Disabled alternative access to the Montmartre Artists’ Studios Circuit
The wheelchair circuit is indicated in blue. The reduced access circuit covers 9 out of the original 14 points. It includes the Montmartre funicular. © OpenStreetMap contributors, the Open Database Licence (ODbL).
Before starting the difficult Montmartre circuit
The first thing to make clear is that I do not have mobility challenges so this does not put me in an ideal position to recommend this route. I am trying to offer an adventurous alternative for seeing Montmartre for people in a wheelchair. I think that this circuit would only be possible with somebody pushing/helping you round and that that person would have to be physically fit. This means that the circuit I detail here is not appropriate for everyone.
The route is difficult, bumpy and still hilly despite my efforts. Including the funicular takes away the worst of the Montmartre hill but still leaves an unpleasant drag to the top and a number of challenging ups and downs along the way.
The circuit weaves around the many sets of stairs that block access and can discourage the disabled traveller in Montmartre. I have tried to smooth out the inclines as much as possible, however you cannot escape the fact that Montmartre is set on a hill.
Avoiding obstacles and gradients makes the circuit longer
Moving around those obstacles and backtracking means that the wheelchair route is considerably longer than the normal access route. The wheelchair route is some 4.15 kilometres or 2.57 miles whilst the normal access route, which includes steps and some short steep upward gradients and drops, comes in at 2.7 kilometres or 1.67 miles.
The other defining feature of Montmartre are the cobbles. You can avoid the cobbles in some places by staying on the tarmac pavements but elsewhere you will have to roll across sections of pavements which are also cobbled. In some parts these cobbles are rather large making for a very bumpy surface. Normal mobility walking is tiring and difficult and so if you are in a wheelchair be prepared for a rough ride at times.
As we progress round the Montmartre disabled alternative route, which I have shown on the maps in blue, I will indicate where the gradient is particularly steep. In order to avoid unnecessary repetition, I will also refer you to the relevant sections of the ‘upper Montmartre’ walk for the history of the place, the painters who worked there and some of the paintings associated with their residencies.
Details of each point of interest are given in the ‘upper Montmartre’ circuit
On arriving at a point of interest, I refer you to the relevant section in the normal access ‘upper Montmartre’ circuit. Once you have finished reading about that point I then take you back to the wheelchair route with a ‘return to the wheelchair route’ link. This process will be clearer as you go round from point to point.
Of the 14 points in the normal access walk, I aim for seeing 9 of those points with the restricted mobility route. The other 5 points would involve either an effort out of proportion with the interest of the point or mean difficult or dangerous gradients for wheelchairs.
In Paris if you are in a wheelchair you can forget about the métro system
The Paris Métro, with the exception of one line, is not accessible to the wheelchair user. The Abbesses Métro stop, which is the beginning and end point of the ‘In the Footsteps of the Artists’ normal mobility walk, is not accessible for wheelchair users. It is not possible to avoid steps.
In Paris you can almost forget about the métro if you are in a wheelchair. The Paris Métro system dates from the early 1900s; it is full of steep stairs and not enough effort has been made to modernise for disabled accessibility. The only métro line that is fully accessible for disabled wheelchair users is the Line 14 which is equipped with lifts from platform to surface.
More information about disabled facilities for tourists will be found in the disabled section of the Paris Tourist Office website. If you need to hire a wheelchair then the Paris Tourist Office has a list of companies offering that and other services.
Buses are better
Paris buses, on the other hand, claim to be 100% disabled friendly. Normally one space per bus is provided for wheelchair users. Make a sign to the driver and he will activate a ramp, normally from the middle exit door which allows easy access.
More details about disabled provision on Paris buses in this leaflet which is in French but also well-illustrated. This site gives insight into disabled travel in Paris from a disabled person’s point of view. Here is a general bus map of Paris and and here are the stops for the Number 80 bus which we will be using later to gain access to Montmartre.
Get a ‘carnet’ or book of 10 tickets
I’d advise you to buy a ‘carnet’ or bundle of ten tickets. You can get these at any machine in the métro system or from some larger bus termini. You can also get a carnet in a ‘tabac’ where cigarettes and cigars are sold in France. Tabacs are often situated in a café; on many streets you will see a red diamond sign that looks a little like a cigar. ‘Un carnet si’il vous plaît’ will get one (I mean the tickets not a cigar).
Having a carnet handy is much cheaper and easier than to be constantly stopping or queuing to pay the two euros if you buy as you go. Each ticket allows you one trip on buses, trams and the métro; they also work for the Montmartre Funicular. There may be reductions for people in a wheelchair but from what I can make out the person who is accompanying will have to pay the normal tariff.
Using the Number 80 bus
For the reduced mobility variant of the walk, I’ve decided to use the Number 80 bus line to get to Montmartre. It runs from Porte de Versailles on the southern limit of Paris, up to the Mayor’s Office in the 18th district, in which Montmartre is situated.
This 80 bus route will take you to the western extremity of the walk. The 80, by the way, is not a bad way to see some of the sights of Paris; it passes the Eiffel Tower and crosses the Champs Elysées. If you are interested in other scenic public transport bus lines in Paris then this site has a good round up. I assume that most users will be coming from Central Paris so the direction you are looking for is ‘Mairie du 18eme – Jules Joffrin’, which is the northbound service. The destination will be clearly indicated on the front of the bus.
Get off the Number 80 bus at at Damrémont – Caulaincourt
At the Number 80 bus stop
When you get the Number 80 bus in the northbound direction then the stop that you need to get off at is Damrémont – Caulaincourt. Get off the bus at this stop and turn right, stay on the same pavement. Start to walk and roll downhill.
Within 20 metres or so you will see a café to your left. On the other side of the road, diagonally opposite the café, the building that forms the angle of Rue Caulaincourt and Rue Tourlaque, was one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s studios. You will find out more about the paintings associated with this building in the Toulouse-Lautrec section.
If you have crossed over to take a closer look at Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio building, please now cross back over and stay on the same side of the street that you got off the bus. Continue down the wide Rue Caulaincourt which descends gently. On the opposite side you will see the Number 80 southbound bus stop which will take you back to Central Paris at the end of the walk. Buses heading to Central Paris are marked ‘Porte de Versailles’ as destination.
Visiting the van Goghs
Now take the first street on your left which is called Rue Joseph de Maistre. Continue along it for about 150 metres before turning sharply left at a restaurant called Le Basilic. You then turn left again into the curving and gently rising Rue Lepic.
Continue on Rue Lepic for about 50 metres until, on the opposite side of the street, you see the blue door of number 54. This is point 2 on the reduced mobility map. This was where Theo and Vincent van Gogh shared a studio from 1886 – 1888. Please see my van Gogh page. Note again this is a private residence and cannot be visited.
Head towards Métro Abbesses
Turn around and go back down Rue Lepic which soon merges with Rue des Abbesses. Rue des Abbesses is a lively street in the heart of Montmartre full of cafés and small businesses. Walk down Rue des Abbesses as far as the Métro Abbesses. This is point three on the blue route. The Métro is the beginning and end point for the ‘upper Montmartre’ walk and I describe it, Rue des Abbesses and the brick Art Nouveau St John the Evangelist Church on the Métro Abbesses and Rue des Abbesses page. You could look at that page now, but we will be coming back here at the end of the circuit, so I recommend you look at that section then.
Now head towards the railings of the little garden bordering Place des Abbesses, by the Art Nouveau Métro entrance.
Keeping these railings on your left, continue on into Rue la Vieuville. After about 100 metres this rises and turns sharply left. On its junction with Rue des Trois Frères turn left. Rue des Trois Frères inclines slowly upwards at a constant gentle gradient.
After about 200 metres at a constant incline, Rue des Trois Frères suddenly opens out to the right onto a pleasant, secluded square (Place Emile Goudeau). The square is dominated by a restaurant and its terrace; this is point 4. Point 4 is the artist’s canteen from Picasso’s time, which I describe on the Père Azon – Relais de la Butte page.
Heading towards the funicular
Having admired the square and perhaps even had some refreshment in the restaurant or on the terrace, turn around and go back the way you came gently downhill on the Rue des Trois Frères. We are now making towards the funicular railway which will hoist you to nearly the top of the Montmartre hill.
Rue des Trois Frères now sweeps right, continue to the junction with Rue Tardieu and turn left. Cross over Rue Chappe and continue on Rue Tardieu for about 100 metres. You will see the funicular railway to your left.
Moxie, who has done a tour of Montmartre in an electric wheelchair, describes the trip up the funicular in her interesting and well-illustrated A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Montmartre in Paris. The trip up the funicular is in the ‘Getting to Montmartre’ section. The ‘Montmartre Funicular’ section of Wheelchair Travel also confirms the fact that the line is wheelchair friendly.
Wheelchair friendly toilet cabins
There is an adapted disabled toilet cabin close to the funicular station and another one a further 100 metres along Place St Pierre. Place St Pierre is the continuation of Rue Tardieu. The toilet cabin is situated outside an attractive steel and glass arts centre building called the Halle St Pierre. Note that these appear to be the only wheelchair access toilet cabins in Montmartre.
The lower Montmartre Funicular station is situated is Place Susanne Valadon. Susanne Valadon was a model turned painter who sat for Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec and who, with her son, we will meet at the top of the hill a little later in the walk.
At the top of the funicular
Once you arrive at the top, turn left into Rue St Eleuthère. Both the pavement and the road surface are cobbles here but the road surface cobbles are a little smaller so, if safe, you may be more comfortable on the road. The cobbled Rue St Eleuthère rises and veers right, the gradient is moderate and the going will be more difficult because of the cobbles.
The Sacré Coeur Church and wheelchair access
The Sacré Coeur is not included in this tour but because it is so identified with Montmartre I have included it in the Montmartre introduction. Please see also my Commune page to get an idea about the circumstances of its construction in the shadow of the Paris Commune.
If you wish to visit the Sacré Coeur then you can in a wheelchair but the access is at the back of the church. Please see Moxie’s Guide to Visiting the Sacré Coeur and the Sage Travelling guide to Wheelchair Access to the Sacré Coeur for much more on this.
If you just wanted to take in the view from the area on front of the church, then you should turn first right off Rue St Eleuthère into Rue Azais. The view from the church is spectacular but the area is almost always crowded. Official figures publicised by the Paris Tourist Office put the number of visitors to the Sacré Coeur at 10 million for 2016.
Back on Rue St Eleuthère continue with some difficulty because of the steady rise and the cobbles to the top. Turn left and you arrive in another famous Montmartre tourist hot-spot: Place du Tertre. This is where the painters gather. Make your way through the massed ranks of official and unofficial artists towards Rue Norvins. Rue Norvins is on the right (top) side of the square, all of this section is cobbled but relatively flat.
On the right in Rue Norvins, at number 14 bis, you will see the Vieux Chalet Restaurant, a favourite watering hole for Montmartre artists in the early years of the 20th century.
Rue Norvins then right into Rue des Saules
Continue down Rue Norvins and after about 100 metres take the first street to your right which is Rue des Saules. Rue des Saules falls away with a moderate to fairly steep downhill gradient, again, unfortunately, it is cobbled both on the pavement and the road. Continue for about 50 metres until you see a road branching right, this is Rue Cortot.
The Montmartre Museum
Rue Cortot leads to the Montmartre Museum which is marked point 5. You may or may not wish to visit here. As you can see from the series of steps leading to the entrance on the photograph below, there is little provision for disabled access.
I asked about disabled access at the ticket office. I was told that if you announced yourself as disabled then somebody would come and open a side door. This, presumably, is the arched door to the left in the picture. You would then have access to the temporary exhibition space and the garden but not the main museum.
The price of entry was, at the time of asking, (August 2018), 8.50 € for disabled and 12 € for normal access. Personally, in the case of the disabled admission price, I find this expensive for a museum that has not made the effort to facilitate access and for what you will see. The access up Rue Cortot is picturesque but a fairly difficult 50 metres as it is steep and narrow with no escape from cobbles.
La Maison Rose (the Pink House)
Return down Rue Cortot and cross over Rue des Saules. Opposite you is the Maison Rose or Pink House which was painted by Susanne Valadon’s son Maurice Utrillo.
Rue des Saules is steep, I advise not to go any further than the Pink House
You now have a decision to make: the decision is whether you turn right and go down the lower half of Rue des Saules. The lower section of Rue des Saules is steep and cobbled. On the normal access route you go down here in order to view points 7, The Clos Montmartre (Montmartre Vineyard) and 8, the Lapin Agile cabaret. The map does not indicate these destinations, instead I guide you towards Rue de l’Abreuvoir.
Rue de l’Abreuvoir
If you follow the blue route, then we now take the Rue de l’Abreuvoir (by point 6 the Maison Rose) which, if you roll along the road rather than the pavement, is relatively smooth concrete and a welcome break from the shuddering cobbles.
Rue de l’Abreuvoir falls away at a steady moderate gradient. In case of traffic on the road you can easily get back onto the pavement, as, for most of its length, there are no pavement curbs on the street.
Place Dalida and Moulin de la Galette
Roll down Rue de l’Abreuvoir until you reach a sharp left bend. The gentle gaze of the bronze bust of Dalida welcomes us to Place Dalida. Dalida was a popular French singer who lived in Montmartre for many years. Later in the walk we will pass her house.
Behind the bust is the Château des Brouillards, point 7 on the blue wheelchair route. To the right, at number six of the row of houses opposite the mansion, was one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Montmartre residences. This is the birthplace of his son Jean, who later became a film director.
Continue round the sweeping left-hand bend as Rue de l’Abreuvoir becomes Rue Girardon and yes, unfortunately, you have to go uphill for about 100 metres and over some cobbles; most of these can be avoided, if you take the left-hand pavement going uphill. The gradient is slight to moderate in places. You arrive at the summit and then continue straight on and downhill for another 30 metres. You now arrive at point 8 which is the Moulin de la Galette. I describe the site of the Moulin de la Galette and the surrounding park here.
Diagonally opposite The Moulin de la Galette you will see a small alley running back from the main street. The main street is called Rue Lepic and the alley is called Rue d’Orchampt. The entrance to Rue d’Orchampt is a little difficult to see but, as you look from the Moulin de la Galette, it is just to the left of a restaurant called the Coq Rico. Cross over Rue Lepic and take Rue d’Orchampt.
From the Moulin de la Galette to the Bateau Lavoir
Dalida’s distinctive house
Head down Rue d’Orchampt, which is no more than an alley for about 20 metres, you cannot avoid the cobbles here; there are no pavements. After 20 metres the alley comes to an elbow and takes a sharp left and Rue d’Orchampt opens out. At this point look right to see Dalida’s house which is one of the first places her many legions of French fans make for in Montmartre. The plaque on the wall says: ‘Dalida lived in this house from 1962 to 1987. Her Montmartre friends will never forget her.’
Continue down Rue d’Orchampt which inclines only slightly downhill but has cobbles on both the pavements and the road. At the end of the street, near where it joins Rue Ravignan, you will see some artists studios with their characteristic extensive panel windows; this is the side of the famous Bateau Lavoir building.
Picasso and the Demoiselles d’Avignon
At the corner with Rue Ravignan turn right. The street suddenly becomes steep, falling sharply away for about 20 metres. You will see a shaded square on front of you planted with horse chestnut trees, this is Place Emile Goudeau.
The building to the right (point 9), is a reconstruction of the Bateau Lavoir artists’ studios. The Bateau Lavoir is chiefly famous for being the place where Pablo Picasso ‘invented’ modern art in 1907 with his breakthrough painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon).
The Demoiselles d’Avignon page will give you some insight on artistic influences on the painting and Picasso and there is a short general survey of most of the artists featured in the walk on the Salon page.
Picasso, when he first came to Paris in 1900, had another small studio where he stayed and worked for a few months. Please see the Picasso’s first studio page. This is point 3 on the normal access route at the top of Rue Ravignan. The building is not too far away but Rue Ravignan is extremely steep and so I do not advise a visit here. I now guide you back the way you came via Rue Orchampt.
Now head back to the junction with Rue Lepic where you emerge just opposite the Moulin de la Galette. This is the route that the young Picasso would have probably followed when he was working on his Moulin de la Galette painting in 1900.
Turn left down Rue Lepic
We now turn sharp left opposite the Moulin de la Galette and start dropping. From this point onward the route is all downhill, (I mean the geography not that there is nothing more to see; there is!), just be careful, some parts of this section of Rue Lepic are moderately steep. We continue past what would have been the Moulin de la Galette complex and the ‘Blute-Fin’ windmill, dating from the 18th century. The Moulin de la Galette, in common with other ‘bals’ or dance venues of the time, consisted of a dancehall and a park/promenade area.
It is a particular moment of happiness, in the park area just above you, that Renoir has caught with his famous ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’ (‘the Dance at the Moulin de la Galette’) of 1876.
Escape route back to Paris with the bus
About two-thirds of the way down Rue Lepic, (see above map), if you are tired or have had enough of Montmartre, you can take a shortcut to get the Number 80 bus back to Paris. You would simply turn sharp right into Rue Tourlaque. Rue Tourlaque is steep downhill so be careful. Cross over onto the same side as point 1 Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio and roll down Rue Caulaincourt about 100 metres. You are now on the correct side for the southbound service to Central Paris.
Still want to see some more? Ok c’mon we’re off to the café.
Rue des Abbesses
Carry on all the way down Rue Lepic, following the left turning curve. Pass the blue doors of the van Goghs’ apartment,54 Rue Lepic, (which we already saw earlier in the circuit at point 2). Roll right down to Rue des Abbesses once more and take a well-earned break.
I recommend a couple of cafés that I have been to in the Rue des Abbesses and which I liked, these are: Le Village which is pretty small for a wheelchair and only has a tiny non-adapted toilet and the St Jean which is bigger with a large terrace.
La Mascotte specialises in seafood and has a fine dining area. This is more an upmarket restaurant but does feature a bar where you can get a normal café service. The few times I’ve been to these places I’ve found them to be friendly and good. There is a mixture of tourists and locals. All are liable to get crowded around lunchtime as the French go to the café for déjeuner (lunch).
Le Sancerre at 33 Rue des Abbesses and Le Vrai Paris at 35 are, according to this guide (in French), both wheelchair accessible.
I describe the Art Nouveau entrance to the Abbesses Métro and the St Jean l’Evangeliste Church just opposite the Abbesses Métro in the Rue des Abbesses page.
Follow on with my ‘lower Montmartre – Pigalle’ circuit
Now having refreshed yourself, if you are very enthusiastic or very fit and if you still have the energy, you could follow this walk with my second ‘lower Montmartre – Pigalle’ circuit. It is much more wheelchair friendly and, apart from one short detour, follows exactly the same route as the walking tour. See what you think.
Return to Rue Caulaincourt and the Number 80 bus back to Central Paris
I hope that you have been able to follow this route and that it has made Montmartre accessible for you. I have tried my best to scout out a circuit that will allow you to see as much as possible of the ‘upper Montmartre’ route whilst smoothing out the worst of the gradients. Montmartre is hilly and there is no way of getting away from the cobbles. Montmartre, however, is worth the effort and I hope that this route has deepened your experience of being here.
Return to Rue Caulaincourt and the Number 80 bus back to Central Paris.
We now retrace the way we came down Rue des Abbesses, this time going straight on to Rue Joseph de Maistre in order to pick up the Number 80 bus again. Go to the end of Rue Joseph de Maistre, turn right, and then cross over Rue Caulaincourt. As indicated on the above map, you will now pick up the bus at the stop Damrémont – Caulaincourt. This time most of you will be heading south in the direction of ‘Porte de Versailles’ and Central Paris.
If you are heading north then you would not cross Rue Caulaincourt, just head up to the stop where you got off at the very start of this tour.
If you have not been able to complete the whole circuit, then I hope that you have been able to follow at least a part of the route. By using the contact page you can let me know how you got on, if you care to. I’d be interested to know if you had any particular difficulties with the circuit.
I wish you well and I hope that you had a good time in Montmartre.