18th Arrondissement – Guide to Montmartre, Paris
The 18th arrondissement of Paris is home to Montmartre, a bohemian neighborhood located on a hill that towers above the French capital. Throughout its history, Montmartre has been home to ancient Romans, monks, and famous artists. Today, the area is fairly touristy, with scam artists replacing Impressionist artists, but it’s still possible to find Belle Epoque Parisian charm if you know where to look. In this post, I’ll cover what to do in Montmartre, Montmartre restaurants, and more!
Be sure to read my posts all about scams in Paris before you visit this neighborhood because you’ll almost certainly encounter at least one of these scams in Montmartre!
18th Arrondissement History: From Ancient Romans to Montmarte Artists
Archeological evidence has shown that the Montmartre hill was first inhabited by the Gallo-Romans thousands of years ago. Montmartre initially gained significance as a pilgrimage site because Saint Denis, a Christian bishop, was decapitated here by the Romans in 250 AD. An abbey was founded on this religious site in the Middle Ages, and a group of nuns later moved into the area. Throughout the 1800s, there were several significant military events on and around Montmartre.
Although it’s hard to imagine today, Montmartre was once covered in vineyards, gardens, and gypsum mines. The top of the hill used to have several windmills, or moulins in French, to grind the crops grown here. You can still see examples of these windmills today towards the top of the mountain. There is one vineyard that still operates today in Montmartre, but it only produces a very small amount of wine.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Montmartre became a bastion of Parisian culture, home to artists like Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Matisse. Artists originally flocked to Montmartre because of its bohemian atmosphere and low rent costs. Many of the Montmartre artists’ former homes are marked with signs today so you can see where they created some of their most iconic works. Montmartre has tried to hold on to the artistic, bohemian vibe of the Belle Epoque, and you can find modern-day Montmartre artists painting at their easels in the Place du Tertre.
How to Get There: Montmartre Metro
The 18th arrondissement of Paris is located on the northern edge of the city. You can get to Montmartre by taking metro line 2 or 12. Line 2 stops closest to Montmartre at the Blanche, Pigalle, and Montvers stations. If you’re taking line 12 to get to Montmartre, get off at either the Abbesses or Lamark-Caulaincourt station. If you want to get to the top of the Montmartre without taking the stairs, you can take a funicular from the base of the hill to Sacre Coeur.
What to Do in Montmartre
Sacre Coeur Basilica
The most iconic site in Montmartre is the stunning Sacre Coeur Basilica. This beautiful white church sits at the highest point in Paris, overlooking the city. The church’s construction was finished in 1914. The basilica is open every day from 6 AM to 10:30 PM, and it is free to visit.
Place du Tertre
The Place du Tertre is the main square in Montmartre. This square is lined with cafes and filled with artists who set up their easels every day to paint and sell their art to visitors.
Montmartre Artists’ Homes and Famous Sites
There are several homes that used to belong to famous artists in Montmartre. Although you can’t enter most of these buildings, they are still interesting to see! Some famous sites include Dalida’s house, Van Gogh’s house, and the Bateau Lavoir (where several artists, including Picasso, lived and worked).
Wall of Love
The wall of love is a tile mural that has “I love you” written in 250 languages. It is located in the Jehan Rictus square.
Moulin Rouge is located at the base of Montmartre in the Pigalle neighborhood of the 18th arrondissement. Marked by a red windmill (which literally translates to “moulin rouge”), this famous cabaret is known for over-the-top can-can shows. You can still watch cabaret shows at the Moulin Rouge. Tickets to the show start around 87 euros, and tickets including dinner start at around 180 euros.
Like I said before, Montmartre has become pretty touristy in recent years, so many of the restaurants in the neighborhood (particularly around Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre) are overpriced and mediocre. These places usually have great ambiance because of their location, but the food is normally just fine (at best).
One of the Montmartre restaurants I’ve enjoyed is Le Refuge des Fondus, located on Rue des Trois Frères. This restaurant is a set-menu fondue restaurant that only offers two main dishes: meat fondue and cheese fondue. Wine served in glass baby bottles is included in the price of the meal. The restaurant is very small, and people sitting on the benches against the wall have to crawl over the table to get to their seat. Le Refuge des Fondus attracts a lot of tourists, so don’t expect an intimate French meal. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve been surrounded by American families and students who were studying abroad. Even though I wouldn’t qualify it as an authentic French experience, it’s still a fun place to eat. Reservations are a must. I made mine via their Facebook page.
For a more traditional French meal, check out Le Moulin de la Galette. This building is one of the most iconic places in the 18th arrondissement, known for its iconic windmill. During its heyday, Le Moulin de la Galette was frequented by several Belle Epoque artists, and it was featured in famous paintings by Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. This restaurant recently re-opened, and a three-course meal costs about 39 euros. You can find out more (and make reservations) on the restaurant’s website.
Looking for a more casual meal option? Have a picnic on the lawn in front of Sacre Couer! This is one of my favorite spots for picnicking and people watching in Paris.
Montmartre, Paris Guide – All About the 18th Arrondissement
Montmartre is a fascinating neighborhood with so much to see and do. I personally love following in the steps of the famous Montmartre artists by visiting the places they used to live and work. Although it’s touristy, the 18th arrondissement is a cool place to visit if you love imagining what Paris was like during the Belle Epoque.