The Parisian neighbourhood of Montmartre is best known for Sacré Coeur and Moulin Rouge, but if these are the only places you see in this district you will be missing out on experiencing some of the most romantic and lovely spots during your Paris visit. Get away from the city crowds to discover the secrets of Montmartre, with its vibrant artist community, windmills and joie de vie that have enchanted visitors through the ages.
Place du Tetre – C’est Merveilleux
Crowded and touristy but Place du Tetre, c’est merveilleux! This is where you feel as if you are walking in the footsteps of Picasso, Renoir and Modigliani, all of who lived in or around Montmartre during the late 19th and early 20th century. Opened to the public in the year 1635, Place du Tetre was the main square for village of Montmartre, and it is also the highest square in Paris, with an elevation of 130 metres.
Place du Tetre is now famous for the many artists setting up their easels and selling ‘quick art’ for tourists but also tucked away in the square is Chez La Mere Catherine, the restaurant where the term Bistro was, perhaps, invented. A plaque at the entrance of the restaurant tells the story of how the word Bistro came about, unfortunately experts have disputed this version and the true origin of the word is uncertain. There may be a dispute about it being the world’s first Bistro as well as the dubious deliciousness of crepes at La Mere Catherine, but one thing is certain, it is one of the oldest restaurants in Paris. Its outdoor patio is also the perfect place for your quintessential Parisian Instagram photo; so pretty and quaint, wonderfully surrounded by art and artists in an ancient square at the top of the city. C’est merveilleux.
Montmartre’s Wonderful Windmills
Moulin Rouge’s famous windmill is not the only windmill in Montmartre. The neighbourhood’s high altitude made this part of Paris a natural place to build windmills and there were once about 15 windmills on the butte. Now only two real windmills remain, and surprisingly Moulin Rouge is not one of them. Although it is the most famous, Moulin Rouge was never a working windmill but only built to pay homage to the old windmills of Montmartre.
To find the last true windmills of Montmartre head up the steep Rue Lepic to where two mills along with gardens and a farm were built in the early 17th century. In 1809, the Debray family owned the windmills and they named the area Moulin de la Galette. Today, the two mills are on separate properties, the restored and only working windmill in Paris, Moulin Blute-Fin is in private hands and can only be viewed from the street. Moulin du Radet is located around the corner on Rue Giradon, on top of one of Montmartre’s best restaurants, which confusingly, is also called Moulin de la Galette.
A Secret Vineyard in Montmartre
Paris’s only vineyard is located in Montmatre, Le Clos Montmatre hides quietly behind Sacre Coeur at the corner of Rue des Saules and Rue St. Vincent. Owned by the City of Paris, the 3250 ft. vineyard was originally developed to protect the area from further development, and it continues to produce about 500 litres of wine each year.
Unfortunately, this beautiful little vineyard is a true secret; it is closed to the public unless you happen to visit during the annual Fete des Vendanges in early October. The five-day festival promotes the wine, food and culture of Paris and Montmartre. One of the more popular events in the city, the festival is spread out over all of Montmartre with over 150 activities and best of all, you can also sign up for a coveted free tour of the vineyard.
Sunset Picnic at Sacré Coeur
Most people visit Sacré Coeur during the day but here is a little secret, wait and head to Montmartre’s famous basilica just before the sun begins to set. This is a magical time in Montmartre. Paris is famous for lovers of romance and what can be more romantic than sitting below the dazzling white Sacré Coeur and watching the city slowly light up in front of your eyes.
Make the evening even more special by planning a picnic on the hill. Be sure to stop at Raphaelle Bakery to stock up on picnic staples, favourites include quiches, pain au chocolat, and oh, la, la the paninis, simply divine! Try them all; you’ve earned it especially if you walked up to Montmartre instead of taking the funicular.
If you get to Sacré Coeur about an hour before sunset, you can easily find that perfect spot on the hill or on the basilica steps then you can sit back, relax and enjoy la belle vie. You have the perfect vantage point high up over the city, as daylight slowly fades away and the twinkling lights of the most beautiful place in the world slowly turn on before your eyes. La Ville Lumiere, c’est tres belle.
Book your trip to Paris today to discover the secrets of the Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Book your trip to France today and experience the best of monasteries, lavender and markets in Provence. C’est très bien!
Cover photo credits: Dian Emery