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5 min.

Paris has many souls: one per arrondissement and most of the time even one per street or square and sometimes per monument. It is a great city that offers everything, but we live in a small village. Choose your own, and once you have chosen it, enjoy it whether you’re a Parisian or a tourist.

Among these Parisian souls, Montmartre is perhaps the best known, the one that makes people dream, the most bohemian one. However, it also means an eternal question of many non-Parisians: “How’s Pigalle?”. Well, Pigalle is a colorful note at the foot of the most famous hill of France, but that’s not where I’m walking you today.

Montmartre, il villaggio di Parigi oltre Pigalle

Walking tour in Montmartre

Like all places, even the Butte deserves to be discovered slowly to leave her marks, walking through its narrow streets and going up its picturesque steep stairways often immortalized on vintage postcards and bohème paintings.

You can stroll around it in any direction, starting from Abesses or its bottom, but this is the route that I suggest you, simply because it is how I fell in love with Montmartre on a cold November morning many years ago. My first Saturday free from classes and work commitments. My first day as a tourist in Paris…

My walking itinerary

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My walk around here begins at the exit of the metro Anvers on line 2. From this starting point, I walk along rue Steinkerque, with its bargain-price-clothes-stores, to the square at the foot of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, often photographed from behind the historic carousel that makes children jump from excitement as soon as they see it.

I’m always tempted to quickly walk up the stairs leading to the basilica, but I actually never did it. My ritual always brings me to the right on rue Rosnard for a quick detour to the Halle Saint-Pierre, with the market of cheap fabrics and scraps of prized ones on one side and the Naif Museum on the other.

La Halle is a wonderful example of steel and iron architecture in pure Baltard style and houses interesting exhibits, a beautiful library, and a typical French salon de tè.

Leaving the “market,” I usually walk up rue Paul Albert’s stairs, looking inside the apartments with their beautiful floor to ceiling windows and then move to the even more romantic rue du Chevalier de la Barre, where I always stop visiting my favorite Gothic church in Paris, the Église Saint Pierre which opens on its little cemetery and the Sacre Coeur backyard, that I skip at this stage.

From Saint Pierre, I take picturesque rue Cortot, which offers a splendid vertical panorama on the north edge of the town!

A must-see place of this beautiful little street is the Musée Montmartre, one of the most charming and relaxing museums in Paris, where Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, Emile Bernard, Friesz, and Raoul Dufy had their atelier.

The permanent collections on display in the Maison Bel Air tell about a district that no more exists but still makes everybody dream, inhabited by Utrillo and Marcel Ayme, Pissarro, Renoir, Picasso, Apollinaire… ah, la vie Boheme! The three Renoir gardens surrounding the museum dominate the legendary vineyards of Clos Montmartre, offering an enviable relaxation area in the heart of the hill.

However, my favorite corner is the studio apartment of Susanne Valadon, her son Maurice Utrillo and her partner André Utter. A peaceful place suspended in time to which I often think back, a bit as it happens to me with the studio of Cézanne in Aix. The Museum is open every day and only costs € 9.50 with an audio guide included. The notebooks and sketchbooks in the gift shop are not included, but it is tough not to buy some…

Leaving the museum, I can’t help but pay a visit to the legendary cabaret Lapin Agile, once populated by writers, poets, musicians, actors, painters, and sculptors and omnipresent in the museum, where you can even stand; behind the counter where once dripped rivers of absinthe … The cabaret is still open and famous, but now it is more a question of a tourist attraction entertaining hundreds of visitors from all over the world night after night.

Behind the cabaret, at the corner of rue Saint Vincent and rue Caulaincourt, you enter the historic Saint Vincent cemetery, a small gem. A more intimate cemetery and much less touristy than Montmartre or Pere Lachaise ones, but in my opinion more impressive and moving.

Taking the avenue Juno, I feel then wrapped in the unique atmosphere of the street, with its splendid private hotels and legendary buildings: such as the residence of Céline later bought by Dalida in rue Ortchampt, probably one of my favorite Parisian streets!

And it’s very close to rue Lepic too with the now-famous Café des Deux Moulins, set of French poetic movie The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie and the Moulin de la Galette, one of the last mills of Montmartre today a well-known artists’ residence where I was lucky enough to live for a certain period.

Keep walking to reach the steep rue Ravignan, home of the Bateau-Lavoir, the most famous artistic creation hub, living and exhibition space for painters, writers, collectors, and actors. The place where Pablo Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and where Modigliani spent a very prolific period. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed it in 1970, and now only a “memory window” remains.

Once here, I usually go back to the oh too popular Place du Tertre, passing by rue des Trois Frères and the Maison Colignon, the most photographed grocery store ever due to Amélie Poulin’s fame. Well, actually, I don’t follow this itinerary cause of Amélie, but for my friend Eric who lives in that building with his lovely family…

Once on the square, which is usually overcrowded with tourist and portraitists and caricaturists of any level and origin, I tend to feel strangely uncomfortable and quickly walk to the Sacre Coeur, always worth a visit, but especially around 5:30 p.m., when its immaculate walls vibrate to the sound of the choir of nuns’ voices. Very touching.

Leaving the basilica, after moments of enchantment in front of the beauty of Paris, you have two options: walking down the steps to take the underground in Anvers to close the circle virtually, or walking backward to Place des Abesses for some cool shopping and a quiet dinner in one of my favorite Parisian bistro 😉

Oh, I miss so much walking in Montmartre!

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.