There is so much to discover in Montmartre – lovely cobblestone streets, ivy-covered homes, the Wall of Love, cafes visited by thinkers and writers, and off-course, the bastion of Paris – the Sacre Coeur. A self-guided walking tour of Montmartre is the best way to do immerse yourself. Use Google maps and plug in Abbesses metro, Wall of Love, Fric-Frac, Place Saint-Pierre, Sacre Coeur, Place du Tertre (the Painters of Montmartre), Le Consulat, La Maison Rose, Buste de Dalida, Le Passe-Muraille, Moulin Rouge. Along the way, grab croissants and orange juice.
First about Montmartre – it is a popular neighborhood located in Paris’ 18e Arrondissement, atop a large hill. The name Montmartre was named for the namesake hill from Roman times (Mount Mars). In the medieval ages, most of Montmartre was an abbey, however this abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. To explore Montmartre, it’s best to start from the train station and head over to the Wall of Love.
The Wall of Love: “Mur de je t’aime” is a literal mural of love located in Jehan Rictus square, the park just behind the Abbesses metro stop and across the way from the big red brick church. A wall within the park displays over 300 ways to say I love you in over 250 languages.
Fric-Frac: There is a reason why food vloggers rave about Fric Frac. The ubiquitous French snack, croque monsieur (toasted cheese-and-ham sandwich) gets a contemporary makeover. You can enjoy some of their creative combos like Winnie (Crottin de Chavignol cheese, dried fruit, chestnut honey, chives and rosemary) or the more exotic Shaolin (king prawns, lemongrass paste, shiitake mushrooms and Thai basil) served with salad and fries. The service was quick and friendly and the food delicious. Well satisfied, we continued our walk up to Sacre Coeur.
The Sacré-Coeur basilica is Montmartre’s crown jewel that attracts millions of visitors. As you walk up the stairs, you will pass picnickers on the lawn and buskers seeking to entertain you. Along the way to the top, you will marvel at the mosaics and domes as well as the angelic statues. While the 237 stairs to the dome are a tight spiral climb, the views are worth it. Alternatively, you can get a ride up via the Funiculaire de Montmartre. The ride up takes less than two minutes and costs the same as a Metro ticket.
In the same area, you can also see the back of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, the oldest church in Montmartre dating to the beginning of the 12th century. For more than 600 years it was a parish church and part of the Abbey of the Benedictine Sisters of Montmartre. It is the only vestige of the ancient abbey that exists today.
As you make your way to the church from the Sacre Coeur, enjoy the panoramic views of Paris including views of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. After the church, you’ll find yourself at the Place du Tertre.
A visit to Montmartre Paris is not complete without stopping by the lively Place du Tertre also known as the Painters of Montmarte. This charming public square sits just below the Sacre Cœur and provides a hub for artists and authentic Parisian cafes. Artists, who can wait up to ten years to get a coveted spot here, chat and are ready to capture on their easels whoever comes their way. Perhaps it’s your day for a caricature or sketch. Continue your way down to Le Consulat.
Le Consulat: During the time of the impressionists, Montmartre gained a reputation for cafes, cabarets, and dance halls, attracting many artists including Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso. Le Consulat is now a coffee house and restaurant and an Instagram favorite. Grab a coffee and people watch before you continue to La Maison Rose.
La Maison Rose: This house, a gathering place for artists, was purchased in the early 1900s by Germaine Gargallo, the wife of a well-known painter. The pretty ‘Pink House’ located on the corner of rue de l’ Abreuvoir and rue des Saules, inspired a painting by Maurice Utrillo that he called ‘The Little Pink House’ in the 1930’s which became famous not because of the subject of the painting, but rather because it sold for so much at an auction.
Continue down the stunning Rue de l’Abreuvoir, one of the most beautiful streets in Paris with a view of the Sacre Coeur, La Maison Rose and ivy-covered buildings. Wind you way down the street to see the bust of the famous French-Egyptian singer and actor Dalida who lived nearby in Montmartre.
Buste de Dalida: Dalida – born Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti – was a singer and actress who was very popular across much of Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Her career lasted from the 1950s through until her tragic suicide in 1987. A bust on the small, shaded square commemorates her, and visitors can also glimpse her house on nearby Rue d’Orchampt.
Le Passe-Muraille is based on a fictitious character Dutilleul who discovered that he had an unusual talent of being able to walk through solid walls. But instead of just using his talent for good, he abused his power and one day Dutilleul lost all his powers and ended up stuck in a wall. We had fun trying to get him through the wall but didn’t succeed. You can read more about this interesting story by Marcel Ayme here
We then made our way through the winding streets of Montemartre and stopped for snacks along the way, making our final destination Moulin Rouge.
Moulin Rouge: The birthplace of the Can-Can. Who hasn’t heard of the once notorious cabaret Moulin Rouge? It is easily recognizable by the windmill at the front of the building. Not meant for kids, we took our pictures and headed home but not before stopping at Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Make this patisserie a stop on your tour. It makes traditional specialties from Flanders, one of which is The Merveilleux. Their merengue is just out of this world and is a fantastic way to end the day.