Montmartre, a walk around Paris Sacré Cœur Basilica (2.5 km)
1. Métro Anvers
Get off at Métro Anvers, at the heart of the action on Boulevard Rochechouart. The Boulevard is lined with clothes and cloth shops, sex shops, music shops, souvenir shops, fast food and take away restaurants, cafés and clubs. And people, people and more people. Nothing like swimming the colorful tides of mankind as you start your self-guided tour of Montmartre. Head up from the Boulevard de Rochechouart towards the Sacré Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart Basilica) via rue Briquet or rue Steinkerque.
2. Square Louise Michel (former Square Willette)
The Louise Michel garden leads all the way up the Montmartre hill to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. The garden was created in 1927.
Climb up the 222 steps to the top, or choose the meandering paths, tours and detours, and look-out terraces of the village Montmartre. Enjoy the bubbling fountains : the monumental fountain by Paul Gasq, with sculptures of sea deities, and the Fontaine des Innocents (Innocents' fountain) with a bronze sculpture by Emile Derré. Stroll along the paths and look out for some exceptional trees: a tall Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and Caucasian Wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), both over a hundred-years-old, as well as an prickly araucaria, a fig tree and a gingko tree! There also is a merry-go-round at the foot of the Square, open to little kids, big kids and adult-kids alike.
One of the best rewards in Paris must be the sweeping panorama over the city in front of the Sacré Coeur Basilica!
Can you point out all the monuments? If not, you have nevertheless surely earned a well-deserved romantic kiss from your loved one on the roof of the world ... ahem, I mean, of Paris.
Not climbing up the steps? The Montmartre funicular is the fastest way to the top. It is located on the left of the Square. A métro ticket (or your Navigo or transport pass) will whisk you up the Butte Montmartre in no time.
3. Sacré Coeur Basilica
The Sacré Coeur Basilica sits on an ancient sacred site. During Roman times, temples honouring Mars and Mercury stood on the Montmartre hill. In the 3rd century, Saint Denis, Paris' first bishop, and his companions were killed in anti-Christian hunts. He became a martyr; this is perhaps where the name "Montmartre" came from : the "Mont des martyr", "Martyrs' hill".
The Montmartre Abbey later took over most of the hill, until the French Revolution in 1789. Most of the buildings were destroyed, and the land redistributed.
In the late 19th century, France lost the war to Prussia. Many people soon believed the defeat was in fact a punishment from God. To seek forgiveness, the State decided to build the Sacré Coeur Basilica, and the population was invited to contribute what they could for the construction.
Paul Abadie and his team designed the Sacré Coeur Basilica, inspired by Romanesque and Byzantine styles. Construction started in 1875, but the Basilica was consecrated only in 1919, after the First World War.
Today, the Sacré Coeur Basilica is a pilgrimage site, and one of the most visited sites in France, after the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Entrance to the Basilica in free, from 6 am to 11pm. The crypt and dome can also be visited for a fee (3 to 6 Euros; 8 Euros for both dome and crypt, free for under 4s). Mass is celebrated a few times a day, as are many religious festivals.
4. Church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre
The church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre stands on a very ancient sacred site. It used to be a temple dedicated to Mars. By the 7th century, a small church stood here. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times and became part of the Montmartre Abbey in the 12th century. During the French Revolution in 1789, the abbey's buildings were destroyed, as were parts of the church of Saint-Pierre. The church was rebuilt and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. It still has elements of the previous buildings, such as Roman and 12th century Corinthian columns. Look out for them!
5. Parc de la Turlure – La Turlure Park
The Parc de la Turlure, also knows as Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, is located on rue de la Bonne, where the former Moulin de la Turlure (la Turlure Mill) used to stand. The garden consists of stepped terraces. The views are fantastic from here, either towards the Sacré Coeur Basilica or over Paris. There is a playground, a pétanque area and even a rock climbing wall for kids. Concerts take place in the garden's open air amphitheatre during the warmer months. An excellent place to rest and catch a glimpse of Montmartre life.
6. Clos Montmartre – Montmartre vineyard
Welcome to Paris' oldest vineyard! Le Clos Montmartre is located on rue des Saules and rue Saint Vincent (Saint Vincent happens to be the wine-makers patron saint...). It proudly produces a few hundred litres of wine a year.
Vineyards used to cover the butte Montmartre until the 18th century. In 1932, vines were reintroduced to the Butte as a homage to the area's wine-making heritage. And because grape-growing and wine-making cannot be done without a grape-picking (and wine-drinking!) festival, the Fête des Vendanges (Grape-Picking Festival) has been taking place here nearly every year since 1934. And the fun spills generously over the limits of the vineyard (the vineyard is only accessible a few times a year). Not in Paris in October? A peek over the Montmartre vineyard's fence, and here you are in a small wine-making village far from the Paris buzz... Garçon! Another glass of red wine!
For more information, check out our travel blog on grape-picking festivals, wines made in Paris and Paris vineyards!
7. Cabaret Le Lapin Agile
Stop by 22 rue des Saules at the Cabaret Le Lapin Agile (the Agile Rabbit). The building dates back to the late 18th century, and has housed an inn before becoming a cabaret in 1869. André Gill, a caricaturist, designed the cabaret's sign, a rabbit leaping out from a pan (yes, eating rabbit is part of French culinary heritage...). Before long, the “Lapin à Gill” (Gill's Rabbit) became the “Lapin agile” (the Agile Rabbit).
The Cabaret Le Lapin Agile soon became a Montmartre institution, especially under the direction of Frédéric 'Frédé' Gérard, and after Aristide Bruant bought over the cabaret to save it from demolition. Artists, poets, musicians, political activists, prostitutes and the local riff-raff rubbed shoulders at the Lapin Agile, coming to exchange artistic ideas, down a lot of alcohol and sometimes get into violent fights. The First then the Second World War dampened the free and creative spirit of the cabaret. Nevertheless, the Lapin Agile continued to nurture budding authors, musicians, singers or humorists. And still does today.
So spare a thought for all that talent as you stroll by. And if you hope to make it big or simply want to experience the very Montmartrois atmosphere, you can spend an evening at the Lapin Agile: count 24 Euros per person for a drink and ... le spectacle!
8. Maison Rose – the Pink House
Walk by this cute and very pink house at 2 rue de l'Abreuvoir (an abreuvoir is a trough). So cute and so pink it inspired Maurice Utrillo in his "La Maison Rose à Montmartre" painting in the early 20th century. La Maison Rose is now a restaurant, of the touristy variety, say Gnarfgnarf's Montmartrois friends.
9. Musée Montmartre – Montmartre Museum
Next to the Clos Montmartre is the Montmartre Museum, located at 12 - 14 rue Cortot. In 1860, Montmartre village became a part of Paris. Fearing the Butte would change forever, a citizens' group named "Le Vieux Montmartre" was born, out of the wish to preserve and document Montmartre's history. In 1960, the Montmartre Museum opened in the Hôtel de Rosimond, a 16th century manor, one of the area's oldest houses. Come here to learn more about the history and life on the Butte (through pictures if you do not read French), and enjoy the peaceful garden. Entrance costs 4-8 Euros and the museum in open everyday.
10. Place du Tertre – Tertre Square
La Place du Tertre was Montmartre village's central square. “Tertre” means “mound”, so the name might come from its location at the top of the hill, at an altitude of 130 metres. It is a picturesque cobbled square, surrounded by low houses and trees... oh and yes, full of people year-round! Just crossing the Place can be a headache... Before you decide to bypass the Place du Tertre artists, remember a few famous one used to live here (Picasso, Utrillo). Close by is “A la Mère Catherine”, a “revolutionary” restaurant (it opened in 1793 -the French Revolution began in 1789-).
Want to get a feel of the old Montmartre ambiance? Visit the Place du Tertre early in the morning or in the middle of the night, before the crowds.
11. Place des Abbesses and Abbesses métro station
End your walk by slowly meandering back down towards Abbesses Métro station. Enjoy a drink in a café or grab a one on the go from an épicerie (a grocery shop). Fan of the film “Amélie Poulain”? Try finding the film's épicerie.... (Hint : it is located on the rue des Trois-Frères, on the corner with rue Androuet...).