Tourism Paris and Ile de France

Montmartre: the highest point of Paris and so much to see

It is the highest point of Paris: 130 meters. It is also one of the emblems of the French capital. You can find everything that makes the Paris of postcard: small streets, cafes ... All around the huge Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur, one of the most famous monuments of France. Discovery of the history of Montmartre and zoom on the places to see.


Montmartre is an old story



The Mount of Martyrs


Some say it was the mount of Mars, the god of war. Others say that it was the mount of martyrs because it is there that the head of Saint Denis, Saint Rustic and Eleuthero would have been cut off. Montmartre, it is especially a soul in the soul of Paris. Half artist, half rebellious, always ready to burst into flames. It is perhaps due to the fact that for a long time, we were far enough from the walls of the Capital to not be Parisian and close enough to allow Henri IV to bombard Paris. For our predecessors, Montmartre was the hill of the mills that prepared the flour that came in the morning to feed the enormous belly of Paris.


Les moulins de Montmartre au XVIIe siècle. Illustration choisie par : Jean Louis Prieur 1789. 

The mills of Montmartre in the 17th century. Illustration chosen by : Jean Louis Prieur 1789.



A village, a commune then... The Commune.


In 1790 Montmartre became a commune, it was also called Mont Marat when the French revolution decided that everything that would remind one a little bit of the "ci-devant" Christian religion, even a vague allusion to martyrs, would be removed. Back to the name Montmartre when the wind calms down and until Paris literally crunches the old commune of Montmartre which becomes the district of workers, artists and cabarets, including the famous Moulin de la galette. This is where the famous Paris Commune started, the revolution of 1871 that ended very badly for the insurgents. It is moreover by way of expiation of the Commune and to develop a new moral and religious order that one built all at the top of the hillock the famous basilica all white which one sees of so far and whose square became the appointment of the tourists and the lovers. It is necessary to say that Montmartre has a charm mad with these small streets which give him an air of province and the painters of the Place of the mound. It is in Montmartre that the first cabarets shows are installed in the XIXth century of which the famous "lapin agile".


Le Lapin agile. Cabaret de MontMartre. Photo choisie par : carte postale ancienne. 

The Agile Rabbit. Cabaret of MontMartre. Photo chosen by : old postcard.



The Parisian district of artists and workers.


Many personalities have lived in this district of the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Among them we can quote the famous "la Goulue", dancer of the Moulin-Rouge, Clémenceau, Dalida, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director of the fabulous destiny of Amélie Poulain), Michou... And the Sanson family. The most famous executioners of history are buried in the family vault in the Montmartre cemetery, including the famous Charles Henri Sanson, the executioner who operated the guillotine during the French Revolution and knocked off thousands of heads, including those of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Danton, Robespierre and so many others on the Place de la Révolution, which became Place de la Concorde.

Illustration choisie par : La goulue, montmartroise, sur la célèbre affiche du Moulin-rouge dessinée par Toulouse-Lautrec.

Illustration chosen by La goulue, montmartroise, on the famous poster of the Moulin-rouge drawn by Toulouse-Lautrec.



What to see in Montmartre ?



It's high and it's beautiful


It is the highest point of Paris. 130 meters of altitude. It's not so easy to go up to Montmartre, which proves that it's quite high. 222 steps if you take the stairs of the rue Foyatier. Less tiring if you take the funicular and get a nice view of Paris. Put in service in 1900, it can transport 1300 people per hour and per track. It worked with water, before passing to electricity. The lower station is located at the level of the places Saint Pierre and Suzanne Valadon. The high station is located at the place du Cardinal Dubois. It is necessary to count the price of a ticket of Parisian subway, that is to say 1,90 € in 2023, to print the funicular of Montmartre.



The Place du tertre and the streets around


La place du tertre à Montmartre avec ses peintres et ses cafés. Photo choisie par : Daboost /

The place du tertre in Montmartre with its painters and its cafés. Photo chosen by : Daboost /


The heart of Montmartre is the "Place du tertre", it takes its name from the mound that formed the top of the hill of Montmartre before the creation of the Basilica. Place of the gallows in the Middle Ages, of the planting of a tree of Liberty during the Revolution of 1848, of the storage of the guns of Paris in 1871, starting point of the Commune the same year, it is small (35 meters by 38) and one discovers there many painters and caricaturists. It is surrounded by small cafés. You have to take the rue Mont Cenis, the rue Norvins, the rue Bonne Franquette, the avenue Junot with its bourgeois houses, the rue des Saules is the street of the "Lapin agile" (which takes its name from a rabbit that used to drink) from the name of André Gill (the rabbit in Gill became the "Lapin agile"), a famous artist who drew the sign in 1880 Léo Férré, or Claude Nougaro went on stage there. Montmartre is also the district of the "Moulin de la Galette" at the corner of the street Lepic, the black cat and the famous Moulin Rouge (we will come back to this later).



The Cortot street and the poulbots.


At 6 rue Cortot, Erick Satie composed some of his famous pieces in 1890. 12 was inhabited by Renoir and by Francisque Poulbot (1879-1946), the famous cartoonist of Paris kids, the "Poulbots" are the cheeky children who were so present in the Paris of the past.

Gathered in bands, they did the 400 coups in the streets. They were hired for two pennies to carry a message (they were nicknamed the vas-y-dire) or to guard a horse. The most famous poulbot - even if the word Poulbot was born with the career of the cartoonist Poulbot nearly 50 years later - is Gavroche, who was discovered in "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo in 1862:


Gavroche représenté au XIXe siècle 

Gavroche represented in the 19th century


"This little being is happy. He doesn't eat every day and he goes to the show, if he wants to, every night. He has no shirt on his body, no shoes on his feet, no roof over his head; he is like the flies in the sky who have none of these things. He is from seven to thirteen years old, lives in gangs, beats the pavement, lodges in the open air, wears an old pair of his father's pants that go down lower than his heels, an old hat of some other father that goes down lower than his ears, a single strap in yellow selvedge, runs, watches, searches, loses time, (...) and has nothing bad in his heart. It is that he has in the soul a pearl, the innocence, and the pearls do not dissolve in the mud. As long as man is a child, God wants him to be innocent. If one were to ask the great and enormous city, "What is this?" it would answer, "This is my child.

It is for these kids of Paris, who were scouring Montmartre, a working-class district, and whom he represented and loved so much that Mr. Poulbot had a dispensary opened in 1923.



The Basilica of the Sacred Heart.


La basilique du Sacré-Coeur à Montmartre. Photo choisie par : 

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre. Photo chosen by :


It is quite recent in the history of Paris since it was opened in 1875, inaugurated in 1895 and completed in 1923. It was recently classified as a historical monument (2022). With a height of 85 meters at the top of the 5 domes (to be added to the 130 meters of the hillock, which makes this monument visible from afar in Paris), it was built after the debacle of 1871 with the consent of the National Assembly which authorized the construction (at the time the Church and the State was not yet separated) so that one could celebrate the Catholic worship there. In reality, it was built by the conservatives in reaction to the Paris Commune, on the very spot where this Revolution began. The national subscription that allowed the construction mobilized more than 10 million donors. Contested since its construction, it was almost stopped, became a theater, a people's house before being finished and dedicated to the Catholic cult for good. The interior is rather dark. One discovers there many statues. The "cul de four", the bottom of the basilica is quite spectacular with a representation of Christ all in mosaics (it is the largest mosaic in France). The visit is free, which is rare in Paris, do not miss it.

Its campanile, next to the Basilica, makes the biggest bell in France ring. Named "la savoyarde", it was cast in Annecy in 1895, is three meters in diameter and weighs 18,835 kg. Every year, more than 11 million tourists (but also pilgrims) pass by the Sacré-Coeur. It is the second most visited religious monument in Paris after Notre-Dame.



The cemetery of Montmartre


It covers 11 hectares. It is the 3rd largest cemetery in Paris. In this cemetery rest many personalities, including the singer Dalida (1933-1987), whose grave is regularly flowered, that of Michel Berger (1947-1992). We can also see the tomb of "Zdar" of the group Cassius, the cenotaph of Emile Zola (his ashes having been transferred to the Pantheon), the tombs of the painter Edgar Degas, the musician Hector BerliozSacha Guitry, Georges Feydau (the famous playwright), Téophile Gautier or the vault of the Sanson family, a dynasty of executioners who crossed the judicial history of Paris in the seventeenth and eighteenth century... The most famous, Charles Henri Sanson, was guillotined during the French Revolution. His son died of a work accident, slipping on the blood of the scaffold and falling to his death. The last member of the dynasty was fired because he was a gambler, lost a lot and ended up pawning the guillotine to gamble.




The Moulin Rouge


Le moulin rouge à Paris. Photo choisie par  Hermann Traub de Pixabay 

The moulin rouge in Paris. Photo chosen by Hermann Traub from Pixabay

It's the most famous Parisian cabaret. Paris has always loved parties! It's true that the atmosphere is much more polite today than it was 100 years ago when people came here to have a thrill by breaking the codes, drinking, laughing and offering themselves a bit of sensuality by seeing an ankle, a calf and sometimes even more thanks to the slit panties of the cancan dancers. We have always sung and danced, especially during the fairs. One sang one danced to celebrate the victories, the royal births also, these astonishing moments at the time of which one put barrels in bore with the crossroads while proposing to the Parisians to drink. In the 18th century, when the Regency shattered the shackles of the last years of King Louis XIV, people loved the balls at the Opera. People had a great time at masked balls, which allowed them to seduce anyone they wanted without worrying about the social position of the person they were after. This is the great strength of Paris at the time, a big city that allows anonymity and whose rebellious side is indulgent towards pleasure . The 19th century saw the birth of cabarets, where people sang, often against the power . At the end of the century, people started to dance on stage. Maupassant, Michelet, the greatest male talents come to get into trouble by watching the little Parisian girls dance, especially in Montmartre. Others live their lives there, like Toulouse Lautrec who paints the daily life at the Moulin Rouge while admiring this new dance that defies the bourgeois: the famous cancan. This dance was launched by Céleste Mogador at the Bal Mabille and successfully taken up by La Goulue (nicknamed that way because she drank the clients' drinks) and her colleagues at the Moulin Rouge to Offenbach's tunes. To learn more, here is the official website of the Moulin Rouge.



Montmartre is also

The Clos de Montmartre and its 2000 vines, at the corner of the rue des saules and the rue Saint Vincent, which give the only wine still made in Paris (rather bad, the vine being exposed to the north, but collector). Montmartre is also a place where artists are present, with the Maison Dali, 11 rue Poulbot, which presents more than 300 works of the famous Catalan painter. The Halle Saint Pierre, a former covered market built in 1868, is a place dedicated to art brut.



Going to the Sacred Heart:


The Basilica is located at 35 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75 018 Paris. There are cab ranks. The nearest parking is the "anvers" parking, 41 boulevard Rochechouart 75 009 Paris.

By subway

Anvers station (line 2) or Abbesses (line 12).

By bus

Lines 30, 31, 80, 85

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.