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Contributor Charlie Wagner-Chazalon visited the 18th arrondissement in the spring of 2023 and filed this report of the best things to do in Montmartre, Paris
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Nestled in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, the Montmartre neighborhood is a cultural oasis in the hubbub of the capital city. Visitors will find themselves transported into a quaint village full of cafés, restaurants, and boutiques, all of which happen to be mere minutes from the center of Paris. Montmartre’s impeccable vibes, amazing restaurants, and incredible views of the city cement its reputation as one of the best neighborhoods in Paris.
For centuries the area has inspired artists like Van Gogh, Renoir, and even filmmaker Baz Luhrmann with its picturesque scenes and bohemian culture. The neighborhood’s reputation lives on today through the numerous street artists, buskers, and public art exhibitions that dot the sidewalks.
With such a bustling neighborhood it’s hard to know where to start, so from stunning views to amazing eats, here are some of the best things to do in Montmartre.
The Best Things to Do in Montmartre
Visit Sacre Coeur Basilica
It’s no wonder one of the top things to do in Montmartre is visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica. This stunning stone church sits on top of one of the highest hills in Paris, so if you can tear your eyes away from the beautifully detailed masonry you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the city below.
The Basilica’s position at the top of Montmartre (the area borrows its nickname from the massive hill at the center) makes for a steep walk. Luckily, there is a funicular that will take you straight up to the entrance for the price of one metro ticket. Or, if you prefer the scenic route, you can trek to the top of the hill through the network of paths and gardens to really take in the view.
Basic admission to the Basilica is free, so be sure to get there early and avoid the long lines. But for a really spectacular experience, pay the extra fee to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome to see the city laid out below you.
Walk Through Montmartre Cemetery
For those with a macabre side, this 19th-century cemetery is definitely one of the top free things to do in Paris. One of the largest burial grounds in Paris, Montmartre Cemetery hosts the graves of many influential and famous figures, including author Alexandre Dumas, filmmaker François Truffaut, and many more.
For the casual visitor, the cemetery is perfect for a tranquil stroll between the old-growth trees and ivy while admiring the historic headstones. You’ll also want to look out for the many cats that are taking sun naps on top of the headstones.
A map of the famous graves can even be found at the cemetery and on their website.
Dine Out at a Montmartre Restaurant
Paris is well known for its world-class cuisine, and the Montmartre neighborhood is no exception. In fact, there are so many great restaurants in Montmartre that the first-time visitor can easily be overwhelmed by the options. Two knockout spots that shouldn’t be missed, however, are Babalou and Bouillon Pigalle.
Newcomers to France might not be familiar with the concept of a brasserie, which is basically a laid-back restaurant serving up classic French fare and beverages. Brasseries can be found on practically every corner of Paris, but one of the best is Bouillon Pigalle in Montmartre. Their acclaimed oeufs mayonnaise is worth the wait for a table, which goes by quickly since they have two stories of seating.
If you find you’re in need of a break from the abundant and amazing French cuisine, you must try the pizza at Babalou. The tiny bistro serves amazing classic and original pizzas, as well as pasta and antipasti. Start off with an aperitif cocktail, and then enjoy affordable and delicious wine pairings with your meal. You will be dreaming about the preserved lemon pizza for weeks.
Get Your Portrait Done in Place du Tertre
Nothing captures the artistic spirit of the Montmartre neighborhood like Place du Tertre. This square is a hub for street artists to both create and sell their works.
Competition to get a spot painting here is fierce, so there are some top-quality artists showing off their stuff, from landscape artists to caricatures. Walk around and watch the painting demonstrations, or maybe stop and get your portrait done in a style that catches your eye.
Just around the corner from the Sacre Coeur Basilica, and within easy walking distance of some of the best hotels in Montmartre, Place du Tertre is a must-visit for the neighborhood.
Visit the Moulin Rouge
Montmartre is not only known for its attractions during the day, it’s also got a historic reputation for fabulous nightlife. This is in no small part due to the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret, which was founded at the base of Montmartre way back in 1889.
The Moulin Rouge still puts on shows every night of the week, showcasing amazing circus and dance acts and, of course, the French cancan.
For those looking for a less curated night out, the Moulin Rouge has moved with the times and added some awesome new venues to their roster under the header La Machine du Moulin Rouge. Watch the wheel of the iconic windmill turn from their rooftop bar La Toit, or hit the dance floor at Le Central, the venue’s massive club space, where they book some of Paris’ hottest DJs.
Experience that Unique Montmartre Café Culture
Paris has a strong and historic café culture, which has resulted in an endless supply of amazing cafes throughout the city, many of them located right in Montmartre. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of strolling to find a quaint café to enjoy a coffee and pastry, hopefully with a patio for some people watching.
With so many great options it’s hard to go wrong, but Lepic Urban Bakery is a great spot with a funky vibe right in the middle of Montmartre. All of their pastries and baked goods are top-tier, and their hazelnut Paris-Brest is to die for.
And for film fans, be sure to check out Café des Deux Moulins to be instantly transported into the world of Amélie. In addition to some great snacks and coffee, visitors to the iconic café can check out various props and set pieces that were actually used in the movie and try the themed menu items like the Amélie crème brûlée.
Contributor Charlie Wagner-Chazalon is a travel enthusiast who splits his time between Muskoka and Toronto, Ontario. He traveled extensively through Europe in the spring and summer of 2023, including spending time in Montmartre, Paris.
Charlie Wagner-Chazalon visited the 18th arrondissement and filed this report on the best things to do in Montmartre, Paris in 2023
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