Follow the Footsteps of the Artists in Montmartre
Montmartre is a hill and the name of an area of Paris situated 3.2 kilometres (about two miles) to the north of the city centre.
Montmartre is famous for its artistic heritage and a distinctive village atmosphere characterised by steep, winding, cobbled streets. It is crowned by the white Sacré Coeur church which sits on its highest point. The area in front of the Sacré Coeur offers extensive views of Paris.
The Montmartre walking tour ‘In the Footsteps of the Artists’ guides you round those streets to artists’ studios, homes and canteens.
Visiting Montmartre is now often seen as one of the top ten things to do on the Paris tourist trail. The best way to see it is on foot. If you wish to blend walking and sightseeing with history and art then read on.
The Montmartre area is about 3.2 kilometres (about two miles) to the north of Central Paris
Aim of the walk
The aim of this walk is to retrace the footsteps of the artists who once lived here. These include Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and Picasso. You will be walking where they walked, seeing their workplaces and homes, perhaps stopping where they ate and drank.
Many people simply follow the crowds when they wander around Montmartre. By guiding you to specific sites, I hope that the convergence of place, artist and associated works of art, plus a little creative imagination from you when you follow in their footsteps, will mean that you get a better understanding of the artistic legacy of Montmartre. I aim to intensify and personalise your experience of being in Montmartre.
Wheelchair alternative route round artists’ sites in Montmartre
I have also produced another route for people in wheelchairs. It tries, as much as is possible, to go around the worst of Montmartre’s important gradients. Skirting round steps and avoiding the worst of the inclines however makes for a longer and less direct route.
I am not disabled, so it is difficult for me to judge how appropriate this route is for somebody in a wheelchair, accompanied by someone pushing a wheelchair. My hope is that it is a viable alternative to following the normal access route.
You will find the directions and maps for the wheelchair route on the disabled route page.
Find out how to view the site offline here.
The Montmartre walking tour ‘In the Footsteps of the Artists’
The walk is 2.7 kilometres or 1.67 miles long. The route traces roughly a figure of eight with one or two short diversions. I believe all of the important artistic sites of the hill of Montmartre (not including the Pigalle area) are covered. It will take about a couple of hours or more if you take your time.
The lower Montmartre – Pigalle route (which is walk two on the main menu) takes you to where Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked, looks at their major works and also takes in the 1920s Paris jazz scene on the way.
Half of the sites on this the upper Montmartre walk are now private residences or workplaces and cannot be visited. Please be discrete when taking photographs and do not disturb the current residents.
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 route is hilly with some steep sections and cobbles
The walk does involve some climbing and there are some short but relatively steep sections. Most of the route is over cobbles. The combination of inclines and cobbles makes 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 circuit can be approached just as a pleasant walk featuring interesting and picturesque sites. You can also browse some of the more detailed contextual information that I have gathered together.
I have considered it appropriate, for example, to look in more detail at: influences on Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon; the Commune; the tension between the Salon system which dominated French art for many years and the modernising reaction of artistic movements of the late 19th century and early 20th century. I’ve used a mixture of homegrown infographics and text to, hopefully, facilitate understanding of these more complex sections.
Most of this more detailed subject matter simply 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 and walked in Montmartre.
The best métro for getting straight to Montmartre
Because of its hilly location and narrow streets, it is difficult to get to Montmartre with public transport. This walk uses the Abbesses Métro stop 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 without changing trains at 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 lively 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 alternative wheelchair route page. The bus 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 Métro Abbesses. Métro Abbesses is the start/finish of the normal mobility walk. 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 Central Paris, would thus mean gaining roughly 95 metres or 300 feet.
As noted above the actual starting point for this walk is the Abbesses Métro, where the Art Nouveau entrance/exit to the métro is situated. This station 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 from central Paris level.
So let’s leave the busy tunnels of métro Line 12 behind us and emerge into the light of Place des Abbesses which is the start and finish of the normal access walk. Before we really get moving let’s get some perspective on the broad outlines of the history of Montmartre.