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.
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.
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.
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:
Posted : Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 at 10:59
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.