Top 10 Things To Do in Montmartre
Half of ‘first time’ visitors to Paris have never heard of the Montmartre part of Paris. And yet, with more than 11 million visitors every year, the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre is the second most-visited monument in Paris, only Notre Dame Cathedral being more popular.
Montmartre makes claim to be the most interesting neighborhood of Paris. It was the home and workplace of the most famous artists – Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Dali, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, to name a few. Today there are plenty of artists living and working there, getting ‘inspiration’ from Montmartre’s distinctive buildings and views.
Your visit to Montmartre should give you a bit of the feel of Paris in the 1900’s with cabarets (like Moulin Rouge), hillside windmills, and streets that seem untouched with time.
Montmartre is very easily accessible by public transport, which services all areas of the city. Depending on where you are staying, you can make connections by bus, metro, taxi/uber, or even hire a bike / scooter for your journey. Keep in mind that it is a hill, and so for the last one you will need to be feeling extra motivated. Here is a map of the metro lines. Those in Montmartre are circled.
1. Montmartre Trail
At the top of our list is a walk through Montmartre. It is the only way to see and feel Montmartre. And the best way to do this is the Montmartre trail.
The trail usually takes 90 minutes to 2 hours and you see all the highlights of Montmartre along the way (most of which are detailed below). Things like Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Van Gogh’s house, Renoir’s garden and Picasso’s studio.
The trail weaves slowly up from the Moulin Rouge to Place du Tertre (Artist’s Square) and Sacre Coeur. “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls” is there as well as Paris’s only vineyard. The view from the top of the hill gives a nice ending.
There are bakeries, fromagers, and lots of ‘locals’ restaurants along the way to pick from when the time comes. Stop along the way up and pick up fresh cheeses and fruits for a picnic on the hill.
If you want to wait to eat at a restaurant I recommend Le Coq Rico, where you will find some of the most delicious chicken in Paris. Be careful of waiting to get to the Artist’s Square to eat, because the quality isn’t always as good as produce from the smaller vendors, and prices can be exorbitant.
Our favorite way to see the Montmartre Trail is with a local. Here you are in luck. Discover Walks has a free (tip only) tour that runs twice a day. Check here for details.
2. Sacre Coeur Basilica
The highest point in Montmartre is the Sacre Coeur Basilica – it’s hard to miss. If you are approaching from a small street without a view, just keep walking up the hill and you are sure to find it. Continue until you are amidst the throngs of tourists, pilgrims and gypsies.
Visiting at sunset you will find many people there to enjoy the amber view of Paris from the top of the hill with ice creams in their hands.
Go earlier in the day and you will see people picnicking on the grass and on the steps leading down the hill. The nighttime can get chilly with the wind, so make sure you bring a warm coat.
The reason why you must visit the Basilica is simply because of its jaw dropping interior. Once inside, you will be struck by the enormity of the space. The high ceilings, the columns, the long rows of pews. As you wander around, you will pass confession booths, candles to light, and beautiful mosaics and window panes that introduce rainbow light into the space.
Look up and you will discover one of the most famous mosaics in the world; the Apse. Inaugurated in 1923 it is a 475 square metre Mosaic of Christ. It shows the risen Christ in white robes with his arms extended, and a gold heart on his chest.
Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: You can visit between 6am and 22h15, as it closes at 22h30
Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Abbesses / Anvers / Lamarck Caulaincourt
3. Place du Tertre – Artist’s Square
Once you have walked around the inside of the church, you may be feeling like a little fresh air. For this, there is no better place than la Place du Tertre. This is arguably the best place to people watch in all of Paris. The car traffic is very limited to utility vehicles, and the flux of people is as eclectic as you can imagine.
Originally established in 1133 by King Louis VI, it was once the Benedictine Montmartre Abbey, but was opened for public access, after the Revolution, in 1635 as the village square.
This square is a reminder of the artistic side to Montmartre, as you see artists with their easels and multiple boutique art galleries lining the peripheries. 130 years ago, Vincent Van Gogh came to Paris to live with his brother Théo on Rue Lepic.
Théo was selling artwork for la Maison Goupil on Rue Chaptal. The fashion of the era saw military paintings by Edouard Detaille sell for 125 000 euros, whilst Monet struggled to find buyers at 1,650 euros…
At some point you will most likely be approached by an amateur artist wanting to paint your portrait. In fact, even if you say no, they might start jotting down preliminary sketches anyway. My friend and I have personally fallen victim to this, as they can be quite insistent. You never know, but in 130 years these could be worth millions?
If you’d rather escape, be innocently distracted by the ice cream shop along the street leading linking the Church with Place du Tertre. It is called Tutti Sensi and it has some unique flavours; kiwi, crème brûlée, licorice, and tarte Tatin to name a few.
Street performers, such as mimes and musicians also frequent this area, so you may get lucky enough to see a public show. However, walk away from the cafés and restaurants located around this place – most of them are expensive and will certainly disappoint you.
Entry fee: Free
Address: Place du Tertre, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Abbesses/ Anvers / Jules Joffrin
4. Visit art museums
There are a number of art museums to enjoy in Montmartre. Our top 2 are Dali Paris and la Halle Saint Pierre.
Dali Paris is a small museum just off Place du Tertre which displays the personal collection of Benjamino Levi, one of Dali’s great art dealers. There are over 300 works to admire here, so it is well worth the visit.
You will find paintings, sculptures, etchings, and surrealist objects which are inspired by religion, and international literature such as Don Quijote, Alice in Wonderland and even the Bible.
For the only other exclusive Dali collection in the world you will have to visit Figueres in Spain, and that’s a bit far from Montmartre…
Entry fee: €9-€12, free for kids under 8 years old
Opening hours: Every day including Sunday, 10am to 6.30pm
Address: 11 Rue Poulbot, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Abbesses
The Halle Saint Pierre is inside and out, an expression of contemporary architecture and art. It shows off a number of exhibitions at any given time. It is known for showing off Art Brut and “outsider” art by artists that dare to test boundaries and experiment.
There permanent exhibition is of art naïf by Max Fourny.
La Halle St Pierre
Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: On weekdays you may visit from 11am to 6pm, on Saturdays 11am to 7pm, and on Sundays 12pm to 6pm.
Address: 2 Rue Ronsard, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Abbesses
Bonus Tip – Abbesses
The closest metro to Halle Saint Pierre. The Abbesses metro is the deepest in Paris, set in the hill. It is 36 metres underground. If you decide to take the stairs to exit, you are a brave soul. Although I have never counted, taking 2 at a time might get you over ground in about 5 minutes. If you take your time, or if you are with kids, this will be much longer. Fear not, there is also an elevator to transport you, but it occasionally smells like a toilet in summer, and can get crowded at peak hours.
Bonus – Buy Art in Montmartre
After all these exhibitions you might be feeling an urge to surround yourself by art in your own home. Here are two shops where you are sure to find something unique to remind you of your trip. From La Boutique des Anges http://www.montmartre-guide.com/commerces/la-boutique-des-anges/
you will leave with anything from an ornate lamp to a calendar in your bag, whereas from A Saint Pierre de Montmartre you may take away prints, postcards and a scarf or two.
5. Visit the Cemetery
The Montmartre cemetery is a hidden gem of the suburb. It is not as famous as Père Lachaise, but you will find the graves of some very famous French stars – think Michel Gerber, the widow of France Gall, and Dalida, celebrated popstar.
Another unique feature of the cemetery is its living population. The cats.
The cemetery used to be a dumping ground for the strays, and over time they were persecuted by the council’s pest extermination program. Nowadays however, they are protected by an organization called ‘L’école du chat’. You can now visit their site to adopt the cemetery cats.
Entry fee: Free
Opening hours: Weekdays from 8am to 6pm, Saturdays from 8.30am to 6pm and Sundays from 9am to 6pm.
Address: 20 Avenue Rachel, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: La Fourche / Guy Moquet
6. Visit the Museum of Montmartre
If you enjoy the atmosphere of Montmartre during your visit and you want to have more, my advice is to visit The Museum of Montmartre.
It is probably one of the most unique museums you will find in Paris. It opened in 1960 in a 17th-century house and garden and it displays a unique collection of artworks telling the history of Montmartre.
This fabulous little museum displays paintings and drawings by Modigliani, Suzanne Valadon, Maurice Utrillo and others.
When you are done visiting this colorful museum, don’t forget to go to the Renoir garden which offers a lovely view of the Clos Montmartre vineyard and northern Paris.
This garden is located not far for the Place du Tertre and it surrounds the museum.
This is a must do in Montmartre!
Fun fact about the Museum of Montmartre: Auguste Renoir, the impressionist French painter, worked in this charming building in 1876.
Entrance fees: From 12€ and free entrance for children
Opening hours: every day from 10am to 7pm.
Address/ 12 rue Cortot, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Lamarck-Caulaincourt and Abbesses
7. Le Clos Montmartre: A Secret Vineyard
A vineyard in Montmartre, Paris? Yes!
Another unmissable spot in Montmartre is the last remaining vineyards in Paris. It is located not too far from the landmark “Au Lapin Agile”- the oldest bar in Paris – on the corner of Rue des Saules and Rue Saint-Vincent.
In the heart of a highly touristy neighborhood and surrounded by beautiful bourgeois houses, you will find a small vineyard that you can’t visit (but you can easily see through the fences).
Every year, they produce a few hundred bottles of wine. Is the wine good? Not really, but that’s not really the point here.
In fact, it is a symbolic place for all Parisians to remember that wine used to be produced in Paris in the past. It is also a way of protesting against the construction of large buildings everywhere in Paris and to affirm its identity and originality.
However, if you feel adventurous, you can buy a bottle of the Clos Montmartre Wine here, and it will cost you between €20 to €40.
La Fête des Vendanges
If you have the chance to visit Paris in October, Montmartre celebrates “la Fetes des Vendanges” (“The Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival”) with many shows and exhibitions during 5 days. With more than 400,000 visitors every year, this folkloric celebration is one of the most popular events in Paris and is also a opportunity to meet some Montmartois.
Address: Rue des Saules, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Lamarck-Caulaincourt and Abbesses
8. Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge is the most famous cabaret in the world. You may have seen Nicole Kidman star in the film directed by Baz Lurhman, which tells the story of a singer and her secret love for an Englishman in Paris.
Although the real life experience won’t be as sombre as in the movie, Pigalle is known for its seedy nightlife. Although the original theatre burnt down dramatically in 1915, the building you see now is still over 100 years old.
Book a show and revel amongst the can can girls and topless women. Shows at the Moulin Rouge will astound you with their glittering costumes and acrobatic feats.
Every night there is a show at 9pm and 11pm.
You must book tickets weeks in advance because they sell out very fast.
Address: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Blanche
Ticket prices: Begin at €95
9. Le Mur des Je t’aimes (I Love You Wall)
Located not too far from the Sacre Coeur but away from the busy streets, you will find the Wall of Love, which displays “I Love You” in 250 different languages.
This romantic artwork was conceived in 2000 by Claire Kito and Frédéric Baron and is composed of 612 squares of enamelled lava and is only 2 minutes away fro the Abbesses metro station.
It is definitely worth a visit, to take a picture yourself or to see all these couples taking pictures in front of it.
Price: Access to the Wall is free
Address: Located in the Square des Abbesses, Square Jehan Rictus, 75018 Paris, France
Metro station: Abbesses
La Maison Rose is a café and restaurant situated right beside le Clos de Montmartre (find above). It is located 3 minutes walking distance away from the Basilica of Sacre Coeur.
The house is estimated to have been built in the 1850s however no one can be sure. It was later bought by a women called Laure Germaine Pichot Girones.
As a dancer for the Moulin Rouge, she later becomes a model for Picasso.
A relationship turned very bad between her and Picasso’s friend Carlos Casagemas was inspiration for Picasso’s blue series of artwork.
Other artists that frequented the café are Mondigliani and Edith Piaf. This house is emblematic of love, passion, tragedy, and the art that changed the 20th century.
These days, you can enjoy the ‘dish of the day’ for a mere €12. Despite being one of the most famous places to eat in Paris, it has kept its prices modest in homage to its past. You can have vegan meals here, but also enjoy a warming minestrone with homemade basil pesto, and a chestnut cheesecake for dessert.
We highly recommend a visit to La Maison Rose, even if it is just to get a beautiful photo for Instagram!
Meal prices: Dish of the day for €12
Opening hours: Tuesday and Wednesday closed, all other days open from 12pm to 11.30pm
Address: 2 Rue de l’Aubreuvoir
Metro Station: Lamarck-Caulaincourt
Bonus – Café des Deux Moulins
The Café des Deux Moulins translates to, the Cafe of the Two Windmills, as it sits in between the Moulin Rouge and the Moulin de la Galette.
It was made famous by the award-winning 2001 French film ‘Amélie’, about a young Parisian woman that isolates herself from the world, yet orchestrates the happiness of others around her. In the film, you see her working her, waiting on tables and taking orders, serving coffee.
Nowadays, they serve their Amélie menu which consists of onion soup, beef bourgignon, and a vanilla crême brulée.
Meal prices: 3 Course Menu for €30
Opening hours: Every day from 7am to 1.30am
Address: 15 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
Metro Station: Blanche
Bonus – Crypte de Martyrium de Saint Denis
Walk down the road from the vineyard and you will come across the Crypte of Saint Denis. He was a martyr and Saint from the 3rd century.
During the Roman Empire, and under the authority of Emperor Decius, Saint Denis was converting people to Christianity. This threatened the Romans and so he was decapitated.
Legend has it that Saint Denis then picked up his head and walked a few miles in repentance. He was executed not far from this crypte in Montmartre. The statue of him holding his head in his hands will remind you of this!
Address OF CRYPTE: 11 rue Yvonne Le Tac, 18th Paris
ADDRESS OF STATUE: 7 Bis Rue Girardon, 18TH PARIS
Metro Station: Abbesses
Bonus – Dalida statue
Dalida was a famous French singer who lived in the Montmartre from 1962 to 1987. She was so popular in France that she has her own place in Montmartre: “the Place Dalida”. The main attraction of this square is a life size bust of the singer. A must see for Dalida fans. Read more on her life, and her trials and tribulations here.