When I think of Paris I think of big, grand churches, incredible museums, and quaint streets lined with boulangeries and cafes. Montmartre has all of this and more. Located in the west of Paris in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre sits up on a hill (or La Butte) overlooking the city. It’s where many famous artists resided like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Dalí. It’s also home to one of my favorite Parisian sites, the Sacré-Cœur and even has a bit of a nightlife scene. It’s easy to spend a day in Montmartre and if you’re planning to visit Paris, I highly encourage it.
How to Spend a Day in Montmartre – The Cutest Neighborhood in All of Paris
While I am completely charmed by Montmartre, the ins and outs of the streets, the history of the artists who once inhabited the apartments, and the cozy cafes that invite you in, I don’t think that you need to spend more than a day exploring this part of Paris. Because Montmartre is in the west of Paris, it’s a bit further from other main attractions (like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower) so I recommend basing yourself more in the middle of Paris (in the Le Marais district) and visiting Montmartre for the day.
How to Spend the Morning in Montmartre
One of the most famous attractions in Paris is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The Sacré-Cœur is a Roman-Catholic church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and it sits on the highest point in Paris. The Basilica is free to enter and according to locals the Basilica is open 24/7 and you’re even allowed to spend the night as long as you commit to praying for one hour. (Please note, the website claims the church to be open from 6:30am to 10:30pm so make sure to respect what time you’re visiting). Because this is quite a big tourist spot, pick-pocketing is rampant so make sure to keep your belongings close by and politely ignore anyone who is trying to come up and speak with you. To avoid crowds and pickpocketers I highly recommend arriving early in the morning, around 8am, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this.
You can also access the dome after 10:30am (outside and to the left of the Basilica) and climb 300 steps to the top for views over Paris.
Once you’ve climbed the hill to the Sacré-Cœur and visited inside, take the back streets down the hill to one of the best boulangeries in Paris – Le Grenier a Pain Abbesses. Grab some pastries and croissants and continue to walk the streets until you find a cute cafe to sit down and have an espresso. (The beauty of Paris after all, is found sitting in outdoor cafes and people watching as the hours slip by).
Spending the Afternoon in Montmartre
There are two ways to spend your afternoon in Montmartre, guided or unguided. I chose the free walking tour by GuruWalk, “From Moulin Rouge to Sacré-Cœur” and highly recommend it. However, if you’d rather see Montmartre self-guided below you’ll find my favorite parts of the neighborhood that I believe are “must-sees”.
- Visit the two (real) windmills that are left standing (in the 17th-century Montmartre used to be powered by windmills, but they started disappearing around the 19th-century)
- Have a picnic in Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet with a pond, terraced garden, and views of the back of the Sacré-Cœur
- Visit the prettiest street in Paris – Rue de L’Abreuvoir
- Stop for photos at La Maison Rose, Le Consulat, and Au Lapin Agile
- Stop by the Museum of Montmartre to learn about the history of the neighborhood (please note, most of this museum is in French only)
- See the Montmartre vineyards – Vignes du Clos Montmartre
Once you’re done with your tour, stop for lunch at one of two French restaurants – Le Basilic or Bouillon Pigalle. (Le Basilic is a bit fancier and more expensive, while Bouillon Pigalle is no fuss, quick and affordable French food).
Spending the Evening in Montmartre
In 1881 cabaret was brought to life by Rodolphe Salis right in Paris’s Montmartre district. Since then, Montmartre is significantly known for being the birthplace of cabaret around the world thanks to the inauguration of Moulin Rouge in 1889, the most famous cabaret show in the world.
Today, you can still see cabaret in Montmartre whether you’re seeing it at the world famous Moulin Rouge or the less famous cabaret at Au Lapin Agile. In both cabaret shows you can opt for basic tickets, tickets with champagne, or a full on champagne dinner.
If you don’t plan to eat at the cabaret show, instead I recommend booking reservations at Le Moulin de la Galette, a French restaurant housed in an old windmill with two Michelin stars.
Other Things to Know About Montmartre
GETTING TO/GETTING AROUND
You can get to Montmartre a variety of ways – taxi, Uber, walk, or you can take the metro. The main metro station in Montmartre is the Abbesses station located in Place des Abbesses and leading right to the heart of Montmartre.
Once you’re in Montmartre, it’s very easy to get around on foot, but it’s built on a hill so some areas you go to you’ll be walking uphill. There are also a few cobblestone streets so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. If you don’t want to walk, you can always hail a taxi or request an Uber.
HOTELS IN MONTMARTRE
While I don’t personally recommend spending a large amount of time in Montmartre just because it’s further away from other main attractions in Paris, if you’re looking to be a bit off the beaten path and for more of a quiet scene, then perhaps Montmartre is for you! There are plenty of hotels and Airbnbs to book throughout the neighborhood; I like to utilize booking.com and Airbnb to compare prices.
It’s easy to spend a day in Montmartre, and I highly recommend it. One of Paris’s most chic and fascinating neighborhoods, it would be a shame to miss it when you’re in the city.
If you’re planning to travel to Paris, don’t miss:
For a more visual look at Paris, make sure to check out my Instagram page and search “#ppinfrance” or look under my highlight reel “France”