Top 5 Ways to Experience Van Gogh’s Montmartre
His journey through the 18th arrondissement is reflected throughout his works of this time; with scenes ranging between market places, restaurant terraces and barren hillside landscapes.
He and his brother Theo moved between two homes in this neighborhood during their two years here. Back then, Montmartre was vastly different to what it is today. There was far less infrastructure and a large portion of the famous hill remained largely untouched.
To experience Montmartre today as Van Gogh did back then, there are few landmarks one can head to from which to live the artist’s nostalgia vicariously; here are five of them.
1. Visit the Windmills of Montmartre
See depicted many times throughout his work, the windmills of Montmartre seem to have been a consistent source of inspiration for the artist. They were also among the only notable landmarks in existence during this time in Paris.
Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, lived in an apartment located at 54 Rue Lepic. This happens to be the same street on which the Moulin Radet still sits to this day, forming one half of the windmill duo known as Le Moulin de la Galette.
Le Moulin de la Galette are the two remaining windmills in Montmartre to this day. During Van Gogh’s prime, Paris would have been home to over 300 of these structures.
The fact that one of the remaining two happens to be the one he enjoyed painting most, and the one he shared an address with, is a sure sign that his memory lives on in this neighborhood.
The Moulin Radet is still open to the public. Inside you’ll find a wonderful restaurant named after the windmill duo.
OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – 12pm to 10:30pm
ADDRESS: 83 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris, France
METRO STATION: LAMARCK CAULAINCOURT
2. Hang Out on the Boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre
The Boulevard de Clichy played an important part in the life of Van Gogh while he was a resident of Montmartre.
The popular strip was a short walk away from the apartment that he and his brother were sharing, so naturally it became the most convenient hang out spot for the brothers.
To give you an idea of the kind of scenes available on this street; this is the location of the Moulin Rouge cabaret which opened a year after Van Gogh moved out of Montmartre.
Back in the day, Van Gogh would frequent a cafe on this strip called Café du Tambourin. Here he would meet with other aspiring artists in the area, including Picasso himself, to discuss techniques, opportunities and the inner workings of the Paris art world.
Today there is no more Café du Tambourin, but there are many other new cafes, bistros, bars and cabarets along this same street that you can enjoy as Van Gogh surely would have had they all existed in 1886.
3. Visit rue Victor Massé in Montmartre
At the bottom of the Montmartre hill there is a quiet road called rue Victor Massé. When Van Gogh lived here it was still called rue Laval, and this was where he and Theo shared their first home in this arrondissement.
You can walk down this street and past their old apartment to this day. It is tiny!
The story goes that Theo was already living here prior to Van Gogh’s relocation to this part of town. He arrived two months earlier than Theo had expected, and the apartment proved a little too small for the both of them.
The brothers would begin to venture out and upward into greater Montmartre each day in search of more suitable living facilities. Eventually they found their next home over on rue Lepic near the windmill, as mentioned earlier.
4. Eat at La Bonne Franquette in Montmartre
One of Van Gogh’s most famous pieces to come out of his time in Montmartre is a paining called Terrace of a Cafe on Montmartre (La Guinguette).
La Guinguette was a corner cafe near the top of Montmartre hill, slightly west of the Sacre Coeur church. It was where all the very successful artists would spend their leisure hours in Montmartre.
His painting reflects the terrace area of the then cafe. The original premises is no longer around. Today is it called La Bonne Franquette and is a typical French bistro that is good for a glass of wine and cheese platter between exploring the streets of Montmartre .
OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday – 12pm to 2:15pm and 7pm to 9:15pm
ADDRESS: 18 Rue Saint-Rustique, 75018 Paris, France
METRO STATION: LAMARCK CAULAINCOURT
5. Make Your Way to the Place du Tertre in Montmartre
Also a short walk from the Sacre Coeur, the Place du Tertre remains one of the most influential artist hubs in all of Paris.
Back when Van Gogh and Co. used to wander through the Montmartre streets creating works, this public square was a point of solace for them. A space where they could sit and reflect on the days, months and years in hopes of inspiration kicking in and a new piece of work to follow.
Some of the iconic Montmartre artists were occasionally seen creating works from the square itself, while others, such as Van Gogh, were simply spotted passing through from time to time.
Today the Place du Tertre is a busting tourist attraction near the summit of the Montmartre hill. Every morning, roughly 150 artists arrive in the square and set up their work space in their allocated three meter squared block.
By noon the tourists are flocking by the hundreds; many looking to get an original work done by one of the Place du Tertre artists to take home with them as a souvenir.