If you want to know how to Dress like a real Parisian to completely fit in the capital, you can check our article!
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