Discover Montmartre’s art history with two free self-guided walks
For art enthusiasts and Montmartre strollers
Montmartre is famous for its artists but who were they and where did they live, work, eat, drink, and walk? Where did they make their masterpieces and what influenced their work?
Follow the two free self-guided Montmartre artists’ studios walks and retrace the footsteps of the artists. See their workplaces and homes, stop where they ate and drank.
Many people simply follow the crowds when they wander around Montmartre.
The clear maps on these two walks will guide you to home and studio and will connect painter with painting and place.
Montmartre has changed—everywhere does—but the street plan and some of the buildings remain. I hope that the convergence of place, artist and associated works of art—plus a little creative imagination from you as you walk the same streets as they did—will mean that you get a better understanding of the artistic legacy of the place.
With this site and these tours I aim to intensify your experience of being in Montmartre.
Where is Montmartre?
The Montmartre area is about 3.2 kilometres (about two miles) to the north of central Paris
The site features two walks:
Walk 1: upper Montmartre
Walk 1 covers artists’ studios, paintings and places in the upper Montmartre area around the hill of Montmartre.
Wheelchair alternative route for walk 1 upper Montmartre
This is a variation of walk 1 for accompanied wheelchair users. It tries—as far as is possible—to avoid the worst of Montmartre’s gradients.
Skirting round steps and avoiding the steep inclines makes for a longer and less direct route.
You will find the dedicated directions and maps for this route on the wheelchair circuit page.
I am not disabled, so it is difficult for me to judge how appropriate the route I have traced is. Because Montmartre is hilly and the roads are cobbled, I would say that non-motorised wheelchair users would have to be accompanied by someone strong enough to be able push uphill. I hope that the wheelchair route is a viable alternative.
Walk 2: lower Montmartre – Pigalle
Walk 2 visits sites associated with artists in the lower Montmartre – Pigalle area.
The lower Montmartre – Pigalle route takes you to where Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked. It looks at their major works.
We then skip forward a generation to take in the 1920s Paris jazz scene because it happened here too.
Please see the main menu ‘Walk 2 Lower Montmartre – Pigalle‘ for much more on this circuit.
A note for wheelchair users on walk 2 lower Montmartre – Pigalle
Walk 2 is much less hilly than walk 1 and, I believe, can be followed by someone in a wheelchair if accompanied. There is one short detour— to avoid stairs—which I clearly indicate on the walk 2 map.
Points of interest on walk 1 the upper Montmartre circuit
Map for walk 1: upper Montmartre
Point 1 Chez Père Azon
‘Dad’ or ‘old man’ Azon’s place. A cheap café frequented by Picasso and his friends in the early 1900s. We can thank Père Azon and a small number of other café owners for being a part of the emergence of modern art in Montmartre.
Their sympathetic lack of business sense meant that the artists could meet, exchange ideas and pay when able. These proprietors with a relaxed commercial outlook on life were a key ingredient in the Montmartre mix. The Père Azon café is now a restaurant called the Relais de la Butte.
Point 2 The Bateau Lavoir – Picasso’s studio
It was in his studio at the rear of the Bateau Lavoir complex in 1907 that Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon). The picture is often considered by art historians to be modern art’s first painting. It remains one of his most famous and greatest works.
Point 3 Picasso’s first studio
He lived and worked here on his first visit to Paris in 1900. This site is just up the road from the more famous point 2 the Bateau Lavoir. Picasso came to Paris with his friend Casagemas for the Paris World Fair in 1900.
Point 4 The Moulin de la Galette
The Moulin de la Galette was a famous dancehall and garden at the time of the artists. It was painted many times. The most famous painting of them all is Renoir’s Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette (‘The Dance at the Moulin de la Galette’). This joyful work uses Impressionist techniques to capture the dappled summer feel and relaxed atmosphere of a Montmartre afternoon.
Point 5 Château des Brouillards
Misty Castle. Renoir lived and worked in the row of houses opposite Misty Castle in the 1890s. His son, Jean Renoir the film director, was born here in 1894.
Point 6 La Maison Rose
The Pink House. If you care to do an image search in Google for Montmartre you will see that this is one of the most photographed sights. It is not particularly famous for anything except perhaps for being pink, picturesque and photographed. The painter Maurice Utrillo painted it many times and I link to some of his works.
Point 7 The Montmartre vineyard
The Montmartre vineyard keeps the centuries-old Parisian winemaking tradition alive. The vineyard is at the centre of the annual Montmartre wine festival when the entire production for the year is sold at auction for charity.
Point 8 The Lapin Agile
The Agile Rabbit cabaret. This was a famous watering hole and Montmartre institution at the beginning of the 20th century with many writers, artists, musicians, actors and poets among its regular clientele. A famous Picasso painting could be seen through the smoke hanging on its back wall.
Point 9 The Montmartre Museum
The collection in the Museum evokes the Montmartre artists’ era through objects and reconstructions including a typical artist’s studio. It is worth a visit if you have the time.
Point 10 Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio
Point 11 Cité des Fusains
The drawing charcoal city or estate. The Cité des Fusains are custom built artists’ studios from 1900. The most famous artist to have had a studio here is André Derain. He was a resident from 1906 – 1910.
Point 12 Vincent and Theo van Gogh
Follow the sweeping left curve of Rue Lepic to number 54 where art dealer Theo van Gogh had his apartment. Vincent came to stay with Theo in 1886; he lived and worked here until early 1888. I look at some of Vincent’s Paris work.
Point 13 Studio 28
An independent cinema called the Studio 28, it was a meeting point for painters, writers and cinematographers and is associated with the Surrealist movement.
Point 14 Rue des Abbesses
Rue des Abbesses is a lively Montmartre street. At its end is the Abbesses métro station. Hector Guimard’s Art Nouveau entrance is one of only three remaining original métro constructions in Paris. Abbesses métro station is the start and finishing point of the walk.
Length of the upper Montmartre walk
Walk 1, upper Montmartre is 2.7 kilometres or 1.67 miles long. The route traces roughly a figure of eight. All of the important artistic sites of upper Montmartre are covered. Allow about a couple of hours to complete the circuit.
Half of the points visited are now private residences or workplaces and cannot be visited. Please be discreet when taking photographs and not disturb the people who live or work there.
The numbered sites on the tour that can be visited are:
- Point 1 Père Azon – Le Relais de la Butte, a restaurant
- Point 4 Le Moulin de la Galette, a restaurant
- Point 6 La Maison Rose, a restaurant
- Point 8 Le Lapin Agile, a cabaret
- Point 9 The Montmartre Museum
- Point 13 Studio 28, a cinema
- Point 14 Métro Abbesses, the Art Nouveau public entrance to the Paris Métro Line 12
The upper Montmartre circuit is hilly with some steep sections and cobbles
The walk involves some climbing and there are some short steep sections. Most of the route is over cobbles. The combination of gradient and cobbles make it more challenging than its 2.7 kilometres or 1.67 mile length would suggest. No matter which way you approach it Montmartre remains hilly and involves an effort.
Some more detailed contextual information about points on the route
The upper Montmartre circuit can be approached just as a pleasant walk featuring interesting and picturesque sites.
Those of you interested in history and art history can browse the more detailed contextual information that I have put together. These include: influences on Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon; the Salon system; the Commune and the History and culture of Montmartre.
Most of this more detailed material reflects conventional views from authoritative sources. I do also throw in some personal interpretation. I hope the tour will make you want to find out more about the artists who lived, worked, found inspiration and walked through Montmartre.
Getting to Montmartre and the start of the walks
Both walks start at the Abbesses métro which is the best station for getting to Montmartre
Because of its hilly location and narrow streets, it is difficult to get to Montmartre with public transport.
Both walks start at the Abbesses métro stop but walk 1, the upper Montmartre circuit, uses the Abbesses métro in the Place des Abbesses, Montmartre on métro Line 12 as its starting and finishing point.
Line 12 runs from Issy-les-Moulineaux in the south-western suburbs of Paris to Aubervilliers Front Populaire in the north-east.
You can join this line and get to the Abbesses stop directly from for example: Montparnasse Station, Place Concorde, the Madeleine or Saint-Lazare Station. If you are joining Line 12 at any of these stations then you would look for the platform with trains heading north in the Aubervilliers direction.
Emerging from the Abbesses métro straight into the busy Rue des Abbesses is one of the best ways to immediately catch the feel of contemporary Montmartre.
Take the bus if you don’t want to be in the métro – Line 80
If you do not want to spend time underground in the Paris Métro and prefer to take the bus, then you can. I describe accessing the walk by bus in the wheelchair route page. The bus you need is the Number 80.
Getting off where I describe (with maps) on the disabled access page then means that you would walk along the length of Rue des Abbesses until you reach the abbesses métro.
Please see the relevant section of the wheelchair route for more details on the Number 80 bus.
Getting the lift at the Abbesses métro station
The hill of Montmartre rises steeply to 130 metres or 427 feet. The elevation of central Paris is usually given as 35 metres or 115 feet above sea level. Climbing up to Montmartre, if you were to walk from the centre of Paris would thus mean gaining roughly 95 metres or 300 feet.
Abbesses métro station with its Art Nouveau entrance is the deepest on the Paris Métro system at 36 metres (118 feet). By using the lift here you immediately gain about a third of the climb.
So let’s leave the busy tunnels of the métro Line 12 behind us and emerge into the light of Place des Abbesses. Before we start the walk let’s get some perspective on the broad outlines of the history of Montmartre.
Find out how to view the site offline here.