Top 5 Things You Need to Know about Montmartre’s Windmills
The Montmartre Windmills: Paris’ very own adult treasure hunt in the 18th arrondissement.
Looking at Paris today, you’d never say that over 300 wooden windmills once spread across this land. And not long ago either, they were still erect during the better part of the 20th century.
The windmills of Paris were imperative to the successful order of daily life during these years in history. Much of rural society depended on the produce of milled grain and pressed grapes in order to make wine.
Today, almost all of the windmills that once powered the French capital are gone without a trace. The only remnants are the ones still standing in Montmartre, north of the city center.
Their reputation and longevity precedes them. The Montmartre windmills are now a tourist attraction of their own; here are 5 things you need to know.
1. There are Technically Four Surviving Windmills, Not Two
While on a free guided walking tour through Montmartre you might hear your guide make refer to the “Moulin de la Galette”. While this may sound like a reference to a single landmark, it is actually the collective name used to refer to the two windmills still standing in Montmartre.
The Moulin Radet and the Moulin de la Galette are the two main windmills that are still brining tourists to their sites. As a common oversight, many believe that these are the only two windmills left in the village.
This is actually largely incorrect.
A short walk up the hill will bring you to the Montmartre Cemetery, the third largest necropolis in Paris and the main burial site for Montmartre.
Inside the cemetery you’ll find that an old Montmartre windmill is actually fixed to one of the graves of a soldier who defended Paris during the invasion of the Russian army in 1814. This takes the windmill count in Montmartre to three.
At the very base of the Montmartre hill we can find the fourth surviving windmill of this district. The windmill that crowns the historic and iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret has been part of this town since its opening in 1889.
Night after night this windmill greets the thousands of patrons that visit the club just as it has done for the last hundred-and-something years. I think its earned the right to be part of the long standing Montmartre windmill club, don’t you?
2. They Aren’t All Open to the Public
While all of the acknowledged windmills can be publicly viewed, only three of them can technically still be entered.
The Moulin de la Galette holds its original home on Rue Lepic, however since being partially restored in the late 20th century it is now built on private land. The windmill is therefore only observable from street level.
There is a plaque one can read on the street that explains a brief history of the structure and the change in ownership that it has seen over the years.
The Moulin Radet is on Rue Girardon, a short walk away. This one is still a publicly accessible unit that visitors can go inside of.
Of course, the windmills at Montmartre Cemetery and Moulin Rouge are both public properties and visiting these is as easy as an afternoon stroll through the property.
3. They Have Been Painted by Many of the Great Artists of Montmartre
Back in the artistic heyday of Montmartre, when artists from all over Europe flocked to Paris in hopes of making it big, the windmills became the unofficial muses for the painters in this village.
Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and Toulouse–Lautrec all took turns using the windmills as features in their paintings. They also all have specific works titled after the Moulin de la Galette which, at the time, was a popular hang out venue for the people of this neighborhood.
The most famous piece remains the Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir. It currently hangs in the Musée d’Orsay in the city center.
4. Chef Antoine Heerah Has Built a Restaurant Inside One of Them
As mentioned, the Moulin Radet is still accessible by the public. It is the current site of one of Chef Antoine Heerah’s many Parisian restaurants.
Try not let this confuse you, but the restaurant built underneath the Moulin Radet is named Le Moulin de la Galette. To clarify, Moulin de la Galette is also the name of the other windmill that can only be viewed from street level, as well as the name used to refer to both Montmartre windmills as a collective unit — are you with me?
Enjoying lunch and dinner on the terrace is wonderful. There are sufficient options for both meat eaters and vegan/vegetarians.
OPENING HOURS: 12pm – 10:30pm daily
ADDRESS: 83 Rue Lepic, Paris
METRO STATION: LAMARCK CAULAINCOURT
5. They Are All Within Walking Distance of One Another
I doubt I will ever get over my love for Montmartre and the ability to walk this entire hillside district in just a few hours.
Whether its the Moulin Rouge at the bottom of the hill right up to the Sacre Coeur at the top, everything in Montmartre is within walking distance from one another — including the windmills.
If you properly structure your route between the two or four (depending on how many you want to see) you can include other sites in the area as part of your journey as well .
Between the windmills there are other unmissable attractions including the Montmartre Museum & Jardins Renoir, the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Montmartre Cemetery and famous cafes such as La Maison Rose.
A guided tour is always the best way of ensuring you don’t leave anything out, but self-guiding your way through Montmartre is also perfectly doable with a little prior research and a good map.
Whether you’ll track down all four or simply stick to the main two, the Montmartre windmills are some of the most historic reminders of yesteryear to still exist in Paris.