By Ruby Boukabou
Montmartre, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, is rightly known as one of the city’s most charming neighbourhoods with its cobbled stoned streets, quaint cafés, incredible views and the magnificent Sacre Coeur cathedral. In this self-guided walking tour, instead of making a beeline uphill with the hoard of tourists, you’re going to enjoy the winding, cute-as-pie backstreets, vistas and parks on the way up. Consider it somewhat a seductive dance of discovery with the White Lady- and a good workout for the legs!
Exit the metro at Anvers where you’ll be hit by the first glance of the magnificent white silhouette of Sacre Coeur. Turn towards it (right up rue de Steinkerque) past the souvenir shops (Chat Noir poster, Moulin Rouge coasters, I love Paris T-shirts) until you arrive to Place Saint Pierre at the bottom of Square Louise Michel with its park and carousel (famously seen in the film Amelie) that leads up to Sacre Coeur.
Hold your horses on the desire to arrive at the monument looming above and turn right until you hit Marché Saint-Pierre on the corner of Rue Charles Nodier. This institution of materials is where the couterieres, costumiers and stylists flock. Pick up a flamboyant fabric or feather, or continue up Charles Nodier, climbing the romantic staircase to a delightful square of cafés.
Continue uphill on rue Paul Albert to the end of this simply gorgeous street where, on glancing right over Passage Cottin, you’ll catch your first breathtaking glimpse of Paris. As tempting as the passage may be to take, instead turn left onto rue du Chevalier de la Barre and up the stairs.
Then turn right into Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, a pretty local park with flowers, stone alcoves under trellises and a Pétanque field, next to which you can exit to the left to join rue Saint Vincent to the right. Sacre Coeur’s distinctive , bold and beautiful silhouette from this angle is a fantastic photo, so take a snap. But you’re not ready to meet face to face just yet so head in the other direction…
Take the stairs down to the right on rue Mount Cenis and continue downhill until Soul Kitchen café, where you may want to grab a delicious apple and ginger tea or vegetarian snack for a boost after all those stairs.
Then head left down rue Lamarck. Enjoy the calm streets and feel like a local for a while (before you hit tourist central). Take the second left onto rue Gaston Couté to the end then right into rue Paul Feval and left into rue des Saules. At number 22 is the Lapin Agile, a small cabaret open since 1860 and still running. Stop for a second to appreciate the opposite vineyards and their heady scents, the cobbled stones and the full standing houses with roses and crawlies.
Now turn right into rue de l’Abreuvoir past the pink La Maison Rose restaurant onto one of the prettiest streets in Paris, feeling the country vibe remaining from the once rural area, originally outside the city walls of Paris.
You’ll now arrive at Place Dalida. The tradition is to polish the breasts of the statue of Dalida (the Egyptian-Italian-French singer and actress (1933 –1987)) that shine out from the rest of the piece from the ritual.
Walk down rue Simon Dereure and swing round to the left into Avenue Junot, looking up for the windmill at Le Moulin de la Galette at number 3. The moulin has been operational since the 17th Century and became popular with artists and socialites in the 19th century as a place to share wine, bread and conversation. The Sunday parties were immortalized in Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876). There’s a restaurant now in function, however it’s much less wild unfortunately. You can pop in for a meal but you probably won’t be kicking up your heels and singing into the night.
Continue straight down rue Novins to Place du Teatre, the belly of touristic Montmartre. This is where it’s all happening so be ready to embrace the crowds, the buskers and the portrait painters. They’re all quite talented and good humoured so if you have the time take a sitting.
Now head right, around rue de Mont Cenis and left onto rue Azais, following the flow of pedestrian traffic. And bang! Here you are at the steps of The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris—Sacre Coeur!
Marvel up at the Roman Catholic church and basilica, standing since 1914. Then enter. No matter how many churches you’ve visited, and whether or not you are religious, it’s a breathtaking, spiritual experience. Light a candle then sit and gaze up at the 475 square meter mosaic of Christ with a golden heart. Inhale. Exhale.
Drift back out of the church and down the stairs to take in the sensation panoramic view of Paris. You’ve deserved it! Bravo!
To get back to Anvers, just catch the funicular (you can use a metro ticket) or take the steps
downhill. Otherwise head towards Abbesses and keep exploring on your own. Bon courage.
If you want to turn the tour into a longer excursion, the Museum of Montmartre and Espace Dali are two great museums to check out, particularly the former with gardens overlooking the vineyards and wine tasting courses.