The 18th arrondissement is that of Montmartre. Once an old little town on top of a hill, wooden houses, windmills, you get the picture. Now the houses are made of stone and the mighty church Sacre Coeur dominates the hill. But deep down it’s still the town it once was: narrow cobbled streets, cute vineyards, and old theaters. The ghost of the early 20th century hides here, somewhere.
These three spots are definitely worth your visit to Montmartre: Sacre Coeur, Museum Montmartre, and Cemetery de Montmartre. And don’t miss my tips at the end of this article!
Spotify tip while reading this post: Home (Leave the lights on) by Field Report
Of course, the Sacre Coeur. Visible from many points throughout Pairs, the Taj Mahal of Europe. The giant cupcake on top of the Butte Montmartre. If you’re looking for a sight, you will get it here from the hill of the Sacre Coeur (Holy Heart). This place not only has a fantastic view over Paris, the church is incredibly detailed from both the inside and outside. It’s nice to walk from downside the hill and walk up the stairs or through the parks on both sides of the stairs. But do this prior to the arrival of the tourist busses and souvenir venders around 10 am.
The construction of the Sacre Coeur took many years back at the early 20th century, you can see pictures of this time in Museum Montmartre. By the way, don’t take photos inside because they WILL kick you out (right dad 🙂 ?).
The museum is cute, real cute. It exists out of two buildings: one being the house with the art studio of Montmartre’s greatest female painter Suzanne Valodon. At the moment it shows the work of Valodon and her son Utrillo, both really nice, but the expositions change throughout the year. The other building is an old house explaining the history of Montmartre, including the dance halls like Moulin Rouge, le Chat Noir, and Moulin de la Galette. It also shows the construction of the Sacre Coeur and the accompanying demolishing of old Montmartre with its wooden houses.
Montmartre was this place where the impressionists of the late 19th / early 20th century worked. Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Modigliani, Picasso, and Braque, not to mention the least! They all hung out together with Valodon and Utrillo. Around the two buildings you will find a unique view at the vineyard of Montmartre and the most idyllic garden ever, including a black cat that really likes attention. The museum is largely overlooked by tourists out of the high season, or because they don’t get the time to visit it. Perfect, because it will give you the opportunity to be all alone in Valodon’s old studio. Like it’s yours!
Forget Paire Lachaise, THIS is the most characteristic cemetery of Paris. The Cimetière de Montmartre is just down the butte (hill) and has countless of old, really old tombs and mausoleums. Many of them halfway degraded. One of its unique features is a viaduct that has been bluntly constructed right over the cemetery, covering tombs that were once built to catch the rain, now only to be in permanent twilight. Anyway, nice place for an hour of peace and quiet during your city trip.
Photo by Tijmen Stam, for I couldn’t have made a better panorama
Happy to avoid mass tourism, like me? Then just get out one metro station further (like Lamarck-Cailaincourt or Abbesses, M12) than the most obvious one (Anvers, M2). You will approach Montmartre and the top of the Sacre Coeur from a much quieter and more authentic angle.
Furthermore you might want to consider skipping Place de Tertre. It’s a cute square, but it is totally loaded with amateur painters. If you don’t mind being asked for taking your portrait or silhouette from all sides, it is nice to cross the square, if you dislike busy tourism and too much attention, this is not your place.