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Paris is a wonderful city, full of history and culture. It has some of the most famous sites in the world, but what I like most is about Paris is seeking out the unusual, the curious and less well known. Monmartre is full of character and mystery. It is worthwhile spending a full day in this area to get a glimpse of Paris of old. Montmartre`s hill, the butte was for centuries a rural village, littered with windmills grinding the capital`s flour. The low rents and picturesque charm soon found favour with the writers, artist and musicians of the 19th century, and with their arrival came the opening of the lively bars, raunchy cabarets and the sleazy brothels. The tourists arrived after Word War 1, flocking in their thousands on pilgrimages to Sacre-Coeur. Despite there being a notoriously seedy side to Montmartre around Pigalle, the winding streets and picturesque squares have helped the area keep its village atmosphere and charm. Marvel at the wonderful, whimsical frescoes as you climb the precipitous steps from the platform of Metro Abbesses on your arrival in Montmartre. The station exits to the tranquil Place de Abbesses which is dominated by the swirling mass of pale green ironwork and glass of the art nouveau station entrance. In winter the square comes to life with a Christmas market, the air filled with the smell of crepes and chestnuts being roasted on open fires. The lively boulevard de Rochecheouart is the starting point for the long hike to the summit of the butte with its masses of tourists, before joining them, take a couple of minutes to find no 84. Now a tacky tourist shop, the plaque on the wall shows it once housed the infamous Le Chat Noir, Rodolphe Sasis` Cabaret. Just a few doors away is the crumbling facade of the Theatre Ellsee-Montmartre where the famous can-can dancer, La Goule made her debut before defecting to the Moulin Rouge further down the boulevard. Lined with shops selling fabric and clothes the rue de Steinkerque is where a young Pablo Picasso once frequented its brothels, as you near the top the gleaming white Basilica of Sacre-Coeur dominate the skyline of the butte. Beware this area is frequented by hustlers and street traders eager to relieve tourists of their hard earned cash. One of my favourite experiences in Paris is to climb the steps to the basilica, stopping off on one of the inviting wooden benches in the midst of the immaculate lawns bordered by hedges, and picnic on some lovely fresh baked baguette with "fromage" purchased from one of the many bakers on your way to the butte. The views across the city are truly breathtaking. For the price of a single metro ticket the funicular will whisk you to the top where the 226 steps of the rue Foyatier make for a lovely photograph opportunity. Before leaving the butte other places of interest are the Musee de Montmartre, the districts oldest house takes visitors on a journey through its history, and the Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali, a permanent exhibition of sculptures and paintings by the surrealist artist. Finally a must visit is the famous place de Tertre, a square in the heart of Montmartre bustling with hordes of tourists, eager to have their portrait painted by one of the many undistinguished artists who also sell their tacky landscapes from stalls which are crammed around the square. Ensure you haggle for a better price before you sit for a portrait. The square became popular in the 19th century as an exhibition place, but standards have dropped over the years. The cafes that line the square cater for the tourists and while they may be pricey, it is the atmosphere that is attraction rather than the cusine. Descend the butte via the Montmartre vineyard, set in picturesque grounds and planted in the 1930s it is a reminder that once the area was covered in vines. The vineyard produces approximately 700 bottles of wine each year. The wine can be sampled at the bistro La Mere Catherine, found in corner of place de Tertre. It is not however considered to be anything special. The Au Lapin Agile stands at the foot of the vineyard, once favoured by writers and artists including Picasso, it`s now a traditional style cafe by day and turns in to a dancehall in the evenings. Leaving the hill climbing behind, wander through the many busy and vibrant streets of Montmartre, the whole area is awash with cafes and bars, squares and statues, too many to mention. A lot of the fun of this area is getting a map and finding your own favourite cafe or place to visit or place to sit and watch Paris go by. Probably one of the most renowned sites of Montmartre is the Moulin Rouge. Constructed in 1885 the "red windmill" was converted into a dance hall in 1902 and soon gained a reputation as the hottest show in Paris, it has now become a very expensive tourist show featuring scantily clad dancing chorus girls and has none of the finesse immortalised by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. Moulin de la Galette at No 79 rue Lepic a close neighbour of Moulin Rouge was also turned into a ballroom and features in Renoir`s painting Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Sandwiched between the two windmills is the quirky Cafe des deux Moulins an ideal place to finish your day with a cold beer, glass of wine or cafe au lait. Montmartre is ideal for anyone who likes to explore. It`s very hilly and steep in places and can be unsuitable for people with walking difficulties, electric buses run to the top of the butte for those who cannot manage the climb. If you visit Pigalle you need to be aware of the possibility of pickpockets and petty street crime. The sex shops and cinema`s which come alive in a blaze of neon in the evening are probably best avoided. Like wise some of the food bars can be of very poor standard but I suppose it`s the risqué element that attracts the tourist to" just have a look".
Montmarte is one of my Favourite Places in Paris and I wouldn't go to Paris and not go there for at least a few hours. I found that the best way to get there (and the most interesting!) is to get the Metro to Pigalle. When you come out of the Metro, look for the McDonalds and then, if you are facing McDonalds, go up the road which is to the left. Up that road you will find lots of arty little shops and, particularly at Christmas, you will find lots of street sellers. Then you can either catch the Furnicular up to the Sacre Couer or, if you're feeling energetic, there is a set of Steps that goes the same way as the Furnicular - But don't attempt that unless you are really fit!! When you get to the steps of the Sacre Couer you will be stunned by it's beauty - I would say that you shouldn't fall for the sellers outside the Church but go inside (if you can catch a Service, it's wonderful, even if you don't speak French!!). I know it's very touristy but I fully recommend getting your Picture drawn by one of the Sketch Artists - But be prepared to haggle!!! They will know you are a tourist, unless you speak perfect Parisian French, so they'll try to get the highest Price, but stick to your guns and don't pay more than you want to pay. If you go to the left of the Sacre Couer and around the corner you will find the little courtyard of Montmarte - Beautiful and if you go at the right time you can see the Artists at work since Montmarte has always been about the Artists!! There are some good little Restaurants and Cafes just off Montmarte - I would agree with the previous Reviewer that you should stick to Water or Wine as Coke or other soft drinks really cost a fortune!! Montmarte is one of the most beautiful places in Paris and I have found it at it's loveliest at Christmas.
Montmartre is literally like a mountain village in Paris. There are steep stairs leading up the hill, or you can take the windy road instead. The main feature of Montmatre is Sacre Coeur, a large church on the very top of the hill. It is huge, and very striking. Its surround by winding streets and a public garden. It can be reached by walking, or by the funicular railway that runs parralel to the garden. You can use a metro day ticket on this. It is the second highest point in paris after the eiffel tower, so there are great views around Paris. The central square at the very top of the hill is great for atmosphere. There are loads of artists selling their work, and lots of lovely resturants and bakerys. I had moules and chips for 10 euros. The only expensive thing is the drinks so just stick to wine or tap water. Things like coca cola are the worst! 6euros for one bottle! Theres also a nice museum of dali up here, and its only about 5 euro for a student to get in. In the day and night this area is so noisy and happening. All the outdoor terraces are heated and have canopies, so you can enjoy alfresco eating all year round! The area is full of artists, and is well known for being the home of the Moulin Rouge and other dance halls. In the old days all the prostitutes used to live here, and now the red light district has moved down the hill to Pigale. It isnt a really scary area at all, its full of tourists and the Moulin Rouge is all lit up at night. Montmartre has such a good atmosphere, everywhere there are small cafes with heated outdoor areas, packed with French people having a gossip after work. I loved spending a few hours in the evening in a bar with a bottle of wine people watching. The waiters come to your table, serve you quickly and bring the bill out to you, you dont even have to move. No annoying queueing for ages at the bar like in the UK. The bars also serve small meals, and you can get a lovely salad for about 8euros. In the day there are loads of nice bakerys, grocers and butchers open. You can get a great breakfast for about 3 euros. The coffee is amazing and so are the pastries. At night the area really comes alive, mainly with French people. Around the metro there are lots of dodgy looking people hanging around but they dont bother you. The only people who come asking for money, just talk in english to them and they leave you alone. Another great thing about this area is the musicians who come and play outside the bars. No one gives them any money, but its nice to have some live music. You can easily reach the area by metro, and the hotel we stayed in was lovely, even for a 2 star hotel. It was also quiet which is a luxury in Montmartre! I really recommend staying in this area, as it has a good evening atmosphere, cheap hotels, and good metro links for all the main tourist areas. Around Sacre Coeur there are a lot of people hanging around, so be careful at night wondering around there. The best bit of my stay was just soaking up the atmosphere in the bars, and speaking french to the people sitting next to us and the waiters. Everyone there is so friendly.
Montmartre To the north of Paris this area of the city is artistically Parisian with just the right amount of tourist thrown in! Montmartre is quite steep and has a lot of steps to climb to get to and from it. You can either walk up the steps in front of the Sacre-Coeur and go across, walk up the many sets of steps going up and through Montmartre or take the 'Funiculaire de Montmartre' which is basically a short cable car ride but it gets you to the top of the hill easily. During our time in Paris we went to Montmartre twice it was that good. The first day we walked from our hotel and walked up the steps in front of Sacre-Coeur (taking lots of photos) and then across. The second day we went we took the metro so it got us part way up the hill and then took the 'Funiculaire de Montmartre' the rest of the way, which was a lot less tiring! In Montmartre there are lots of galleries, restaurants, cafes, gift shops and street artists. There are also a lot of tourists which made us feel more at home as we were very obviously tourists and didn't stick out as much here. The one gallery we went to in Montmartre was 'Espace Dali' which was a museum/gallery dedicated to the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. One of the best parts about this place was the air conditioning as in July in Paris it gets very hot! We found that the food here very tasty and went back to the same little bakery it was that good! As it is a touristy area we found that a lot of the staff in places could speak English (very big help!) or they could partially understand what you were asking for and didn't really mind you hadn't quite mastered the French language before your trip. Montmartre is a great place to go and our trip to Paris wouldn't have been the same without it. It was so good we went back there a few days later. There are some great photos to take in and around Montmartre of the buildings, people and the views. If you are even slightly interested in Parisian culture, art or good food you must visit!
Montmartre is well known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur, the hill stands 130 meter high overlooking Paris.