Between the cobbled streets, quaint buildings, narrow alleys, exquisite views, and charming history, any trip to Paris MUST include a walking tour of Montmartre.
Just one minute here and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time, to an era when iconic painters sipped espresso (or something stronger) and energetically discussed the issues of the day.
A glass or two may have been thrown in a drunken stupor but hey, no one is perfect.
That Being Said:
The real challenge isn’t finding exciting things to do in Montmartre.
Legit, all I have to say is Sacré-Cœur and everyone goes weak in the knees from the beauty of this enchanting church. FYI I’m not knocking this stunning house of worship in any way, shape, or form. It really is a magical place.
The question remains, how do you create a walking tour of Montmartre where you see all the top attractions in Montmartre in the least amount of time?
AKA efficiency my travel-minded friends!
We all have places to go, people to see, and a limited amount of vacation time (at least the Americans in the audience do. LoL. Two weeks of vacation my fanny).
This walking tour of Montmartre is designed to help you quickly and easily decide what to do in Montmartre, where to eat in Montmartre, where to get a portrait made in Montmartre, and where you can take some of the best pictures in Montmartre.
So read on and discover all of Montmartre’s hidden treasures, or not so hidden treasures as the case may be.
***To get the most out of this walking tour of Montmartre, get up early to avoid the crowds (one of my favorite Paris travel tips in general). Like 6 am early. I know, I’m not a morning person and reading that makes me die a little on the inside. But I swear, it’s worth it. And to make things even easier, you may want to stay in Pigalle since this area is adjacent to Montmartre. I stayed at the Mercure Paris Pigalle Sacre Coeur and did not want to leave. Easily one of the best hotels I have EVER stayed at. Plus, all the rooms have AC which is super amazeballs during the summer when it’s insanely hot and not every hotel has AC.***
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For this Walking Tour:
Start by taking metro line 12 to Abbesses. Once you emerge from the station, turn around and you’ll see the famous Wall of Love in Jehan Rictus garden.
Feel free to Instagram it up but I wasn’t a huge fan since it seemed like an Instagram hot spot that was devoid of any real culture.
But the sentiment is lovely for sure. And I’m also single so I could be bitter. LoL.
After Enjoying this Mildly Claustrophobic Garden:
Turn left and trudge uphill, towards one of the most famous sights in the entire neighborhood, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.
**To avoid needing an iron lung from walking uphill, you can also use a metro ticket and board a handy-dandy funicular to the top.**
Easily the most recognizable locations in all of Montmartre, this stunning, white-domed church stands in abject majesty, gazing out over Paris, from the precipice of one of the city’s greatest hills.
Started in 1875 and Completed in 1919 (finally):
Walk inside (the church opens at 6 am so if you arrive early you’ll have the place to yourself) and marvel at the stunning stained glass windows, the Mosaic of Christ in Glory (one of the largest mosaics in the world) and the magnificent, Romano-Byzantine architectural details, that have transformed this structure into one of the top attractions in Paris.
The real hidden treasure here is the view from the dome of the basilica. Ascend 300 spiral steps and enjoy one of the most amazing panoramic views in all of Paris. You’ll also get up close and personal with the largest bell in France, La Savoyarde, so embrace the Quasimodo within.
***You can also get fantastic views from outside the church, at the top of the steps that lead up to the Basilica. Hint, hint, take lots of photos and get up early because it’s really pretty, especially when devoid of pushy, selfie stick-wielding tourists. Want a picture of the sinking house of Montmartre? Then this is your chance! Go to the left side of the stairway (hop over the railing if need be) and look straight ahead. From here, turn your camera so that the bottom of your photo is parallel with the slope of the hill. Take your picture and boom, you have the sinking house of Montmartre. Feel free to ooh and ahh and be duly impressed by this iconic stop on any Paris photography guide.***
After Visiting the Interior of Sacré-Cœur:
Relax for a moment, on the outdoor stairway, and take in the stunning views, the musicians performing on the steps, the vivacious groups of friends relaxing on the hillside, and the pickpockets trying to steal all your stuff while you’re taking a million photos (if it’s super early you may have the place to yourself. In which case, ignore everything I just said).
Watch Out for those Jerks!
Anyway, by now you’re probably starving like Marvin so let’s meander to the right (as you’re facing the Basilica) and turn left on Rue Lamarck. Walk just two minutes and you’ll find the Hardware Société Paris at number 10.
No, I’m not leading you to some rando hardware store where you can get your house flipping swerve on a la Tim the Toolman Taylor.
Believe it or Not:
The Hardware Société Paris is a cozy cafe with excellent service, delicious food (with a distinctly Australian twist on French cuisine), and cute, butterfly wallpaper that makes this place so much more awesome.
They open at 9 am so they should be open when you arrive!
Between the croissants served with chic apricot and orange blossom jam, the divine Australian coffee, the crème fraîche blinis, and the boiled eggs served with smoked salmon or black pudding, your biggest problem will be stopping yourself from ordering everything on the menu!
***If you want to explore more of the culinary delights that Paris has to offer, then check out this three-hour Aligre food tour and tasting. A great way to experience a variety of cuisines that Paris is known for. ***
Once You’ve Finished Savoring the Breakfast Flavor:
Let’s explore one of my favorite museums in Paris, Musee de Montmartre.
Not only does this museum explain the history of this Parisian neighborhood, but throughout the museum, you’ll find various paintings, documents, and memorabilia that commemorate Montmartre’s Bohemian past as an artist enclave.
The museum is housed in a gorgeous, 17th-century manor house that housed the studios of iconic artists like Renoir and Raoul Dufy. You can even step inside the recreated studio of famed painter Suzanne Valadon, who lived and worked here as well (dare I call it a Surreal experience? Get it? Okay, I’ll stop).
My Favorite Part?
The exquisite Renoir Gardens. Not only do you get lovely views of the surrounding area, but you’re treated to an idyllic garden, filled with trees that hold wooden swings or narrow, flower-lined walkways that are covered over by vine encrusted archways.
Wait, There’s More!
The absolute most fantastic part is that if you follow the pathway downhill and straight back, you’ll find a not so secret view of the Clos Montmartre vineyards, one of the last operational vineyards in all of Paris (since the vineyards are closed to the public, this is probably the best view you’ll get).
***If you’re a fan of wine, then you may want to try a cheese and wine walking tour through Marais, one of the prettiest areas in all of Paris. A fantastic way to experience the food culture of this amazing city.***
***If you plan to spend a few days in Paris, then get the Paris Card to help you save money in Paris. There are 2, 3, or 6 day passes that give you “free” entry to over 60 attractions. Free my fanny since you have to pay for the pass.***
Once You’ve Enjoyed These Decadently delightful Views:
Let’s mosy (yes, we’re cowboys now) on down Rue de l’Abreuvoir to the cutest little pink house that you ever did see, La Maison Rose.
Frequented by many of the premier painters of the twentieth century, this quaint cafe is now fully hipsterized with a vegan menu that is accompanied by frequent appearances on everyone’s Instagram feed (no judgment since it’s on my Instagram feed too).
I tried the vegan menu (it consisted of bread, pureed lentil pate, and salad. They also have a lovely fig and ricotta cheese salad) and it is was really nice. Only 15 Euros and the staff was really lovely. So if you’re hungry, this is a great place to stop and relax for lunch.
Continue on Down Rue de l’Abreuvoir until you hit Place Dalida.
Once here, turn around and you’ll be treated to an enchanting view of Sacré-Cœur that is only enhanced by quaint alleys ways and vine encrusted homes that dominate the foreground.
Explore some of the charming nooks and crannies that give this area it’s small town charm, and savor the views of the Parisian neighborhoods that lie just beyond Montmartre.
***Believe it or not, this area was once a windmill hot spot. Now though, not so much, except for the windmill at Moulin Rouge. But believe it or not, there is another windmill, in Montmartre, at the Moulin de la Galette, a restaurant that offers visitors a brief window into the Parisian past. I haven’t been but apparently, it’s a top Montmartre attraction since it was on my Google Maps.***
After Enjoying Place Dalida:
Walk down Rue Girardon and turn left onto Rue Norvins. Along this street, you’ll find Le Passe-Muraille, a fascinating sculpture that pays homage to the short story, The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls, by Marcel Aymé.
Now, I haven’t Read the Story:
But the sculpture is definitely intriguing and worth a look since well, how many times will you come across a sculpture where a man’s upper torso and leg are literally coming out of a stone wall? Definitely one of the more unusual things to see in Paris.
After Taking a Photo (or twenty):
Continue down Rue Norvins and undoubtedly, you’ll see a sign for the Dali Exhibition on Rue Poulbot.
I was nervous since all the advertisements outside made the museum feel like a tourist trap. But I’m delighted to say that it wasn’t at all!
Home to over 300 pieces by Salvador Dalí, this permanent collection features paintings, sculptures, and etchings that all bring the innovative ideas of this enigmatic painter to life.
A true visual buffet of exciting, surrealist ideas that will intrigue even the most unenthusiastic of museum-goers.
And if you’re a real baller, you can even take some of Dali’s work home with you!
Once You’re Ready to Get Back to Reality:
Exit the exhibition and walk over to Place du Tertre. I wasn’t super impressed since this plaza was packed with people and felt a bit too touristy to me. But, this is the place where all the modern artists are and where you can get a portrait made in Montmartre.
Yeah, I’m not a portrait person at all but apparently, it’s THE THING to do.
if you overlook the hordes of people, there is a certain charm about watching the artists as they take out their paints, adorn their easels with vibrant hues, and create modern-day masterpieces right before your eyes.
Depending on How Fast or Slow You Move:
It might be time to eat again (Oh darn, That was sarcastic by the way), so stroll on over to Le Consulat, a quintessential Parisian cafe that you’ve probably seen splashed all over Instagram.
Known for its Famous Former Patrons, like Picasso:
This restaurant is an okay place to dine. Sure, the aesthetic here is lovely, but the restaurant gets crowded and the food is well, eh. But, Le Consulat is a great place to sit, relax, grab a cup of coffee, and listen to some outdoor music as the people stroll by.
***For a more fantastic food experience, walk over to Grenouilles, a French deli that serves an assortment of sandwiches, as well as cheese and charcuterie plates that are truly, a thin slice of heaven. Did I mention that their baguettes are the stuff carb lover dreams are made of? Grab some food to go and you can even picnic along the stairs of Sacré-Cœur ***
Do You Have Energy for just One More Stop?
Good because I promise that this is the last stop on our tour of Montmartre. And if you’re staying in Pigalle then the Musée National Gustave Moreau is actually on the way.
Once the apartment of painter Gustave Moreau (1826-98) this building is now a small private museum that displays many of the painter’s most famous works, as well as some pieces from his private collection (The museum has no English translations so be prepared).
Explore the museum, enjoy the artist’s paintings, and learn about Gustav Moreau through a variety of eclectic items that are on display in the downstairs rooms.
Be Sure To:
Head upstairs and marvel at the enchanting circular staircase on display here, as well as a series of almost trippy paintings that portray themes found in both Greek mythology and the Bible
Don’t forget to visit the infamous, Jupiter et Sémélé on the second floor. Yeah, it’s a little cray cray for sure.