Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Montmartre Museum
Tucked away in the rolling streets of the hillside village of Montmartre, the Montmartre Museum is a hidden gem when compared to the bigger names in museums around Paris.
Tourist attractions such as the Sacre Coeur Basilica and the Montmartre Cemetery are generally what bring the majority of visitors to this neighborhood. There is also an abundance of concept cafes that make up some of the most Instagrammable spots in Paris: La Maison Rose, La Galette des Moulins and Lomi Cafe to name a few.
I love seeing the reaction on people’s faces once they realize that this artistic part of Paris actually has a museum of its own as well. The Montmartre Museum is situated halfway up the hill, just to the right of the Montmartre Cemetery.
This is my go museum when I am in need of a heavy dose of Parisian culture but don’t have the energy to fight the crowds at the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay. Because of the hidden nature of the Montmartre Museum, the property is almost always quiet.
No queueing to get inside, and definitely no queuing to see any of the exhibits housed in the space; virtually unheard of in terms of museum culture in the French capital.
If a clear personal bubble isn’t enough to bring your to the 18th arrondissement, then here are ten more reasons to visit the Montmartre Museum during your time in Paris.
Musée de Montmartre
12 Rue Cortot
+33 1 49 25 89 39
Monday to Sunday: 10am – 7pm
Adults: €12 Children: €5.50
1. The Collection at the Montmartre Museum
The collections at the Montmartre Museum are impressive, to say the least. They are divided into a permanent exhibit and a temporary one.
The permanent exhibit at the museum attempts to show the history of Montmartre through a carefully curated series of photographs, videos, posters and collected artworks. These will take you on a journey from the very beginning of this artistic part of Paris right through to modern day Montmartre that people around the world seek to visit.
Also part of the permanent exhibits are Théophile Steinlen’s famous Black Cat posters. If you are a lover of vintage graphics then this part of the museum will be a feast for your eyes.
Moving through to the temporary exhibits, this is largely the luck of the day as to what you will find during your visit. The exhibits are rotated on a regular basis, with new works being introduced quite frequently.
The temporary exhibits usually always have some sort of relation to the district of Montmartre in some way. Many of their collections over the last year were centered around the presence of Montmartre in the cinema throughout the ages — which was fascinating to see.
2. The Renoir Gardens at the Montmartre Museum
Early on in his career in Paris, Pierre-Auguste Renoir called the Montmartre Museum home. This was back when the building was still a residential block and available for rent by whomever was interested at the time.
As an ode to the artist, the garden at the Montmartre Museum is now known as Renoir’s garden. It is a beautiful little piece of greenery where there is a terrace, a pond and blossoming flowers surrounding the exterior.
It is said that most of the nature based works that the artist created occurred thanks to inspiration drawn from this very garden.
The gardens are officially part of the museum and you will have to pay the museum entry fee if you’d like to make use of them. As a bonus, you’ll also gain access to the reconstructed studio inside of the museum that was set up by curators to reflect what the artists residency would have looked like back in the day.
It is not the original layout, but it is still wonderful to imagine Renoir himself making use of that very same space.
3. The History of the Montmartre Museum
Renoir wasn’t the only artists to call this property home during the prime years of art in Paris. The entire property was once divided up into small studios where other artists could rent them out for long periods of time.
You see, the building that now houses the Montmartre Museum is actually the oldest structure ever build in Montmartre. It was constructed back in the 17th century, when the village of Montmartre was nothing more than an empty hill with a few winding foot streets.
As the neighborhood around the original building began to grow and flourish, this building became a sought after location from which to house one’s art studio.
The Montmartre Museum was only officially turned into a museum in 1960. Even more shockingly, the Montmartre Museum was only officially recognized as a museum by the city of France in 2003.
When you take the extensive history of this space into consideration, it becomes quite whimsical to be standing in a 17th century building, viewing 19th century art, during the 21st century in Paris, France. A true time warp for the mind.
4. View the Montmartre Vineyard from the Montmartre Museum
People are usually surprised when they learn of the existence of the Montmartre Museum. People are usually absolutely shocked when they learn of the existence of the Montmartre Vineyard.
Located behind the north-most boundary of the museum, the Vineyard of Montmartre is a small piece of cornered off land where vines grown up the Montmartre hill year round.
This vineyard is tiny in comparison to the major wine fields around France. It only has the capacity to produce between 1000 and 1700 bottles on wine per year. The annual harvest takes place during the month of October.
Since this vineyard is not open to the public there are generally only two ways of getting a closer look. One would be to join a free guided walking tour of the neighborhood of Montmartre where you’ll roam the adjacent streets and get somewhat of a view of the vineyard through the metal fencing that encloses it.
The next would be to pay a visit to the Montmartre Museum and enter the Renoir garden in the back. This side of the garden has a full view overlooking the entire Montmartre Vineyard as well as the rooftops of the homes that were built further down the hill.
It’s one of the best views you’ll get of the vineyard without actually going inside of it. Also a great place to watch the annual harvest take place during October in Paris.
5. View Renoir’s Swing at the Montmartre Museum
Back in 1876, Renoir painted one of his most famous works called ‘The Swing’ right here in the gardens of the Montmartre Museum. This painting found its permanent home at the Musée d’Orsay, where it still hangs today.
As an ode to the artist and this particular work, the Montmartre Museum had a swing installed into the gardens of the museum which is an exact replica of the swing depicted in his painting.
In Renoir’s piece he shows a young girl enjoying the garden swing by standing on it upright, as opposed to sitting down. Visitors to the Montmartre Museum enjoy recreating this visual and taking their own photograph being the girl on the swing.
6. Have Tea at Cafe Renoir at the Montmartre Museum
Part of the original property that now houses the Montmartre Museum was once home to the Hôtel Demarne. This little section was renovated when the property became a museum and the space is now used for the museum’s signature cafe: Cafe Renoir.
It is the quaintest and coziest little space in all of Montmartre, in my opinion. Nestled amongst the trees and lawns where Renoir spent so much of his time, patrons can enjoy a pot of tea and freshly bakes pastries all year round.
The high panel glass windows make this spot welcoming both in the depths of winter and the peak of summer. One can snuggle inside with a book while still gaining full view of the beautiful gardens outside.
The cafe is centered around warm drinks and sweet treats but they do have a few salads and light meals for anyone looking for something a bit more hearty. In the winter they do delicious soups of the day as well.
7. View the Old Artist Studios at the Montmartre Museum
As mentioned, the Montmartre Museum was once the sought after spot for Montmartre’s most aspiring artists. While Renoir was definitely the most notable, and still the most celebrated, a number of other big names shared these studio spaces with him.
Émile-Othon Friesz, Raoul Dufy, Maurice Utrillo and Charles Camoin were amongst the influential names of those who created works from this property.
While you walk through the museum you’ll clearly be able to map out exactly how this property functioned as the communal art space that it did. You’ll find clear divisions between the rooms and obvious separation between spaces where artists would work and where other artists, like Renoir, would actually live.
It’s a fascinating, coexistent space. The walls hold stories I’m sure many of us would pay to hear.
8. View the Largest Collection of Monet’s Works at the Montmartre Museum
This is a selling point that a lot of people are astounded to learn. The Montmartre Museum actually houses the largest collection of original Monet artworks in a single space in the world.
Monet was another artists who was deeply attached and inspired by the city of Montmartre during his prime years in Paris. He spent much of his time sitting in the Place du Tertre, a public square not far from the museum where artists make and sell works in the center.
It was the decision of Monet’s last known heir to donate the vast collection of works to the Montmartre Museum where they could live on in the neighborhood he so loved many years ago. This is how the museum came to acquire such a range of works by such a renowned pioneer in the Parisian art world.
There are many original Monet pieces distributed around the museums in Paris; such as his well known Water Lilies piece that spans across a few rooms at the Orangerie Museum in the 1st arrondissement. Being able to view so many in a single museum such as the one in Montmartre is a true privilege for art lovers around the world.
9. The Surrounding Attractions of the Montmartre Museum
Being at the Montmartre Museum puts you within close walking distance to almost all of the attractions that the rest of Montmartre holds (Read more about Discover walking tours).
A short ascension north and you’ll come to the incredible Sacre Coeur Basilica that sits at the very top of Montmartre hill. If you aren’t already away, this is one of the best views of Paris you can get, overlooking all of the South and landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse.
As mentioned, the Place du Tertre is a few blocks away from the museum. This is a worthwhile Montmartre attraction to visit before or after the museum as it stays on the subject of the Parisian artists who once loved the very neighborhood in which you are standing.
Picasso, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh were amongst the regulars to this public square and would sit for hours either creating works or waiting for inspiration to hit. Today, the square is filled with over one hundred local artists who come do the exact same thing on a daily basis; selling portraits or caricatures to excited tourists willing to pay the price.
10. Children Love the Montmartre Museum
The wide green space that surrounds the museum in collaboration with the many animated artworks and posters on the inside make it a bit of a playground for children. It’s hard to find museums in Paris that are child friendly as much of the content can translate as quite boring to children under a certain age.
Children are welcome at the Montmartre Museum. The guided tours are also careful to include them should you decide to take this route when making your way through the museum.
A fun day out in Paris for the whole family. See you there!