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What to do in Montmartre? Follow the Footsteps of the 19th Century Impressionists

A trip to Paris is incomplete without a visit to the bohemian district of Montmartre.

It was and still is a magnet for artists, writers, painters, musicians, sculptors and intellectuals from all over France and around the world.

Below is my list of things to do in Montmartre in the footsteps of the Impressionism and post-impressionism painters:

The French Impressionists

Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, Raoul Dufy and Vincent van Gogh are just a few of many painters and artists who resided in Montmartre at some point in their lives.

Edgar Degas, lived in Montmartre for most of his adult life and when he died, was buried in the Montmartre cemetery.

The rustic and historical streets of Montmartre

Montmartre Travel / Photo by Jeff Frenette on Unsplash

Perched on a hill in the northern section of Paris center, Montmartre was once a rural village dotted with vineyards and windmills. It was considered too remote from the city center and was an inexpensive part of Paris. Mainly the working class and poor artists lived there. But not anymore!!

Put on your comfortable walking shoes and follow the list below of some fabulous gems in Montmartre…..

Vincent Van Gogh landscape of Montmartre
Vincent Van Gogh Picture of Montmartre[Public domain]

Moulin Rouge & the Post-Impressionist Toulouse Lautrec

Montmartre is divided into two completely different areas. The first area, near Place Pigalle, is recognizable by its numerous neon lights of sex-shops and cabarets, including the renowned Moulin Rouge, attracting hundreds of tourists each year. Press here for more information about the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge, Montmartre
The Moulin Rouge at night

The Moulin Rouge was founded and built in 1889 and ever since is coined the modern birthplace of the cancan, a seductive dance that later turned into a form of entertainment. 

The French impressionist painter, Henri deToulouse-Lautrec was a regular at the Moulin Rouge. The women, the shows and the atmosphere of the cabaret are the subject matter of many of his famous paintings.

Historical footage of Paris & the Moulin Rouge in the 1900s
Moulin Rouge nightlife - Toulouse Lautrec poster
Moulin Rouge nightlife – Toulouse Lautrec [Public domain]

Tertre Square & Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur

The second area of Montmartre is Place du Tertre at the top of the hill, which you  reach after walking up nearly 200 steps or taking the funicular.

This is a beautiful section of Montmartre . It is a wonderful place to have dinner and to stroll through its pretty streets. Around here you can observe the artists while they work and sell their art. 

The  Tertre square in Montmartre
The artists in Montmartre in Tertre square

As you walk in the upward direction, through the maze of narrow and steep streets, you reach the hilltop and the famous Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur. This is a beautiful church.

And from the wide stairs you see breathtaking views of Paris below. These steps are usually full of tourists and Parisians enjoying the views below.

Tip: Watch your bags for pickpockets here.

Are you able to keep walking?

If yes, another wonderful museum to visit is the Montmartre museum not far from Place du Tertre.

Montmartre museum (Musee de Montmartre)

We visited this museum in April when the flowers were in full bloom in the garden. At one point in the garden, we stopped to enjoy a lovely view below of Montmartre’s vineyard and the northern part of Paris in the distance.

The museum’s lovely garden was inspired by Pierre Auguste Renoir, who lived here between 1875 and 1877. A swing in the garden represents his painting called “The Swing (La Balancoire)” painted here in 1876. This painting was scorned at by the critics in the Impressionism exhibition in 1877. Now it is a celebrated masterpiece and hanging on the walls of the world famous Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

The Swing (La Balancoire) - Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting
The Swing (La Balancoire) – Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain]

This museum is a hidden gem and only one street away from the busy Place des Tertres.

If you love the atmosphere of early 20th century Montmartre and impressionists, this museum is for you! For more information, press here

Shop front in Montmartre
Montmartre – Photo by Benedikte Vanderweeën (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t miss strolling through Montmartre’s hidden gem, the Montmartre cemetery. Here you will find the grave of Edgar Degas and other famous artists and notable people who lived in this historical neighborhood.

Looking for a walking tour that will take you to the great Montmartre sights & in the footsteps of the Impressionists?

Check out the options below:

(For some of the links on this page, I receive a small commission when you purchase. You don’t pay more when you buy through my site.)

Montmartre still attracts the bohemian crowd but today the village is far more trendy than in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a fantastic area to base yourself while traveling around Paris.

Check out BOOKING.COM for a variety of Montmartre hotel options: