Tue, October 5th, 2010 - By

Exploring Montmartre, Paris


A couple of months ago, I walked you through an overview of the best Parisian neighbourhoods http://blog.sunshine.co.uk/paris-neighbourhood/.

Today, I’d like to dive deeper into one part of town that most tourists just rush through, which is a shame because it deserves a little more attention.  That’s the district of Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement.

Get some Religion

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bruchez/400350040/

Montmartre has a very long history as a religious centre.  Even the name has a religious context – it’s said to be a reformed version of the word “Mons Martis” – mountain of the martyr – because he was killed here on this hill in 250AD. Morbidly, the legend says he then picked up his head and carried it, preaching a sermon, hence why  you see his headless statue holding his missing member in the Musee du Cluny.

The hill is also said to have been a religious centre for the druids, which archaeologically has not been proven, but the hill does sit on the intersection of ley lines.  That was probably why the stunning Sacre Coeur, a Roman Catholic basilica and my favourite chapel in Paris.  It sits at the highest point in the city, and construction started on it in 1875.  However, they ran out of money – 7 million Francs of it – before even getting started, and it wasn’t until 1914 that the building was finally finished.  It was worth the wait, as the gorgeous statues, the graceful archways, and interior windows all offer the perfect viewpoints across Paris.

Getting to the Sacre Coeur is an uphill battle – there’s a funicular, but I personally think the walk up the beautiful steps of Rue Foyatier is all part the Montmartre experience.

And then some Sin

moulin rouge at midnight

Ironic that surrounding such a historical spot and landmark is what is basically a party town.  Montmartre used to be an adjacent, but separate, village and thus it was cheaper to drink here than in Paris.  Today it’s the same price – if not more expensive – but the building boom of brothels and nightclubs is still visible today.  The action centres around the massive cabaret club Moulin Rouge, whose big red windmill wouldn’t look out of place on the Vegas strip.  Streamlining along either side is a series of cafes, sex shops, tattoo parlours, wine bars, and other unsavoury establishments.

What I like about a night out on the Montmartre is that it has such a unique vibe.  It’s a rare accomplishment for a city to have a strip of blinding neon and massive condom shops that looks, well, majestic.  It’s clean and orderly, and the queues of party goers standing outside  waiting for their seats at the cabaret look stylish and unhurried.

And did I mention, the wine is absolutely delicious?  Though it’s Paris, so you wouldn’t expect any less.

Other Sights and Sounds

Espace Dali 06

Montmartre isn’t just a big church and some nightclubs.  It has lots of other cultural attractions you may want to check out.  Some recommendations:

  • Espace Dali – a smallish museum dedicated to Dali.  They have over 300 original pieces, from his “drippy” clocks to trippy bedrooms and household furniture.  There are workshops for the kids, and great guides to walk you through the exhibits.
  • Place du Tertre – you’ll no doubt pass through here as it’s one of the central squares in the Montmartre.  Linger over some of the artists painting; while yes, they’re here for the tourists, some of them are very talented.
  • Montmartre Cemetery – though it sounds morbid, this is one of Paris’s famous graveyards, both because of its tenants (several famous names in Parisian history, including local artists) but because of the fantastical and sometimes absurd tombstones.  They’re beautiful, though sometimes I question whether the deceased would actually want to be buried for eternity with some of these things.

Image Credits: shadowgate, sherseydc, bruchez, harshlight

Exploring Monmarte, Paris

A couple of months ago, I walked you through an overview of the best Parisian
neighbourhoods http://blog.sunshine.co.uk/paris-neighbourhood/. Today, I’d like to
dive deeper into one part of town that most tourists just rush through, which is a shame
because it deserves a little more attention. That’s the district of Monmarte, in the 18th
Arrondissement.

Get some Religion
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Montmartre)

Monmarte has a very long history as a religious center. Even the name has a religious
context – it’s said to be a reformed version of the word “Mons Martis” – mountain of the
martyr – because he was killed here on this hill in 250AD. Morbidly, the legend says he then
picked up his head and carried it, preaching a sermon, hence why you see his headless statue
holding his missing member in the Musee du Cluny.

The hill is also said to have been a religious center for the druids, which archaeologically
has not been proven, but the hill does sit on the intersection of ley lines. That was probably
why the stunning Sacre Coeur, a Roman Catholic basilica and my favourite chapel in Paris.
It sits at the highest point in the city, and construction started on it in 1875. However, they
ran out of money – 7 million Francs of it – before even getting started, and it wasn’t until
1914 that the building was finally finished. It was worth the wait, as the gorgeous statues,
the graceful archways, and interior windows all offer the perfect viewpoints across Paris.

Getting to the Scare Coeur is an uphill battle – there’s a funicular, but I personally think the
walk up the beautiful steps of Rue Foyatier is all part the Monmarte experience.

And then some Sin

moulin rouge at midnight

Ironic that surrounding such a historical spot and landmark is what is basically a party town.
Monmarte used to be an adjacent, but separate, village and thus it was cheaper to drink here
than in Paris. Today it’s the same price – if not more expensive – but the building boom of
brothels and nightclubs is still visible today. The action centers around the massive cabaret
club Moulin Rouge, whose big red windmill wouldn’t look out of place on the Vegas strip.
Streamling along either side is a series of cafes, sex shops, tattoo parlours, wine bars, and
other unsavoury establishments.

What I like about a night out on the Monmarte is that it has such a unique vibe. It’s a rare
accomplishment for a city to have a strip of blinding neon and massive condom shops that
looks, well, majestic. It’s clean and orderly, and the queues of partygoers standing outside
waiting for their seats at the cabaret look stylish and unhurried.

And did I mention, the wine is absolutely delicious? Though it’s Paris, so you wouldn’t
expect any less.

Other Sights and Sounds

Espace Dali 06

Monmarte isn’t just a big church and some nightclubs. It has lots of other cultural
attractions you may want to check out. Some recommendations:

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 at 10:59
Category : Spotlight
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