This elevated quarter to the north of Paris is home to the architectural masterpiece that sits at the highest point in the city on the top of the hill.
The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is a popular monument, offering panoramic views of Paris from its 84-metre high dome. The basilica boasts one of the world’s largest free-swinging bells – ‘Savoyarde’, which weighs an impressive 19 tons. The Sacre-Coeur is also home to Christ in Majesty, one of the world’s largest mosaics.
To reach the summit visitors can brave the 300 stairs that lead up the remarkable hillside, or take the funicular railway. There is also Montmartre’s Little Train, popular with visitors with children in tow. A 35-minute round trip leaves from Place Blanche regularly throughout the day.
If the inclines aren’t too much, enjoy the cobbled streets of Montmartre on foot. The district is a designated historic area, meaning it has retained much of its village-like character.
Some of Montmartre’s most famous residents included Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Toulouse-Lautrec and the composer Erik Satie. Many of the districts cafés, streets and shops claim some association with the famous figures, or there are numerous exhibitions dedicated to their lives and works.
Take a trip to the Musée de Montmartre, which showcases historic manuscripts, letters, posters, photographs and archaeological artefacts and was once home to Renoir. Or visit the Dali museum on rue Poulbot for a look into the creative process that produced some of the artist’s most famous paintings, drawings, cartoons, and sculptures. The museum features more than 300 of his works.
Montmartre is still very much an artistic community and today many artists follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. Visitors can stroll around the Place du Tertre, where artists set up their easels and offer to paint portraits for tourists.
The area has been depicted in many contemporary films, including “La Vie en Rose”, “Amélie” and “Moulin Rouge”. The iconic red windmill opened in 1889, and is still very much alive and kicking, drawing visitors from around the world to enjoy dinner and a show comprising glamorous costumes and the famous cancan dancers. As well as the cancan, Montmartre is also famous for nightclubs and cabaret.
To avoid the crowds, visit Montmartre in the week, when streets are less congested. If you enjoy being part of a bustling crowd, visit in October when Montmartre celebrates wine produced in its own vineyard. During the Fêtes des Vendanges (grape harvest festival) Montmartre comes alive with parades of dancers and musicians, stalls of regional produce and a nightly fireworks display over several days.