Top 10 Things to See at the Place du Tertre
The Place du Tertre is situated almost halfway up the Montmartre hill, above the Pigalle strip but below the Montmartre Museum.
This square is slightly different to all of the other squares available to the public around Paris. Instead of being simply a large, open, communal space — the Place du Tertre is an artists square.
Within the cobblestoned quarter there are over 100 kiosk style spots available to artists from which they can create their works for the tourists that flock to the square each day.
Keeping with the artistic nature of this neighborhood, the Place du Tertre slowly evolved into a public space where all kinds of artists could come together and create works. Today you’ll find everything from painters to buskers; street artists to photographers — all vying for the attention of the visitors that pass through.
1. The Cafes at the Place du Tertre
While the artists exist in the central space of the square, the edges of the Place du Tertre are lined with cafes that, in many ways, keep the space alive.
Cafe culture is a huge part of Europe and particularly Paris. Surveys have shown that most people are less likely to want to visit a landmark or attraction if there is no availability of a cafe or restaurant nearby.
In a sense, the artists and cafes of the Place du Tertre work together in peaceful coexistence. Cafes bringing patrons (and potential art buyers) to the square; and the artists bringing art buyers (and potential cafe patrons) all the same.
The Au Clairon Des Chasseurs is on the eastern boarder of the square and is one of the more popular hangouts. You can’t miss it — it’s the one with the extended blue and white striped tent that juts into the square. Try the pizza!
2. The Artists at the Place du Tertre
Yes, the artists of the Place du Tertre are definitely a worthwhile reason to visit this space.
For the most part, the artists in the Place du Tertre are made up of painters and sketch artists who make their daily earnings by doing live portraits for individuals and families looking to take unique pieces home with them.
The lively nature of this square, however, also sees a variation of other artists from time to time. Once, while enjoying a bottle of wine on a bench with a friend, we were treated to a spontaneous dance performance by a youth group who had made their way up to the plaza.
Many other artists, such as sculptors, photographers and even buskers, are inspired by the notion that so many of the French greats used to seek inspiration for their own work in this square that they hang out here whenever they find the time.
Montmartre is undoubtably an artists hub in Paris. Whether you enjoy purchasing art or simply watching it come to life, the Place du Tertre holds what you need.
3. The French Restaurants at the Place du Tertre
For the longest time I had mislead myself into believing that the Place du Tertre was comprised of art and cafes and that was that. Upon closer observation one day I was astounded to note how many authentic French restaurants also share the space.
Finding good, authentic French cuisine in Paris isn’t very hard. The nature of restaurants in established, powerful cities is that they tend to all be of good quality or they would quickly go out of business. It’s choosing the best one in which to eat that becomes the overwhelming part.
My last visit to the Place du Tertre I counted al least seven authentic French bistros within the square itself. Add to this number the single French creperie, Au Petit Comptoir, on the north-western corner.
For anyone looking to experience authentic French food but who is at a bit of a loss as to where to go — head to the square and allow the right one (out of the estimated seven) to call to you.
Rumor has it that La Mère Catherine is the place to be — rumor also has it that this is the very establishment where the word “bistro” was coined back in 1814!
4. Galerie Montmartre at the Place du Tertre
If the art within the square itself isn’t enough to satisfy your needs, there is also a gallery.
The Galerie Montmartre sits on the southern boarder of the square and is open to the public seven days a week. It is a small yet well established gallery that features a collection of modern contemporary art.
Most people visit this gallery to enjoy a condensed experience of the works of Dali, Andy Warhol and Rubenstein. Since the space is so small it takes a fraction of the time to experience when compared to the fill sized museums housing the same works.
The collections change regularly and there is no charge to enter the space. Because of the raucous nature of the public square outside, however, they do reserve the right to refuse entry to unaccompanied minors or anyone seeking to abuse the premises.
The Galerie Montmartre sort of makes the Place du Tertre a one stop shop for all things art.
5. Souvenirs at the Place du Tertre
One thing you can trust to follow you to all the tourist attractions in Paris are the souvenir stores. These retail chains are situated throughout the city and thrive off of tourist presence and free guided walking tours through the various arrondissements.
Since the Place du Tertre is such a tourist hub on its own, its not surprising that amidst the many cafes, French bistros and galleries there be souvenirs for sale as well.
If you’re anything like me, the thought of branded souvenirs from foreign countries makes your skin crawl; t-shirts reading “I heart Paris” or ashtrays in the shape of the Eiffel Tower are just not my cup of tea.
However… there is something undeniably sweet about the sentiment behind gifting or being gifted one of these generic objects. Thinking of people while thousands of miles away from them — or having them do the same for you — is heartwarming at very least.
The Place du Tertre is an exciting space in which to stand and browse the souvenirs of Paris. You’re on top of the world (literally, on top of a hill); might as well buy a token or two to remember it by.
6. People Watching at the Place du Tertre
Undoubtably my personal favorite past time in this public square; people watching is a source of hours of entertainment in most parts of Paris.
Anywhere you can find a bustling area with park benches nearby makes for an ideal spot to kick back and enjoy all the weird and wonderful humans that go by.
The Place Vendome and Place des Vosges are two public squares where foot traffic is slightly calmer than the Place du Tertre. The energy is very different; less artistic and more aesthetically pleasing.
The Place du Tertre is somewhat less aesthetically pleasing and more enjoyable due to the chaotic nature of the central square and cafes surrounding it. Many of the cafes also have street seating where this activity can take place while you sip wine or enjoy a baguette for your lunch.
7. Dali Museum near the Place du Tertre
This next reason to visit the Place du Tertre doesn’t actually exist within the square itself, but rather nearby — just a short walk west, also on Montmartre hill.
The Dali Museum is a reason to come into Montmartre in itself. The space is a curated ode to the artist Salvador Dali, who spent most of his life living in Paris with his wife Gala.
To date the museum holds over 300 exclusive works by the artist, ranging between paintings, sculptures, sketches and even old notes left behind.
The museums of Paris are not strangers to the works of Salvador Dali and many of his iconic pieces can be found in the bigger art museums around the city. The Dali Museum, however, is a more concentrated and focused look at the lesser known works from the artist; the pieces that helped him work his way up to the Surrealist pioneer he is remembered as.
The gallery is open seven days a week and is just a short walk from the Place du Tertre.
8. Picnic on a Bench at the Place du Tertre
You don’t need to be into people watching to take advantage of the bench spaces in the Place du Tertre. It is equally as acceptable to sit in this space with a pre-packed picnic of sorts and munch your way through the day and things unfold around you.
Admittedly this activity is best enjoyed with a friend or two to accompany you in the space. Picnicking alone is great, but expect unsolicited invites by strangers once they notice the rest of the park bench is being unused.
If you don’t manage to take a full picnic up the hill with you you can also purchase take away foods from any of the cafes found in the square itself. What’s more, if you’re not looking to eat but would be open to a drink, you can purchase a bottle of wine from said cafes and enjoy out of take away cups at your desired bench.
9. Free Guided Walking Tours the Place du Tertre
One thing you’ll probably notice around all the notable tourist attractions around Paris are the free guided walking tours being conducted around them.
At present these tours cover all of the major arrondissements of Paris and take attendees through both the history and fun facts of the sites that they pass through.
Walking tours are great ways to explore the city by foot, while ensuring an educational element is always present. They are also wonderful ways to meet people and make friends if you are a solo traveler who has just arrived in the French capital.
Montmartre walking tours will take you up through the cobblestone streets and you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the Place du Tertre en route up to the Sacre Coeur . If you have a preferred route in mind you can also curate your own personal walking tour and include all of the places you specifically want to see — the choice is yours.
10. Architecture at the Place du Tertre
This square in Montmartre dates back to the 18th century and precedes the arrival of the Haussmann architecture that swept through Paris in the 19th. The buildings the make up the Place du Tertre, as well as the surrounding ones in the area, all maintain their original foundations and exteriors.
It’s not common in Paris to find large portions of 18th century districts that are untouched by modern influence.
Aside from the modern cafe awnings, the Place du Tertre remains just as it did during the days when the French artists would sit in it and use the views of the buildings to create their works.
Yes, it’s not as quaint as Haussmann designs tend to be. Nor is it the most photogenic square in Paris. But it is authentic and true to its origins, and that is something worth seeing.