Montmartre is one of the most beautiful parts of Paris, and arguably the best one to explore with so many things to do in Montmartre. Sitting on the highest hill in Paris, it was originally a separate village known for its many vineyards and windmills. In 1860, it was annexed to the French capital as part of the 18th arrondissement, and it quickly became the bohemian quarter of the city. There was no other place in Paris quite like Montmartre, and many cabaret performers and artists became associated with it (Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh, to name a few).
You can still feel the charming village atmosphere of Montmartre today. With old Parisian houses covered in ivy, cobbled streets, a stunning white domed Basilica and cafés left, right and centre, Montmartre is certainly a must-see location in Paris. Here are our favourite things to do in Montmartre.
- Sacré-Coeur Basilica
- Place du Tertre
- Musée de Montmartre
- Le Clos Montmartre
- Le Murs de Je t’Aime
- Moulin Rouge
- Sinking House of Montmartre
- Rue de l’Abreuvoir
- Where to eat in Montmartre?
- How to get to Montmartre?
1. Sacré-Coeur Basilica
Built in 1914 as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Perussian war. The pristine white church is a free interpretation of Romano-Byzantine architecture, featuring a distinctive egg-shaped dome. This is the second highest view-point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. Just walk up its 300 steps and you’ll see some of the most breathtaking panoramic views of Paris from Sacré-Coeur, stretching as far as 48 km on a clear day.
Some of the things to watch out for include:
- Equestrian statues – The two bronze statues of saints above the main entrance: Joan of Arc and Louis IX.
- Statue of Christ giving a blessing – Also above the main entrance, located over the above-mentioned statues.
- Bronze doors – Depicting the Last Supper and the life of Christ, on the main entrance.
- Christ in Majesty – The Byzantine mosaic of Christ decorating the vault over the chancel is one of the largest in the world.
- Crypt vaults – There’s an urn containing Alexandre Legentil’s heart, one of the initiators who vowed to finance the construction of the basilica.
- Chapel of the Blessed Virgin – This chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features a statue of the Virgin Mary with a child (Jesus) on her knee holding an olive branch. (Below)
- The consecration of the Basilica – A stoup decorated with a golden mosaic recalling the consecration of the Basilica. (Below)
- Bell tower – Housing one of the heaviest bells in the world, the 19 ton La Savoyardre!
- White façade – Wonder why the Basilica has remained so clean in such a smog-filled city like Paris? It’s all due to the Château-Landon stone, which secretes calcite when it gets wet, essentially acting as a bleach.
Sacré-Coeur opening times and ticket price
The Basilica of Sacré-Coeur is free to visit and opens daily from 6am to 10.30pm.
You can access the dome every day for 8€ from 8.30am to 8pm from May to September, and from 9am to 5pm from October to April.
We recommend avoiding the crowds by visiting early in the morning or during the week. You’re also guaranteed to get spectacular views from Sacré-Coeur at sunrise or sunset!
2. Place du Tertre
Montmartre’s old village square is the highest point in Paris and the best place to get the most authentic souvenirs of Paris. Located a stone’s throw from Sacré-Coeur, it’s always crowded with artists selling their works and setting up their easels. From extraordinary painters to caricaturists and portraitists, there’s something for everyone.
It’s actually pretty hard to earn a spot to sell your artwork on Place du Tertre. The artists compete for a very limited number of places set by the local town hall, which only become available when another artists passes or moves away. To be accepted, they need to submit a portfolio with their work first. There’s currently a ten year waiting list!
Place du Tertre fun facts
- You’ll notice that Place du Tertre is surrounded by cafés, brasseries and restaurants. A popular claim states that the word “Bistro” was incorporated into French here during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1814. Apparently Russian soldiers would shout “Bystro!” (“Quick!”) at waitresses!
- It was also here where, on Christmas Eve 1898, Louis Renault drove up the hill in the first Renault car. You can spot the commemorative plaque on one of the walls.
3. Musée de Montmartre
Founded in 1960 and recognised as a Musée de France in 2003, the Musée de Montmartre is the oldest building in the 18th arrondissement. It was also the former residence of prominent artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice Utrillo and Suzanne Valadon.
Now, this charming museum offers an unparalleled view into Montmartre’s history and culture through its permanent collection. Several temporary exhibitions are also open throughout the year. For a complete visit, don’t forget to check out the three Renoir Gardens (Jardins de Renoir), which have been renovated according to the artist’s paintings. They also offer a beautiful view of Clos Montmartre and Paris’ northern green hills.
Montmartre Museum opening times and ticket price
Musée de Montmartre opens daily (except Tuesdays) from 11am to 6pm on weekdays, and until 7pm on the weekends. Musée de Montmartre tickets cost from 9.5€ to 13€ and can be bought online here.
Note: always check the opening times beforehand to make sure these are in line with the current COVID-19 measures.
4. Le Clos Montmartre
Le Clos Montmartre is the oldest vineyard in Paris. A gateway to the Paris of the past, if offers a Provence-like atmosphere just a few steps away from La Maison Rose and Musée de Montmartre. It was created in 1933 by the City of Paris to prevent the land from being transformed into a residential development.
Although generally closed to the public, you can explore it for free for a few short weeks during the annual grape harvest festival in Montmartre (Fête des Vendanges) every Autumn. The Montmartre grapes are then brought to the local city hall to be fermented and bottled. Up to 1,500 bottles are produced and then auctioned each year – selling for quite high prices! The profits are then given to local Parisian charities.
5. Le Murs de Je t’Aime
The Wall of Love is a mural dedicated to love and reconciliation by artists Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito. You can find it by the Place des Abesses, in the gardens of the Place Jean-Rictus. The piece of art features 612 tiles of enamelled lava covered in the words “I love you”, 311 times in 250 different languages. Also notice the red notes representing the pieces of a broken heart that the wall tries to bring together.
6. Moulin Rouge
Paris’ cabarets are famous all over the world for their incredible synchronised choreographies and their elaborate shimmering costumes. Home to the Can-Can since 1889, the Moulin Rouge is a symbol of the nightlife of the belle époque and a must for everyone visiting the City of Lights. Artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalised these with sketches and posters of dancers, such as Le Chat Noir and La Goulue. You can spot some of them at the Musée d’Orsay.
Moulin Rouge Windmill
The red windmill on the Moulin Rouge that we see today isn’t actually the original one from 1889. A devastating fire in 1915 threatened to shut the doors of the Moulin Rouge forever. However, after years of operating as a nightclub and singing venue, it returned to its original roots in the 1960s. Since then, all of the shows begin with the letter “F” in rotation – just like the ever moving red mill.
7. Sinking House of Montmartre
Despite its name, the Sinking House of Montmartre is actually an optical illusion that has become increasingly popular in recent years. In reality, the effect happens when you photograph the house and the slopping hill in front of it from an unusual angle.
You’ll be able to spot the Sinking House of Montmartre when walking up the grassy hill up to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, just before reaching the top. Flip your camera around so the hill is horizontal, and voilà! You’ve got yourself a sinking house.
8. Rue de l’Abreuvoir
This is perhaps one of the most romantic and beautiful streets in Paris. Surrounded by trees and charming old Parisian houses covered in ivy, Rue de l’Abreuvoir instantly transports you to the Paris of the past. It’s best enjoyed when walked from bottom to top – with the dome of the Sacré-Coeur looming above the rooftops. At the end of the street, you’ll spot the most famous restaurant of Montmartre – La Maison Rose. This pink house with green shutters is a must in any visit to the city of love!
9. Where to eat and drink in Montmartre?
- La Maison Rose. Enjoy authentic French cuisine at this beautiful pink house with green shutters. It’s arguably the most instagrammable restaurant in Paris.
- Le Consulat. For a quick coffee in the heart of Montmartre.
- Hardware Société. Check it out for some Australian-inspired Parisian brunch.
- Rue de Steinkerque. Walk down here for some Parisian sweets. We recommend La Cure Gourmande (biscuits) and Maison Georges Larnicol (chocolate).
10. How to get to Montmartre?
The easiest way to go to Montmartre is by metro. There are two lines you can choose from:
- Line 2: Anvers station (a stone’s throw from Sacré-Coeur) or Blanche station (by the Moulin Rouge).
- Line 12: Abbesses station (in the heart of Montmartre and the Place des Abbesses) or Lamarck-Caulaincourt station (featured in the movie “Amélie“, by Musée de Montmartre).
Have you been to Montmartre before? Are there any other things to do in Montmartre you’d recommend? As always, if you loved our post, please leave us a comment, pin some photos and show us some love on social media using the buttons below.
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