Nothing quite captures the old world of Paris like Montmartre! It’s winding cobblestone roads invite you to explore the bohemian district which was once the live/work local for artists such as Dalí, Monet, Picasso, and van Gogh!
Today however, Montmartre is often a touristic frenzy. With hoards of people filling into overpriced cafes and souvenir shops, its important to know what’s actually worth seeing, which sights to skip, and where to find the hidden gems that will make your day in Montmartre extra special! You’ll find a handy “Montmartre Walking Tour Check List” at the end of this post – enjoy!
Our walking tour began at Blanche Metro Station, where we met up with Chris, the forthcoming and very knowledgeable creator of City Free Tours. From the station you’ll see the infamous Moulin Rouge. After some research, we decided this was a sight to skip, as the price of the dinner/cabaret is pretty steep – gauged against entertainment value.
Next along Rue Lepic is the Café des Deux Moulins (meaning “two windmills), where many go with the hopes of being served by Amélie. Continue to 54 Rue Lepic, where a large blue door marks the entrance to the apartment where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo from 1886 – 1888. Look up to the third floor and you’ll see sunflowers tucked in the shutters of his old 3rd floor apartment.
Of the many flour-grinding windmills that once dotted Montmartre, Le Moulin de la Galette is one of only two which still function today (Fun fact: the Moulin Rouge was never a functioning windmill!) Also a restaurant, you may wish to stop here for some (€€€) contemporary French cuisine – but we’ve only just started! I recommend waiting for the less touristic fare on the gorgeous patio of the café at the end of this post… stay with me.
Walk through Square Suzanne Buisson, and find a statue of the decapitated St. Denis. The bishop of France in the 3rd century, St. Denis was beheaded on the highest hill (now Montmartre, aka “Mount of the martyr”) for all to see. Legend has it that, after his decapitation, St. Denis picked up his own head and continued to preach. He supposedly stopped in this very square to wash his estranged head in the fountain!
You’ll know you’ve reached cabaret Au Lapin Agile when you see the large painting of a rabbit leaping from a saucepan affront a pink little building. Once known as the “Cabaret des Assassins” in the 1850’s, the night-club was dubbed “Le Lapin à Gill” (Gill’s Rabbit), after artist Andre Gill painted it’s famous sign. Over time, it became known as “Lapin Agile” (nimble rabbit).
Fun fact: In 1905 Pablo Picasso, then a penniless artist, painted a self portrait of himself as a harlequin. Picasso traded this piece, called “Au Lapin Agile”, with the night-club’s owner in exchange for food, who later sold it for no more than 20€… of course decades later, this painting was sold for over 40 million dollars. Oops!
Another pretty pink establishment, La Maison Rose is a good pit stop on your way to the basilica. It’s slightly removed from the main tourist district and can be a more relaxed place to “people watch”. Be sure to have cash on hand, as this is all they accept.
Continue on Rue des Saules and hang a left at Rue Norvins. Congratulations, you have reached the Place du Tertre, and should now be in the company of every tourist in Montmartre!
Not only will you find a plethora of restaurants, shops, and cafés in the Place du Tertre, but you’ll also be amidst Montmartre’s bustling street artist community. It’s really a pleasure to stroll beneath the shady umbrellas to watch the artists at work.
If you have the time, getting your portrait done can be a unique souvenir to bring home. Whether you love the end likeness or not, it certainly captures the moment, and it beats key chains and t-shirts. Just make sure you find a clever way to get it home unwrinkled!
From the Place du Tertre, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is due East! Built in the late 1800’s, the basilica has a particular intention for world peace. Entrance is free, but the crypt and dome cost 8€.
At this point in our tour we were left to meander the streets of Montmartre at our own leisurely pace. After perusing the crowded shops surrounding the basilica, we decided to take some of the quieter streets as we moved South. To our delight we happened upon Relais de la Butte. If you get the chance to visit Montmartre, this restaurant is a great place to rest, rehydrate, and eat something absolutely delicious. Tucked away on Rue Ravignan, this is a secret hideaway from most of the tourist action. Facing south we enjoyed the peek-a-boo view of Paris through the narrow street ahead. The patio was delightfully uneven, and the company Parisian. The perfect ending to our day in Montmartre!
Montmartre Walking Tour Check List
Start at the Blanche Metro Station on Line 2 in Montmartre
- Moulin Rouge (82 Boulevard de Clichy)
- Café des 2 Moulins (15 Rue Lepic)
- House of van Gogh (54 Rue Lepic)
- Moulin de la Galette Restaurant (83 Rue Lepic)
- Square Suzanne Buisson (7Bis Rue Girardon)
- Au Lapin Agile (22 Rue des Saules)
- La Maison Rose (2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir)
- Place du Tertre (Place du Tertre)
- Sacré-Cœur Basilic (35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre)
- Restaurant Le Relais de la Butte (12 Rue Ravignan)