Things to Do in Montmartre
This post is a guide of things to do and see in Montmartre, one of Paris’s must-see neighborhoods, including free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly activities.
WHAT IS MONTMARTRE?
Montmartre is an area in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, north of the city center.
Built on a steep hill, Montmartre was once a separate village before being incorporated into Paris in 1860.
And it still retains its small-town charm and unique character, with winding streets, steep staircases, lush squares, and homey shops.
Down the hill, along Boulevard de Clichy, you’ll still find some of the seedier elements that the Pigalle area has long been known for, like peep shows and adult movie theaters, alongside raucous nightclubs and bustling cafes.
It’s all part of the great mix that gives Montmartre its unique character.
Au Lain Agile
The little village has a long and colorful history.
It was once the site of a temple to Mars, the god of war (which may be where the name came from – Mont Mars, or Mars Hill).
It was in Montmartre in about 250 AD that the Christian bishop of Paris, Saint-Denis, was decapitated by the Romans (another reason for the name – Mont Martyr, or Martyr Hill).
You can visit a statue of St. Denis (holding his head) at Square Suzanne Buisson. It’s a stop on our free tour.
In the 12th century, the king chose Montmartre as the site of a large abbey for Benedictine nuns, which was destroyed in the French revolution.
Later, the village became the site of the Commune of 1871 and its brutal suppression.
The area was full of vineyards, orchards, mills, mines, and quarries, and it has been attracting artists from far and wide since the early 1800s.
Where is Montmartre?
To get to Montmartre, take the Metro to any of the stops in the neighborhood.
- Blanche and Pigalle on Lines 2 & 12
- Abbesses and Lamarck-Caulaincourt on Line 12
- Anvers on Line 2
Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Stops:
- Pigalle, Sacre-Coeur, and Musee Grevin are all featured on bus tour routes.
Bus tours of the city often include Montmartre; view our comparison of Paris bus tours for more information.
TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO
This section lists the top 10 attractions and things to do in Montmartre, including landmarks, tours, street art, and shows to see.
1) Sacré Coeur Basilica
The church that Parisians love to hate is the most visible landmark in Montmartre.
Its bright white stone walls, wedding-cake-type tiers, and bumpy domes stand out at the top of Montmartre.
Built as a “reparation” to atone for what many perceived as sins that led to France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, the basilica was not completed until the end of World War 1.
Today, visitors can see the inside of the church for free, or climb the 300 steps to the Sacré Coeur Dome for arguably the best views in Paris (price varies).
Don’t want to climb the dome?
Simply find a spot on the stairs in front of the basilica in the late afternoon and enjoy one of Paris’s best free activities: Sunset on the steps of Sacré Coeur.
2) Take a Sightseeing Tour
Many companies offer tours of the neighborhood, from walking tours to specialty tours, including cinema and food tours.
There is also a narration on the Little Train of Montmartre, which lets you see the sights while being driven around (and up those hills!).
TIP: The Little Train of Montmartre is included in the Paris Visite Travelcard on the Paris Pass.
3) For Art Lovers: Landmarks and Street Art
Montmartre has long played host to creative geniuses, from Impressionist painters to contemporary artists.
Hunt down the homes of famous residents, including:
- Pablo Picasso
- Vincent van Gogh
- Pierre Brissaud
- Henri Matisse
- André Derain
- Suzanne Valadon
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
- Edgar Degas
- Salvador Dalí
- and others
Visit the facade of the Bateau Lavoir, where Picasso, Mogdiliani, Max Jacob and other artists lived at the turn of the 20th century.
The Dali Paris Museum showcases works by another famous Montmartre resident.
The Musee de Montmartre is on the site of artist residences, too.
There’s also street art, contemporary art shows at Hall St. Pierre, and artists plying their wares in Place du Tertre, some of which you can learn about on our audio and self-guided tour.
4) Enjoy a Museum
Montmartre’s museums are more intimate than the larger ones down the hill.
Surrealists fans will enjoy the Dali Paris Museum, with rooms of the onetime Montmartre resident’s works.
At 12 Rue Cortot, the Musee de Montmatre was once home to artists including Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo and has a splendid garden in the back.
Halle Saint Pierre hosts exhibitions of outsider art and has a cafe and bookshop.
A little further afield are the Musee Gustave Moreau, carved out of the French Sybolist master’s own home.
The museum houses works by his friends (including Degas) on the first floor and Moreau’s own paintings and drawings on the second and third.
The Musee de la Vie Romantique is in a sumptuous mansion and features art from the mid-1800s, along with a secluded tea garden and glass-enclosed conservatory.
For contemporary art, visit Le Bal, a non-profit cultural center established in 2010 to showcase photography, video, film, and new media.
Le Bal also has a standout cafe serving Austrian specialties.
You can find these museums on various Paris tourist passes for free or at a discount, such as the Paris Pass and Paris Explorer Pass.
5) Ride the Rails
Need to rest your legs? Montmartre visitors can enjoy zooming up the hill below Sacre Coeur in the city’s only funicular, which is the price of a Metro ticket.
There are also numerous Metro stops in the neighborhood, so you can reach the area easily from anywhere in Paris.
The whole family may also enjoy the Little Train of Montmartre, a charming hop-on-hop-off option with audio narration about the neighborhood and makes a number of stops. (And it’s included in the Paris Pass.)
6) Go to a Cabaret
Montmartre has been a nightlife hub since the late 1800s, and some of its most famous watering holes are still open, starting with Le Moulin Rouge, at 82 Boulevard de Clichy.
The world’s most famous cabaret and home of the can-can dance features over-the-top shows in a historic setting.
At 22 Rue des Saules since 1860, Au Lapin Agile features a more intimate and traditional cabaret experience than Moulin Rouge.
Le Chat Noir, at 68 Boulevard de Clichy, is famous for its iconic posters; today the club still hosts musical acts.
Check out our self-guided tour and audio tour for the backstory about these and other Montmartre hot spots!
7) Admire the Street Art
In true Montmartre fashion, the neighborhood is full of unique art installations and free art you’ll discover walking around.
You may also find street performers in various spots around the neighborhood, like Place du Tertre and the plaza in front of Sacre Coeur, for some free entertainment.
You can find more budget-friendly activities in our post about free things to do in Paris.
8) Explore the Cemeteries
Visit the final resting places of such luminaries as singer Dalida, painter Edgar Degas, writer Alexandre Dumas, Russian ballet star Vaslav Nijinsky, and filmmaker Francois Truffaut at the Montmartre cemetery, the third-largest in Paris.
Don’t forget to look for the cemetery’s resident cats!
At the smaller St. Vincent Cemetery, you’ll find painter Maurice Utrillo, Marcel Aymé, and more, right across from the Lapin Agile and Montmartre’s vineyard.
9) Learn About Film History
2001 was a big year for Montmartre-based movies: Most visitors know about Moulin Rouge from the Baz Luhrman film, and that same year, the world met Amelie Poulain in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s whimsical film, Amelie.
Visit Amelie’s favorite haunts, including the Cafe des 2 Moulins, where she was a waitress.
Look for blue arrows in the Place St. Pierre below Sacre Coeur and pick up some snacks and Amelie souvenirs at Marche de la Butte at 56 rue des Trois Frères.
Visit the Lamarck-Caulaincourt Metro stop and stroll through the St. Vincent Cemetery.
Montmartre is also home to historic movie theaters: Studio 28 opened in 1928 as a home for experimental film and was the site of a melee in 1930 when it screened the surrealist “L’Age d’Or” by Luis Bunel and Salvador Dali.
Down the hill is the Luxour, there is an Egyptian-themed Art Deco palace from 1921 that was restored and reopened in 2013.
10) Place des Abbesses
The picturesque Place des Abbesses is one of the centers of the neighborhood.
Its Abbesses Metro stop features a long winding staircase with myriad murals, including Montmartre streetscapes, as well as one of the few remaining cast iron and glass Art Nouveau Metro entrances by Hector Guimard.
(The one at Abbesses used to grace the Hotel de Ville Metro stop downtown and was moved in the ‘70s).
There’s also a carousel right next to the metro entrance, and the Place des Abbesses leads into Square Jehan Rictus, a park with the I Love You Wall and a small playground.
Rue des Abbesses is also a great place for some shopping, with little boutiques and also purveyors of delicious foodstuffs like fresh bread, cheese, fish, olives, and other snacks to fortify you on your neighborhood explorations.
Honorable Mention: Take a Food Tour
If you’re looking for some help finding the best food in Montmartre, consider taking a Secret Food Tour to discover the culinary history of the area.
This outing includes 5 stops and at least 7 different samples including crêpes, French bread, pastries, cheeses, macarons, and more. You’ll also have a chance to try some red or white wine!
The Montmartre Secret Food Tour is available both during the day and at night, allowing you to enjoy the outing whenever you want.
FREE THINGS TO DO
This section lists the free activities you can find in Montmartre.
If you’re looking for more free things to do around Paris, check out our full post with budget-friendly activities.
Bustling Place du Tertre
Just a few blocks from Sacre Coeur is a bustling square filled with artists selling their works.
It can get packed with tourists in the summer, but it’s worth a stop to see the artists painting, their easels set up, and maybe even stop to get your portrait done.
If you’re in the market for a portrait, prices vary; ask upfront, and you may wind up with a one-of-a-kind souvenir from your visit to Montmartre.
The Place du Tertre is ringed with shops and cafes.
Commune with Artists in Cemeteries
The Montmartre Cemetery is the third-largest in Paris, after Montparnasse and Père Lachaise.
Opened in 1825 in an abandoned quarry, its deceased residents include:
- Singer Dalida
- Painter Edgar Degas
- Writer Alexandre Dumas
- Russian Ballet star Vaslav Nijinsky
- Filmmaker Francois Truffaut
Right near the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro is the smaller St. Vincent Cemetery, where local denizens such as painter Maurice Utrillo and author Marcel Aymé are interred.
Vines in the City
Yes, there are still vineyards in Paris!
Clos Montmartre, at the corner of Rue des Saules and Rue Saint-Vincent, is the only vineyard in Paris still producing wine.
You can see the vines from the street, right across from Lapin Agile, but the vineyard is only open to the public once a year: Every second weekend of October,
Explore Square Louise Michel
The lovely park in the shadow of Sacré Coeur Basilica, Square Louise Michel features winding paths, a carousel, a funicular up the hill, and all-important public toilets.
On the east side of the park are picturesque stairways alongside the rocky walls of the Butte Montmartre.
Amelie fans will remember the square as the location of the blue arrows and the carousel.
Climb Steep Staircases
The neighborhood has lots of steep streets and staircases, but the biggest hike is the hill below the Sacré Coeur Basilica, from Place Saint-Pierre to Rue Azais.
You can climb the stairs right alongside the funicular, or go one block west and hike up Rue Chappe with a wall full of street art between Rue Andre Barsacq and Rue Gabrielle.
Wander around the neighborhood long enough, and you’ll find yourself with only one way forward: up a steep staircase.
Wear your comfy shoes!
Admire Abbesses Metro Murals
For tireless art lovers, the spiral staircase at the Abbesses Metro can’t be beaten.
Alongside its 200 steps are multiple murals, including poppies, a marching band, a flock of Pegasuses, and scenes of Montmartre itself.
At street level is one of the few surviving art deco Metro entrances designed by Hector Guimard.
TIP: If Abbesses is your stop, take the elevator up and the stairs down, a slightly easier route.
Visit Historic Churches
Art and history lovers can visit Montmartre’s churches to experience a wide variety of architectural and artistic styles, all for absolutely free.
While Sacre Coeur is the area’s most widely-recognized house of worship, its next-door neighbor, St. Pierre de Montmartre, dwarfs it in history.
This is one of the oldest churches in Paris; construction began in 1133 and wrapped up in 1147.
For 3 Euro, you can download an audio tour of the church to learn more about it.
Next to Place des Abbesses is the much newer, red-brick St. Jean de Montmartre, featuring art nouveau stained glass windows and art referencing St. John the Baptist and the Apocalypse.
Finally, Sacré-Coeur Basilica is full of delights, designed in the romano-byzantine style by architect Paul Abadie, and opened in 1919.
While the views of Paris from atop the dome are spectacular, the inside of the dome is just as impressive: It is covered in a giant mosaic depicting Jesus with a golden heart and outstretched arms, surrounded by many other scenes and figures, including the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc.
There is a free audio guide for Sacré-Coeur available in English, French, and Spanish.
SOAK IN THE ART HISTORY
There is more art history displayed in the neighborhood than one person could discover in a day, but this section lists the highlights.
In the charming Place Emile is the façade of the Bateau Lavoir, which served as artist residences starting in 1889.
Famous residents included Kees Van Dongen, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso, who launched the cubism movement there with his painting, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
The rickety building used to sway in the breeze like the washing boats on the Seine, hence the name.
The original building burned down in 1970 so only the façade – with information about the building’s history – remains.
Bateau Lavoir is maintained by the Musee de Montmatre, which itself is housed in former artists’ residences at 12 Rue Cortot.
The museum includes a reproduction of the studio and apartment of artists Suzanne Valadon, André Utter (her husband), and Maurice Utrillo (her son).
The museum hosts temporary exhibitions and is surrounded by lovely gardens dedicated to August Renoir. (€4-€12)
Artists’ Homes and Studios
Montmartre was home to many artists over the years, and many of the buildings they lived in are still standing.
Many of them are included in our self-guided walking tour and audio tour. Some local residents include:
- Camille Pissarro (painter), 12 Rue des Brouillards
- Auguste Renoir (painter), 8 Rue des Brouillards
- Vincent Van Gogh (painter), 54 Rue Lepic
- Erik Satie (composer), 6 Rue Cortot
- Pablo Picasso (painter), 49 Rue Gabrielle
- Amedeo Modigliani (painter and sculptor), 7 Rue Jean-Baptiste Clement
- Dalida (singer), 16 Rue d’Orchampt
Montmartre has long played host to creative geniuses, from Impressionist painters to contemporary artists.
One frequent visitor was Salvador Dali, and Montmartre’s Dali Paris Museum showcases the Spanish artist’s wildly inventive works.
It houses prints and film clips to sculptures, including dripping clocks and spindly-legged animals.
Admission ranges from €9 – €12 and is free for visitors under 8 years old.
TIP: Entrance is included in the Paris Pass.
Halle Saint Pierre
Does art get even wilder than Dali? See for yourselves at Halle Saint Pierre, right next to Sacre Coeur, which stages shows of outsider art (art brut in French).
There are a bookstore and coffee shop inside for refueling and resting up.
I Love You Wall
In the mood for free art? By the Abbesses metro, in Square Jehan Rictus, is the I Love You Wall (Le mur des je t’aime).
The artwork by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito has “I love you” written in 250 languages. How many languages can you recognize?
To the west, in Place Marcel Aymé, there’s an unusual statue: A man who is stuck in a wall.
His name is Mr. Dutilleur, The Man Who Walked Through Walls (Le passe-muraille), from a 1941 short story by Marcel Aymé.
Jump up and give his right hand a high five, or grab his left hand and try to free him from the wall; it’s shiny from other visitors trying to help him out.
The Egyptian-born Italian singer and actress, Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti, went by the stage name of Dalida and was a Montmartre fixture.
She lived in a mansion at 16 Rue d’Orchampt for 25 years before committing suicide at age 54 in 1987.
A bust of the best-selling singer is a few blocks north in Place Dalida, and she is buried in Cemetery Montmartre.
Montmartre is popular during the day, but it doesn’t get any quieter at night.
Thanks to the cabarets, cinemas, and restaurants, you can spend an entire evening here.
If you’re looking for more nighttime things to do, check out our full post.
Experience a Cabaret
Le Moulin Rouge, at 82 Boulevard de Clichy, opened in 1889 and was beloved by kings and paupers for its performers dancing the can-can.
The pink, vine-covered club at 22 Rue des Saules, Au Lapin Agile, opened in 1860 as a hot-spot for criminal types; by the turn of the 20th century, it was favored by Picasso.
Today it serves drinks and is a more affordable option for a French cabaret experience.
For something a little different, consider Cabaret Michou, the home for nightly drag cabaret shows for more than 60 years!
You can get dinner with your show; a less expensive option is to watch from the bar.
Go Out to Dinner
Montmartre is full of different dining options, from casual sandwich shops to fine dining.
A tip for dining in Paris is to eat or drink at the bar; the prices may be lower than in the dining room or on the terrace.
You can also get deals on meals if a restaurant has a formule – say, 30 Euros for an appetizer, main dish, and dessert.
Some fun choices in Montmartre are Cafe des 2 Moulins, the restaurant where Amelie Poulain worked in the film, Amelie. Their menu includes the Menu Amelie, with onion soup, beef bourguignon, and creme brulee.
For an unforgettable dinner, make a reservation at Le Refuge des Fondues, at 17 Rue des Trois Frères, where you can choose either meat or cheese fondue, and the wine is served in baby bottles!
The tables are communal, and diners sitting next to the wall need to climb over the tables to get to their seats.
A few doors down, at 13 Rue des Trois Frères, is L’Annexe, a solid choice for French cuisine.
Boullion Pigalle is another unique choice: the 300-seat dining room serves old-fashioned French classics like deviled eggs, steak frites, beef bourguignon, and profiteroles for dessert, all at low prices.
Catch a Show
Montmartre is home to many theaters and opportunities for live music, theater, and dance.
For live music, Elysee Montmartre features everything from reggae to K-pop.
Theatre des Abbesses, at 31 Rue des Abbesses, presents a schedule of modern dance, theater (some in English as well as French), classical music, and world music.
The Trianon (80 Boulevard de Rochechouart) has a variety of rock, soul, world music, and more.
Visit a Classic Watering Hole
Aside from the cabarets Moulin Rouge and Lapin Agile, other historic spots in Montmartre where you can still get a drink or a meal are Le Chat Noir (famous for its iconic posters) and Mere Catherine.
At 68 Boulevard de Clichy, Le Chat Noir opened in 1881 as a club for radicals, bohemians, and local creatives.
This club was the world’s first modern cabaret, and it is still open for dining, drinks, and music to this day.
On the north side of Place du Tertre, the Mere Catherine restaurant is known as the first bistro in the world.
Watch a Movie in a Historic Theater
Film history buffs will love catching a flick in a historic theater in Montmartre.
At Studio 28, which was founded as a theater for experimental film, they screen current films, including ones in English. It has multiple screenings a day and is at 10 Rue Tholoze.
The Louxor was one of Paris’s magnificent 1920s movie palaces, with sumptuous Egyptian-themed decor and a fantastic view from the balcony.
And Cinema des Cineastes is at the site of a storied cabaret, Père Lathuille, and now shows current films.
TIP: When going to see an English-language film in France, look for a note saying the screening is “V.O.” (version original), otherwise, it may be dubbed into French.
MONTMARTRE WITH KIDS
Montmartre is full of activities for children.
For more family-friendly activities in Paris, look no further than this post.
Need to get some energy out? Try one of Montmartre’s playgrounds.
Just north of Sacre Coeur Basilica is Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, with a small climbing structure, plenty of space for running, shady walkways, and benches for picnics (or naps).
Burq Garden, accessible from Rue Burq just north of Rue Durantin, has climbers, seating, and lovely plantings.
Down the hill at Square d’Anvers, right next to the metro station Anvers, there is another playground with a climber and slides, a good place to get out those wiggles before heading back on the Metro.
While Paris is a public transportation lover’s dream (Metro trains! Buses! Trams!), Montmartre is tops because it has both a funicular and a tourist train.
On the funicular, a 90-second ride whisks you from the base of the hill below the Sacré Coeur Basilica (on the southwest corner of Place Saint-Pierre) to the top of the steep hill.
Ride the funicular for one Metro ticket (€1.9), or you can use the Paris Visite Travelcard included in your Paris Pass.
For a unique hop-on, hop-off option, try the Little Train of Montmartre.
Train lovers will love the little train that winds its way through Montmartre’s streets, and weary parents may enjoy NOT having to walk all those hills.
Catch the train at either the Blanche metro stop or Place du Tertre. The ride is 35 minutes long with narration in French and English and costs €3.5-€6.5.
You can also use the Paris Pass for the little train.
Montmartre has plenty of patisseries, so kids of all ages can satisfy their sweet tooth.
Just south of Boulevard de Clichy is also a famous candy store called A L’Etoile d’Or, at 30 Rue Pierre Fontaine.
Stop in for a mind-boggling array of chocolates, candies, and other delectables to take home to family and friends… or eat as soon as you leave the shop!
Saint Pierre Carousel
Paris is bursting with carousels, each with its own character. The ornate one in the park beneath Sacré-Coeur Basilica is a stunner.
It’s double-decker, with a Venetian theme, paintings on the ceiling, a spinning teacup, feisty-looking horses… and benches for the timid.
Fans of the Montmartre-based 2001 film Amelie might recognize it from the movie!
Place du Tertre
Kids with a little patience might enjoy sitting for a portrait, though the wiggly ones might prefer watching the artists work – or even drawing alongside them!
Dining with kids
Depending on your kids’ tastes, patience, and mood, they may like a nice French cafe, or you may need to grab something on the go.
Grab a baguette at any boulangerie for a little stroller-snacking, pick up yogurt or another snack at a marche or epicerie (corner store), or pop into a fast-food shop.
Popular shops inclue:
- Paul at 13 Rue Lepic
- Pain Quotidien at 31 Rue Lepic
- Pomme de Pain at 3 Rue de Steinerque