For many years I disliked Montmartre in Paris: crowds around Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Moulin Rouge, artists chasing you down to do your portrait in Place du Tertre, hawkers peddling Eiffel Tower keychains, and streets filled with flashy souvenir shops. But there are unique spots in Montmartre, which is located in the 18th arrondissement. The area is filled with hidden gems—-unusual art, windmills, historic restaurants, award-winning boulangeries, and an annual wine festival that celebrates the grape harvest.
If you were not looking for some of these places, you might actually miss them. Yet these 10 places are worth seeking out as they’ll provide insight into Montmartre’s history, art and wine. You’ll also learn more about its gypsum (sulfate mineral) industry, the windmills, and how Montmartre was a magnet for (poor) artists, like Van Gogh.
Table of contents
- 1. Montmartre Metro Station With Stairway Art: Abbesses
- 2. Wall of Love, Montmartre: Mur des Je t’Aime
- 3. Le Passe-Muraille
- 4. Bateau-Lavoir: Home To Famous (and Poor) 20th c. Artists
- 5. The Pink House in Montmartre: La Maison Rose
- 6. Windmills In Montmartre
- 7. Award Winning Baguettes At Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses
- 8. Delicious Candies And Chocolates At A l’Etoile d’Or
- 9. Crêperie Broceliande
- 10. Fête des Vendanages de Montmartre
- Location Of The Unique Sites In Montmartre
1. Montmartre Metro Station With Stairway Art: Abbesses
Who would have ever thought to check out a stairway coming up from the Paris metro in search of great art? When you arrive by Metro (Line 12) in Montmartre, try to exit via the staircase at the Abbesses metro station as this is where you will discover some very colourful murals. The art nouveau station has a glass canopy and this was designed by Hector Guimard.
In 2007 the Paris Transport department (RAPT) commissioned artists to create the murals leading down to the Metro from the Abbesses entrance. The Abbesses has the deepest station in Paris, going 36 metres below ground level. The seven murals represent different aspects of Montmartre.
Address: Place des Abbesses and rue des Abbesses
2. Wall of Love, Montmartre: Mur des Je t’Aime
Isn’t Paris always about love? Certainly the mural, “Mur des Je t’Aime” (literally, “Mural of those I love” and known as “Wall of Love”), is an homage to this most romantic city. Located in Square Jehan Rictus in Montmartre, the mural was created by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito, There are 612 ceramic tiles where “I love you” in 250 different languages is featured on about half of them. According to Wikipedia, the red accents are symbols of a broken heart.
I love some of the phrases written on the tiles, and while “Je t’aime” (I love you) is popular, this is the most prominent:
“aimer c’est du desordre alors aimons” = “Love is a mess. So let’s love.”
Address: Square Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses
3. Le Passe-Muraille
Le Passe-Muraille is a sculpture depicting ‘The Man Who Walked Through Walls” and is located at Place Marcel Aymé and Rue Norvins. In 1943, Marcel Aymé wrote a short story about a man named Dutilleul who discovers that he can literally walk through walls. It’s a great story about a civil servant who seeks revenge on those who have given him a hard time at work. This bronze sculpture was created by Jean Marais in 1989.
Address: Place Marcel Aymé
4. Bateau-Lavoir: Home To Famous (and Poor) 20th c. Artists
In Montmartre, you can come upon the only remaining part of the Bateau-Lavoir building where famous (and poor) artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Cocteau lived in the late 1800s to 1914. In 1970 a fire burned down everything except this façade on rue Ravignan.
Another famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh, lived nearby at 15 rue Lepic. So why was Montmartre so popular and loved by artists? Supposedly because everything was cheap—accommodations, booze, and taxes!
Address: 13 rue Ravignan
5. The Pink House in Montmartre: La Maison Rose
When you encounter cobblestone streets down the road from Sacré-Coeur you’ll see a pink house located that is aptly named, La Maison Rose. It is located at the intersection of rue de l’Abreuvoir and rue des Saules and this unique spot has an interesting history.
(a) Origins Of La Maison Rose
In the early 1900s, artists and Parisians would likely have ignored this building had it not been for Germaine Gargallo Pichot, a muse (and lover?) of Picasso. She and her husband, artist, Ramon PIchot Gironès purchased the house in 1901 and she was inspired by the colours seen during their recent visit to Spain. Upon their return, Germaine painted the exterior walls pink and opened, “La Maison Rose, déjeuners, dîners”.
It was Maurice Utrillo’s painting, “La Petite Maison Rose” that soon caught everyone’s attention. Local singers from Le Lapin Agile, Patachous, and other Paris cabarets, and artists, such as Salvador Dalí, Paul Cézanne, and others who lived at Le Bateau-Lavoir began frequenting the restaurant, so it became a real artists hangout.
While it changed hands a number of times, artists and entertainers continued to visit. In 1948 Beatrice Miolano purchased it and with her son, Jean ran it as a café. Although it stayed with the family, in later years, it lost its charm when new management ran it as a restaurant.
(b) Laurence Miolano Revives La Maison Rose In 2017
Eventually, Beatrice’s granddaughter, Laurence Miolano took it over. On November 9, 2017, after years of renovations and equipped with a new team, it reopened.
When I was in Montmartre weeks before the opening, I saw a note posted on the door. Laurence wrote that they would offer, “homemade family dishes, based on very good source products…., natural wines, and homemade drinks. We mainly work with craftsmen from the 18 arrondissement. We will regularly organize artistic events, mainly targeting the history of the place, or in connection with the different artistic movements that have been important in Montmartre”.
Address: 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir
6. Windmills In Montmartre
Yes, there are windmills in Paris. Centuries ago, Montmartre had a large gypsum deposit. Windmills were used in the 1600s and 1700s to grind gypsum into what is known as “plaster of Paris” and to grind wheat. The popular Moulin Rouge, which is a Paris icon today, was created in 1889 to pay homage to the windmills which were being torn down.
At one time there were 13 windmills in Montmartre and today there are only two remaining:
- Moulin de Blute-fin renamed Moulin de la Galette and is now a private residence
- Moulin Radet sits atop of the restaurant, Le Moulin de la Galette.
The Moulin de la Galette is actually comprised of the two windmills that ground flour and pressed grapes. It was built in 1622 but it wasn’t until the 1800s that the mill was used to make flour. Throughout its history, it was involved in sieges and attacks by Prussians and Cossacks against the family that owned it. It also became a cabaret in the 1800s.
The bistro, Moulin de la Galette became quite famous due to Renoir’s painting (Bal du Moulin de la Galette) which shows Parisians hanging out at the Moulin. The painting now resides in the Musee d’Orsay.
Address: 83, rue Lepic
7. Award Winning Baguettes At Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses
Montmartre has a very large concentration of boulangeries who have won the Best Baguette award in the past. Why? It is thought that it’s because of the “confrerie” or “brotherhood” that exists in the area: the bakers get together often and talk about what works and doesn’t work in their practice and expectations are set very high.
A really good baguette will have irregular holes. You want random “bubbles” as this will indicate that it has risen enough. The interior texture should be chewy and the exterior should have uneven colouring.
Be sure to check out the award-winning boulangeries in Montmartre, such as Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses. It won first prize in the 2015 Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Francaise de la Ville de Paris (Best baguette in Paris for 2015).
Address of Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses: 38 rue des Abbesses
8. Delicious Candies And Chocolates At A l’Etoile d’Or
A l’Etoile d’Or is a very pretty confiserie in Montmartre that carries some of the best candies and chocolates found in France. As I wrote in this post, An American In Paris–Following David Lebovitz, I had to visit the boutique, located on rue Pierre Fontaine.
I had a lovely talk with the owner, Denise Acabo who showed me some of her favourite and beautifully boxed chocolates. I purchased 3 Bernachon “Kalouga” bars for $48 (I know, not cheap), which is a chocolate bar filled with salted caramel. They are usually only sold in Lyon so to find them here in Paris was a treat.
Address: 30 rue Pierre Fontaine
9. Crêperie Broceliande
You do not need to go to Michelin-starred, expensive restaurants to have a high-quality meal made with exceptional ingredients at a reasonable, if not low, price. On a guided walking tour I took, I learned that if you see carefully selected wines on a menu, it is a good indication that the food will be good.
While Paris has numerous crêperies, Crêperie Broceliande is on a totally different level. On Tripadvisor, it is one of the top places to have dessert in Paris and did not disappoint. I got my fix of apples indulging in the “La Calvados” crepe, which was a crepe filled with fried apples, Calvados apple sorbet and flambé. I paired this with “Chouchen”, an apple apératif.
Address: 15 rue des Trois Frères
10. Fête des Vendanages de Montmartre
For 5 days every October (usually the first weekend), Montmartre celebrates the harvesting of the grape. It’s called the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre and yes, there’s a vineyard in Paris. As I described in my post, Food, Wine, And Tours At The Montmartre Wine Festival it’s like all of Paris shows up to eat, drink, dance and celebrate all around Sacré Coeur.
In addition to special performances, there are free, special tours you sign up for, like a backstage tour of the Moulin Rouge or a visit to the vineyard, Clos Montmartre. It produces 1000-1500 bottles of wine each year and they are auctioned off for charity.
Be sure to head up to the Sacré-Coeur area. You won’t be bothered by street hawkers selling cheap trinkets. Instead, you’ll be offered well-known wines (ie. Chateauneuf-du-Pape), cheese from various regions of France, snails on skewers, or perhaps La Paysanne, which is potato with Camembert and lardons! Lot’s of great food.
Address: the event takes place around Sacre Coeur with wine/food booths set up on rue du Cardinal Guibert and rue du Cardinal Dubois.
Location Of The Unique Sites In Montmartre
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