Montmartre Guide: Planning Your Visit to the Charming Paris Neighborhood

Montmartre Guide: Planning Your Visit

People sitting at a cafe in Paris

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

One of Paris's most charming, mythical and quirky places to wander, the Montmartre neighborhood crowns the city, situated in its hilly northern heights. It oozes poetry and charm: Come here for winding cobblestone paths, ivy hanging from wooden window panes, views of the majestic Sacré Coeur from café windows, and myriad local shops selling cured meats or delicious pastries and breads. Shop for quirky, handmade clothes and jewelry, visit museums, or simply brave the snaking, often precipitously hilly streets until you reach the top.

Once at the summit, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Paris: These make the thigh-busting walk up the hill completely worth it. Of course, if you prefer to take the funicular at some point up to the very top, no one will fault you! 

Planning Your Visit

This legendary district manages to retain charm and authenticity in spite of being quite touristy in certain corners. To get the most out of your trip to Montmartre, be sure to stroll the quirky streets and jump on public transportation when you want to explore further.

Where Montmartre Is Located and How to Get There

Montmartre is located on the city's rive droite (right bank) in the 18th arrondissement, just south of the periphery leading into the northern suburbs, and north of the Pigalle area, which is infamous for its red-light district.

To reach the area, the easiest solution is to hop on lines 2 or 12 of the Paris metro and get off at any of the following stops: Anvers, Pigalle, Blanche (line 2), Lamarck-Caulaincourt or Abbesses (line 12).

Getting Around

Rue des Martyrs, rue Lamarck, rue Caulaincourt, and rue des Abbesses are the best thoroughfares to stroll. Also make sure to walk around the tiny, charming streets behind Sacre Coeur, which retain a distinctively village-like quality, including Rue des Saules, where Paris' only remaining vineyard can be found. It was planted in 1930, and the vines' Clos Montmartre wine is enjoyed every fall during the wine harvest festival. At Rue Ravignan, Pablo Picasso's primary studio, "Le Bateau Lavoir," sits at the corner of place Emile-Goudeau. 

Stairs in Montmartre
TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

A Bit of Montmartre History

You'll notice that Montmartre, perched high upon a hill overlooking the rest of Paris, has a fortress-like quality, like a protected castle. This is no mere similarity. In fact, this area has been used for centuries for protection in battle. During the Siege of Paris in 1590, it became the prime spot for Henry IV to fire artillery down onto the city below. The butte’s height was again used in 1814 by the Russians during the Battle of Paris.

By the late 19th century, the area had become a popular hangout for artists, singers, and late-night revelers, with the Moulin Rouge dance hall and Le Chat Noir nearby. Then, in 1876, building began on the Sacré Coeur basilica, which was intended in part to honor the French victims of the Franco-Prussian war.

Now, the area welcomes daily throngs of tourists who continue to be charmed by the essence of “old France” that still hangs in the air, and to retrace the steps of a favorite French film protagonist from the 2001 film Amelie.

Things to Do

There are so many great places to explore in this neighborhood that it would prove tough to cover all of them. Here are just a few of our picks. See the guide to the 18th arrondissement for more ideas on where to head in the area. 

  • Moulin Rouge: When this now world-renowned cabaret first opened in 1889 and introduced the French can-can, it was little more than a seedy joint for courtesans to entertain their male clients. Painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a regular patron, and later produced a famous series of the Moulin Rouge and its iconic red windmill. Now, the dance hall is more of a tourist attraction, offering nightly shows at some of the steepest prices in town. Still, many swear that Moulin Rouge is well worth it. Metro: Blanche.
  • Espace Dali (Salvador Dali Museum): This permanent exhibition hall, situated near the ultra-touristy Place du Tertre and its eager open-air artists, is entirely devoted to eccentric Spanish artist Salvador Dali. Home to 300 of some of his most compelling works, from paintings to sculpture to rudimentary sketches, the gallery holds the largest collection of the artist’s work in France, thoughh the Dali Theatre and Museum in Catalonia holds most of the zanily moustached artist's prized oeuvres. Metro: Abbesses.
  • Montmartre Cemetery: Sitting west of the area's hilly heights, nestled near Rue Caulaincourt, this breathtaking 25-acre cemetery is in the hollow of a former quarry on Avenue Rachel. Famous artists who lived and worked in the area are buried here, such as French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas, Heinrich Heine, Gustave Moreau, and filmmaker François Truffaut (of "Jules and Jim" fame). If you're feeling overwhelmed by the hordes of tourists in some of the area's busier stretches, stop here for a bit of peace and tranquility. Animal lovers will appreciate this detail: A pack of feral (but tame) cats live among the graves, and can often be seen stretched out trying to get a bit of sun, or pawing at sparrows. Metro: Blanche.
  • Rue des Martyrs: Although this street technically leads out of Montmartre proper, its offerings in terms of clothing, food, and gifts should be part of any visit to the area. The sloping avenue is the essence of the French “bobo” lifestyle—bourgeois bohemian. Take your pick between fresh flowers and fish, cured meats and cheeses, upscale Parisian bakeries (Montmartre has some of the city's very best), secondhand clothing and bookshops piled high with the latest reads. If you want to feel like a local for a day, hit this area on a Sunday, when locals meander the area for hours. Make sure to save room for carrot cake at the unfussy, laid-back Rose Bakery (at number 46), a favorite of the anglophone foodie community. Metro: Pigalle

For more great strolls and street finds, check out our guide to the Best Permanent Market Streets in Paris.

What to Eat and Drink

Like the rest of Paris, Montmartre is full of must-try restaurants and cafes, and visiting every one in a single trip is nearly impossible. For more ideas and recommendations, check out our complete guide to food and dining in Montmartre.

  • Café des Deux Moulins: This once somewhat ordinary French café was made instantly famous after its stint in Amelie. Now, you’ll be hard-pressed to get a table here on a Saturday night. However, the afternoons are a great time to stop in for a coffee, and if you’re up for wine, the selection is really quite nice. Plus, you’ll never have so much fun going into a Paris restroom, where a glass cabinet holds a garden gnome and other film memorabilia. Metro: Blanche.
  • La Fourmi: If you’re looking for a true neighborhood bar, La Fourmi—literally translating to “The Ant”—offers an undeniably more authentic Montmartre/Pigalle experience than some of the nearby cafes and bars, which cater more to tourists. This spot is perfect for getting a morning or afternoon coffee, when the place is nearly empty, or a light meal and drinks in the evening hours. Offerings include large salads and open-faced sandwiches ("tartines"). If you do come after 9 p.m., however, be prepared to fight for a table with the locals—mostly 20 and 30-somethings just out for a good time. Address: 74 rue des Martyrs, Metro: Pigalle
  • Soul Kitchen: Offering  ample vegetarian options (a rarity in Paris), free Wi-Fi, and a cozy atmosphere, this café-restaurant is more San Francisco hippie than New York 5th Avenue. The menu is constantly changing, but some favorites to try are the Mexican soup, hazelnut cookie, or pear and potato soup. Make sure to ask staff for the board games hiding in the cupboard, which you are more than welcome to play. Soul Kitchen is a quirky, homey stop with excellent food to boot. Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt

Where to Stay

Staying in Montmartre is a good choice. The quartier is a bit separate from the rest of Paris, being set on a hilltop, giving it a real home base feeling, not to mention its timeless charm. The cobbled streets and bohemian vibes make it a cozy neighborhood to post up.

  • Maison Souquet: Located opposite the Moulin Rouge, this boutique hotel has five stars, and the elite elegance carries all the way to the 20 rooms and suites, which are named for famous courtesans. Fun fact: During the Belle Époque, this building was a brothel. Amenities include Hermès toiletries, a private bar, and a smart TV. Breakfast is served daily in the garden.
  • Hôtel Régyn's Montmartre: Hôtel Régyn's Montmartre is a more affordable, yet still solid option. It's located atop Place des Abbesses, lending amazing views. Breakfast is complimentary, and the concierge desk is open 24/7.
  • Hôtel Déclic: Hôtel Déclic is a photography-themed hotel. The 27 guest rooms are each decorated with distinctive photographs, including one that is adorned with Polaroid snaps. It's a 15-minute walk to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.

Money Saving Tips

  • Do free activities: Montmartre has many offerings at no cost: simple, breathtaking sightseeing. View artists' work in the round Place du Tertre, rimmed with shops and cafés. Or, find solace in the Montmartre Cemetery, the third-largest in Paris, after Montparnasse and Père Lachaise.
  • Picnic: Dining out in Paris is very expensive. Why not gather a baguette, some cheese, fruit, and a bottle of wine for lunch with a view at Montmartre instead?
  • Get Moulin Rouge tickets for a little less: The French cancan show is iconic, but you can find deals if you plan ahead: The cheapest day to get tickets is Tuesday, and the 11 p.m. show is usually cheaper than the 9 p.m. performance.
Was this page helpful?