Montmartre is credited with nurturing many of the great artists and writers living in France over the past few centuries, from Salvador Dali and Claude Monet to Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Its liberal reputation and thriving bohemian culture attracted students, writers, musicians and artists in the early 1800s, contributing to Montmartre’s status as one of Paris’ most historic and interesting neighbourhoods. In recent years, Montmartre was the setting of several hit films, including La Vie en Rose (La Mome), Amelie and Moulin Rouge. Filled with cobbled streets, narrow alleys and ivy-clad houses, uncover the intellectual and artistic allure of what remains to be the romantic part of Paris.
Basilica of Sacre-Coeur
Montmartre’s most recognisable landmark, the Roman Catholic Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, sits at the summit of the highest point of the city. Based in Roman architecture and built over more than 40 years, the church continues to draw millions of tourists annually. Climb the dome of the Basilica for spectacular panoramic views of Paris, or retreat to the complex’s garden for peace and relaxation. The Basilica houses one of the largest mosaics in the world, entitled Christ in Majesty, and is beautifully adorned with stained glass windows and seemingly endless vaulted arches.
Situated at the foot of Montmartre in Pigalle, is the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. When this world-famous cabaret opened in 1889, its scandalous performers attracted aristocrats, professionals and the working classes. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction offering musical dance entertainment for visitors worldwide. Souvenir seekers can visit the Moulin Rouge gift shop which sells high-quality official merchandise – from jewellery to sculptures – by reputable French makers.
Musee de Montmartre
In its prime, the building – now home to Montmartre’s historical museum – was a studio block for painters, writers and cabaret artists. Foremost among them were Renoir and Maurice Utrillo. Recapping the area’s history, the museum hosts a charming collection of Toulouse-Lautrec posters and original Eric Satie scores.
St. Pierre de Montmartre
Often overlooked due to the mighty Sacre-Coeur, St. Pierre de Montmartre is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Constructed in 1147 on the site of a 5th century temple, this small sanctuary was once part of a substantial Benedictine abbey. Renovated a number of times throughout the ages, the church combines various styles including medieval columns, an 18th century façade, 19th century renovations and 20th century stained glass windows.
Place de Tertre
The Place de Tertre is the heart of Montmartre, having been home to many famous artists during the bohemian years. These days, the square’s artistic spirit lives on with the various water-colourists, portrait sketchers and caricaturists who occupy the area. Apart from having your picture drawn, you can visit the nearby Salvador Dali museum or people-watch from one of the square’s atmospheric cafes. Filled with cafes, galleries and museums you get a sense of what it would feel like to live here as a local.