Top 5 Ways to Experience Monet’s Montmartre
The more time you spend in Montmartre, the more you realize just how deeply this part of the 18th arrondissement is rooted in the arts.
Since the French Revolution, Montmartre has been the preferred neighborhood of residency for artists around the world. Back then of course, rent was cheap and there wasn’t a whole lot to do on the iconic hillside.
The history books follow our friends Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Renoir (to name a few) through their times living and working in the Montmartre streets. This was a place particularly close to Monet’s heart; one in which he could seek inspiration whenever necessary, or simply escape the confines of his own life for a few hours.
Although Monet was born in Paris in 1840, he mostly grew up in Normandy. It wasn’t until 1859 that the painter returned to make Paris his home; it is from here that we can start to explore his presence in Montmartre, and how we can experience it for ourselves.
1. Visit the Montmartre Museum in Montmartre
12 Rue Cortot
The Montmartre Museum is a site that is passed late into most free guided walking tours. This is because it is situated quite far up the hill of Montmartre, closer to the Sacre Coeur as opposed to Pigalle.
The museum is built against the Jardin Sauvage Saint Vincent, a beautiful and very green garden space that is open to the public.
Here at Musée de Montmartre, Monet’s legacy lives on. Well aware of his love for the neighborhood, Monet’s last known heir made the choice to donate all of his inherited works to the Montmartre Museum where they could live on.
This is the largest collection of Monet’s works in a single space in the world.
The museum is open seven days a week and there is a €9.50 entrance fee upon arrival.
2. Walk by 11 Avenue de Clichy in Montmartre
This very specific address may seem a strange recommendation at first, but allow me to elaborate.
At 11 Avenue de Clichy in Montmartre there was once a very well known, very popular little cafe called Café Guerbois. During the 19th century, this spot was where the bohèmes gathered and the bourgeois avoided.
The Montmartre artists would meet here, on Sundays and Thursdays, for in depth discussions and explorations of the Parisian art world. These discussions were usually headed by Édouard Manet; and the artists accompanying him were most of the at-the-time French greats, Monet amongst them.
Unfortunately this property was unable to withstand the test of time and you won’t be able to visit the cafe itself. There are now small retail stores here instead. Just walking this suburb, however, and seeing the sidewalks and geographic elements that Monet once did is quite something.
3. Visit the Place du Tertre in Montmartre
Once the artists arrive in Montmartre, they needed somewhere to make and sell pieces of work.
The Place du Tertre is the major public square in Montmartre. It is lined by cafes, bistros and bars. In the center of the square, over one hundred artists set up shop by day and create sketches, paintings and other forms of work for the many tourists that now visit.
During Monet’s era, the Place du Tertre was a source of inspiration rather than retail. He and his fellow professionals would often be sighted sitting for hours at a time in this square — no doubt waiting for inspiration to hit.
When the artists weren’t sitting around they were also occasionally spotted painting or drawing in the square. The Place du Tertre represented a significant part of what it meant to be an artists in Paris during that time, especially for Monet.
This space is open to the public daily and is free to enter and enjoy. If you land up here after a guided tour, enjoy lunch or dinner at La Mère Catherine on the northern boundary .
4. Sit in a Cafe in Montmartre
While Café Guerbois was a definite crowd pleaser, this was by no means the only cafe in which Monet spent his recreational hours.
Montmartre has always been saturated with cafe options nestled between the rolling hillside. Some of the very first ones still call this neighborhood home to this day.
A big part of Parisian art culture is centered around what cafes to hang out in. It’s not only pleasurable, it is also a means of networking and finding collaborative opportunities with one’s fellow artists.
Monet knew this and spent a lot of time moving between cafes situated around Paris. Le Marais was another popular artists hub, as well as the Latin Quarter.
During your ventures in Montmartre, make time to sit at one of the cafes of this suburb. La Maison Rose is one of the oldest and still one of the most beautiful. The Café des Deux Moulins is my favorite, also very old and also the star of the French film Amélie.
5. Take a Day Trip Out of Montmartre
There are few better ways to experience Monet’s Montmartre than to take yourself out of Montmartre for a day.
Having spent almost all of his adolescence and teenage years in Normandy, a big part of Monet’s character was based here. It was a place he often returned to visit and one that is seen reflected in a lot of his work.
Monet would eventually leave Paris for good and return here, setting up the last phase of his life in Giverny.
His house and garden are open to visitors and one can take a day trip out of Paris to see them. The journey takes roughly two hours by train from any of the major train stations. The garden is where he found inspiration for his Water Lilies series.
Jumping between here and Montmartre you get a much wider frame of reference for what the life of this pioneer was like. His years both inside and outside of Paris were extremely important to his development as an impressionist.