Montmartre (18th Arrondissement) is known as the citadel of Paris. This quarter is the highest point in the city, standing at more than 300 feet high. The district was once home to a thriving artist community and was the quarter where Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and Renoir mastered their brush. Today, Montmartre is no longer the bohemian-artsy community it once was but still appeals to tourists especially after its depiction in the movies Amélie and Moulin Rouge. Much of the area still preserves its rather louche, prewar atmosphere.
The main attraction in Montmartre is the Romanesque and Byzantine Sacré-Couer Basilica, dubbed the “sculpted cloud”; it was erected as a national guilt offering for the lives lost in the Paris Commune and the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s. Many visitors are also easily allured by the cabaret famous around the world – the Moulin Rouge. Built in 1885, this raunchy Vegas-style dance hall hit its heyday in the early 1900s. The Pigalle Plaza (Place Pigalle) where Moulin Rouge is located, known as Paris’ red-light district, is also filled with sex shops, topless bars, and prostitutes lining the boulevards plying their trade.
The Au Lapin Agile is another historic and famous cabaret of Montmartre dating back to the 19th century. Its adorable maison-cottage was founded in 1860. In the early 20th century, it was frequented mainly by seedy characters like down-and-out bums and pimps. But it was also a favorite hangout spot of many struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Utrillo, Apollinaire, Modigliani, and Vlaminck. Picasso is said to have once paid for a meal with one of his paintings and his 1905 painting “At the Lapin Agile” depicting the cabaret helped make it world-famous. This masterpiece is now on display in the New York Metropolitan Museum, purchased for $50 million.
The gathering center of Montmartre is probably the Place des Abbesses; it is the hub of Montmartre’s arts and fashion scene and you’ll find sidewalk cafés, chic restaurants, trendy shops, and crowds of bohemian locals. About a half-dozen blocks away is another famous square, Place du Tertre, where crowds of tourists are swarmed by artists there soliciting their self-portrait sketch services.
There are also several museums in Montmartre, including the Musée de la Vie Romantique, the Musée de Montmartre, and the Espace Salvador-Dalí. The Musée de la Vie Romantique is a museum set in a 19th century country town house that showcases the portraits, furniture, and household items of the French author, George Sand. The house itself used to be a salon whose guests included Delacroix, Chopin, and Sand. The Musée de Montmartre, on the other hand, is the historical museum dedicated to Montmartre’s history and early 20th century heyday when it was home to illustrious painters, artists, and writers like Renoir and Utrillo. Finally, the Espace Salvador-Dalí exhibits 25 sculptures and some 300 etchings and lithographs intended to present an experience of Surrealism.
Au Lapin Agile
Moulin de la Galette
Place du Tertre
Place des Abbesses
Musée de Montmartre
Musée de la Vie Romantique
Fisher, Robert I. C., and Fodor’s. Fodor’s France. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2007. ISBN: 1400016878.
“Montmartre.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montmartre>
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