In the space of just a few years, a humble market street in Paris' 9th arrondissement called Rue des Martyrs has become one of the coolest places to shop, taste, casually people-watch and lounge around. For food lovers, it's a near-paradise: almost every second door proffers scrumptious baked goods, traditional French culinary items or delicious coffee. Meanwhile, the street's traditional produce sellers offer plenty of color and activity, while its many cool cafe-bars are ideal perching spots for a drink and a break.
Here's why you should include this hip yet historic area on your Parisian bucket list — especially if you're interested in tasting some of the better specialities the city has to offer. And not to worry: you don't have to be a dedicated gourmet or food expert to enjoy it all. Only a spirit of curiosity is required.
A Short History
The area surrounding the Rue des Martyrs, also known as "South Pigalle", has until recently been considered a tad seedy, owing primarily to its proximity to one of the city's oldest red-light districts. While Pigalle has long stood out in local minds as an area of after-dark disrepute, lined with adult-only bars, shops and strip clubs, it's also legendary for its traditional Parisian cabarets and theatres — the most famous being the Moulin Rouge.
Situated south of the always-bustling Boulevard de Clichy and thus slightly sheltered from the urban grind that occasionally still rages there there, the Rue des Martyrs has long been lined with permanent markets and high-quality bakeries. Meanwhile, nearby cabarets and cocktail bars have attracted arty and bohemian types to the neighborhood for decades.
The recent influx of gourmet artisans, trendy fashion boutiques and concept cafés has led to rapid gentrification in the area — to the delight of some and the displeasure of others. Where it was once a bit maligned or brushed off as rough and unpleasant, South Pigalle is now considered one of the city's most desirable areas to live and work.
Bakeries on Rue des Martyrs
For excellent French-style breads, baguettes and patisseries, head to the Maison Arnaud Delmontel, whose prize-winning head baker is reputed as one of Paris' best. Further south down the street, Sébastien Gaudard makes superb traditional butter croissants and a variety of ornate, delicious cakes and pastries, from lemon meringue tartelettes to vanilla eclairs and pear-chocolate tarts. He's also well-known for his handmade chocolates.
If you're craving meringues in dozens of iterations, try the Meringaie Martyrs. Elaborate, cake-sized meringue creations topped with fruit and creative tart-sized counterparts deck the windows here. Finally, if you want to try pastries from more than one chef and can't decide which, Fou de Patisserie offers an unusual variety of delicious, beautifully presented created from several of the city's award-winning pastry chefs. You can also browse cookbooks and pastry-related gifts there.
Other Gourmet Shops
The street is noteworthy for its gourmet boutiques focused on single artisan food items. At La Chambre aux Confitures, choose from dozens of flavors of handmade jams, jellies, lemon curds and chutneys, all artfully displayed on floor-to-ceiling shelves. You can sample as many as you'd like to. Next, head over to the Artisan de la Truffe for whole black or white truffles and a variety of products laced with the delicious, pungent mushroom.
For scrumptiously caramelized Belgian-style waffles — whether plain or drizzled with brown sugar, chocolate and other toppings — visit Le Comptoir Belge. Finally, fine tea fans might want to check out Collection T., offering a dizzying and impressive selection of black, white, green, oolong, red teas and herbal infusions, any of which you can try for a reasonable price in a paper take-away cup.
Head to the southern end of the street for fine traditional grocers, from produce markets overflowing with fresh, local fruits and vegetables to fishmongers and Italian or Moroccan-style grocers.
Dining & Drinking
There are plenty of excellent choices for a drink or light bite on the street. One of our favorites is Cafe Marguerite, a stylish yet refreshingly unpretentious cafe-restaurant that serves decent coffee, loose-leaf tea, wine and beers, as well as simple, satisfying French brasserie fare such as sandwiches, burgers, french onion soup and salads.
For lunch, Le Pain Quotidien is a classic, hailing from Belgium, and offering open-faced tartine sandwiches topped with fresh, healthy ingredients, soups, salads and a variety of fresh, decadent breads, cakes, pastries and spreads.
Craving coffee that's a notch or two above simply decent? Café Marlette is known for both its superb brews and delicious breakfasts — but get there early to snag a seat as it's popular with local hipsters and fashionably dressed students. Meanwhile, KB CaféShop around the corner is beloved by Parisians who've caught on to artisan coffee trends such as cold brews.
For Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizza that's served in stylish surrounds, try Pink Mamma, a few blocks over. Reserving here is absolutely essential, especially at dinner; since the place opened it's become customary to witness lines snaking around the block outside the restaurant and bar, despite their enormous size.
Vegetarians and vegans looking for a quick bite or satisfying dessert can try the sandwiches, salads and broad selection of vegan ice cream and sorbet flavors at Inpronta. Choices for non-meat eaters are also more than decent at the much-lauded Rose Bakery, and the quality of the fare there is quite reliable.
For a nightcap, try a hand-crafted cocktail from the Experimental Group at the nearby Grand Pigalle Hotel , or at one of the cool, old-world bars on Rue Frochot Lulu White and Dirty Dick are local favorites.
How to Get There
The easiest way to access the Rue des Martyrs is to get off at Metro Pigalle and walk five to six minutes to the northern part of the street. From there, amble southward down the street toward a neoclassical church called Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
The southern tip of the street is also easily reached from the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette metro stop. Alternatively, get off at Saint-Georges and walk a couple of blocks east to reach the area.
What to See & Do Nearby
There are numerous ways to keep busy and interested in the surrounding area. Pop across the crowded Boulevard de Clichy to the north and enjoy a show or cabaret at Le Divan du Monde, a club once depicted by the likes of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (he also favored the nearby Moulin Rouge, incidentally). Other old theatres in the area we recommend for a show include Madame Arthur, right next door to the Divan, and on the south side of the Boulevard, Chez Moune.
If it's arts and culture you're hankering for, the area is home to several small, charming museums. The Musée de la Vie Romantique isn't centered around the joys of couplehood, but the work and legacy of Romantic-era French writers like George Sand. Entry to the permanent collection is free for all. Meanwhile, the Musée Gustave Moreau is an intimate collection highlighting the life and work of the eponymous French painter.
Finally, trudge up the hill or take the funicular at Anvers all the way up to arty Montmartre, for an afternoon or evening of local museums, panoramic perspectives and more traditional cabarets.