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Paris,  Travel galleries

Gallery: a walk around Montmartre

Paris is not alone in being as much a collection of villages as it is a single city; but its villages have to be among the most charming of any city’s. And none more so perhaps than Montmartre, set high on a hill; with its basilica, the Sacré Coeur, visible from miles around.

Its charm however makes it a mecca for tourists and in ‘normal times’ the crowds can too easily destroy the charm they have come to see. For that reason it’s a part of Paris that we have tended to bypass on recent visits; indeed I think the last time we were there was in 1989! But with the city so much quieter than usual, due of course to the Covid pandemic, now seemed the perfect time to rectify that.

We spent the best part of a day weaving our way around the lanes of Montmartre, passing some of its most famous sights and some much less known. Close to the basilica there were some knots of tourists; but as soon as we got even a short distance away the streets were, if not deserted, quiet enough that the magic of the Montmartre of old was apparent.

This was the village that artists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Monet, Pissarro and many others flocked to. This was the village that drew bohemians, writers and poets. And this was the village that tourists expect to see and are so often disappointed to find over-commercialised and even a bit tacky. Not so today, although of course there were the portrait artists and caricaturists touting for business around the Place du Tertre, and shops trying to sell cheap and gaudy souvenirs to the few tourists passing by.

Come with me on a stroll around Montmartre …

Cafe with tables and chairs outside

This is the Consulat café, said to be the most ‘Instagrammable’ in Montmartre. You may recognise the couple sitting in the foreground from my recent Streets of Paris post.

Colourful cafe with tables and chairs outside

I was also taken by the exterior of this café, Le Poulbot, in the street of the same name. I liked the paintings around the window. Look carefully at one of the windows and you’ll see a reflection of me taking the photo!

Black and white photo of cobbled street with cafe sign

Here we are in the Rue Saint-Rustique, just around the corner from La Consulat. You can see the Sacré Coeur at the end of the road. The sign on the left is for La Bonne Franquette, a bar frequented by many artists; Pissaro, Sisley, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Monet and many others all drank here. Its garden featured in Van Gogh’s painting La Guinguette.

This is the Rue du Mont-Cenis, a classic Montmartre stepped street. It was originally a steep path that provided access to the hill on its northern slope, linking the Abbey of Montmartre to the Abbey of Saint-Denis.

Street of pink houses with creepers and white church beyond

The Rue de l’Abrevoir is one of the prettiest in the neighbourhood, and features in my opening shot too. In the 19th century, the residents of Montmartre would follow this path to fetch water for themselves and to lead horses and cattle to the watering trough (abrevoir in French) that was located near what is now number 15.

Large wooden windmill

This is the Moulin Radet, one of only two windmills that still stand on the hill (there were once thirteen). These windmills were not only used to grind wheat, they also pressed grapes. This and nearby Moulin Blute-Fin, the only other remaining mill, together sat on the land of the popular guinguette (dance hall) Le Moulin de la Galette that was immortalised in Renoir’s painting, Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Van Gogh also painted the Blute-Fin a number of times.

Shop front painted green with photos in window

Talking of artists, Le Bateau Lavoir on the Place Émile Goudeau, which had been a ballroom and later a piano factory, was divided into around twenty small workshops for artists. There was no heating and only a single water point. Artists such as Modigliani, Matisse and Braque had workshops here at one time. Most famously, Pablo Picasso took a workshop at Le Bateau Lavoir in 1904. Here he executed the last works of the blue period, those of the pink period, and The Young Ladies of Avignon (1907), a prelude to cubism.

Run-down dark green building

Meanwhile this is a present-day artist’s studio on the Rue d’Orchampt, a street with several such buildings.

Bronze bust of a young woman

This bust in the Place Dalida commemorates the famous singer of that name, who lived in Montmartre (on the Rue d’Orchampt) and fought for its protection. She committed suicide in 1987, distraught by the loss of several dear friends, and is buried in Montmartre’s cemetery.

Tall building with shop on ground floor

From a real famous person to a fictional one. This shop on the Rue des Trois Frères featured as La Maison Collignon in the film Amélie; she had an apartment above the store and did her food shopping here. Apparently it still sells Amélie souvenirs but was unfortunately closed when we passed.

This is just a small selection of the many photos I took on our walk around Montmartre. I hope they have given you a sense of its picturesque streets and artistic history. We were fortunate to find it so relatively peaceful and to enjoy perfect weather. But whatever the weather, and how ever many the visitors, maybe Montmartre, like Paris itself, ‘is always a good idea’.

Sharing retrospectively for Jo’s Monday Walks – good to have you back walking with us again Jo!

I visit Paris often; these photos are all from my 2021 trip

34 Comments

  • starship VT

    It’s been many, many years since I’ve visited Paris’ charming Montmartre, but with your lovely photos and descriptions you certainly have brought it all back to me! Certainly enjoyed this ‘virtual’ visit with you, Sarah!

  • Oh, the Places We See

    You’re so right: there is a benefit to this pandemic — the streets of Paris aren’t as crowded as they usually are! Thanks for sharing lovely pictures of exactly what I love: alleys, doors, shops, old painted places. It’s all marvelous, and the reason we hope to travel again soon.

  • maristravels

    Ah, such memories conjured up from these pictures. In my semi-wild youth I used to hitch hike at the weekend from London to Lydd and hope on a Silver City Air Freight flight (if I remember correctly it cost something like 5 shillings in old money) to Le Touquet and then we’d hitch up to Paris to listen to jazz greats like Sidney Bechet all weekend. Hitch-hiked back again Sunday afternoon, often not arriving back in London until 3 or 4 am. but always, always, at my desk on Monday morning at 10.00 am, the required time. How disciplined we were then!! Just loved walking with you through Montmatre and recalling my late teens and have absolutely colourful, wonderful and totally gorgeous, Paris appeared in those days to an impressionable young girl.

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Absolutely love the Montmartre district, one of the “have to go there again” sections of Paris. We always have to go, whenever we are in Paris. We were once sitting enjoying a drink in a bar there, we simply couldn’t understand why people outside kept coming up to “our” window and taking photos. Turned out the bar/restaurant was heavily featured in “Amelie”, which neither of us had ever heard of!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      We’ve tended to steer clear of Montmartre in recent visits, dismissing it as too touristy, but this walk made me think we’d been missing something, although I’m sure it wouldn’t be quite as appealing if crowded. ‘Amelie’ is good – a feel-good film but quite clever with it, and if you love Montmartre well worth seeing for that alone! You were probably in the ‘Deux Moulins’ where she works as a waitress in the film?

  • Heyjude

    Such wonderful images, I particularly like the B&W treatment of the Rue Saint-Rustique. And the rather derelict studio. Paris is a city where it pays just to simply wander around a district.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Jude 🙂 I was quite pleased myself with how that Rue Saint-Rustique came out! And yes, just wandering around is a great way to see Paris. We did that in the Belleville area on another day of our visit, which I’ll share some time soon!

  • restlessjo

    I’ve only been once, Sarah, and Montmartre was a must visit. The square with all the artists ‘en plein air’ was busy, as expected, but I still found quiet streets, I’m happy to report. Great details in your post! The highlight for me, literally of course, was Sacre Coeur.
    I’m walking again tomorrow…finally.

  • rkrontheroad

    I love the charming storefronts. You picked a good time to wander there. The romantic streetscapes still captivate, as they did with so many artists. I was there some years ago and stayed around the corner from Amelie’s grocery store, and bought my groceries there.

  • Rose

    The art history in this post is fantastic. I knew some artists had visited Montmartre, but I didn’t realize it was such a long list. The Rue du Mont-Cenis stepped street photo is just gorgeous. The names – the French names of streets, restaurants, buildings, there’s just something dreamy about reading/seeing the French names. (Even though I highly doubt I can pronounce any of them correctly).

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Rose 😊 And I doubt I’ve even mentioned half of the artists associated with Montmartre, living and working here at some point in their careers! I love the sound of the French language and was pleased to find that I still remembered enough to cope with the day to day needs of a tourist!!

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