Montmartre

Paris always seems to be inexorably associated with romance. Personally I struggle to view Paris as a romantic city in its entirety. It is a huge metropolis and, like so many others, full of stressed people going about their daily lives in a rush. The Parisians hardly have a reputation for friendliness either which rather takes the gloss off things. There is, however, one portion of the city that screams charm and romance. Montmartre transcends the urban sprawl and stands proudly above the rest of the city almost looking down in disdain.

 

You can reach Montmartre via the metro system and you should disembark and Anvers station. Unfortunately you then have to negotiate the rather unpleasant streets in the vicinity of the station heading north towards the foot of the hill. The area is packed with tacky shops selling cheap imports so don’t expect the Gucci chic and fine Eberjey lingerie of the Champs-Élysées here. Happily you are just a few hundred yards from the haven that is Montmartre which you can reach by either taking the funicular railway for which there is a charge, or braving the steps up the hill.

Arriving in front of the Sacre Coeur is like having an epiphany. The tacky streets are long gone and the majestic façade of the Basilica rises up before you with its curiously oriental appearance. The interior is actually a little underwhelming and the real glory of this iconic building is its exterior design and its glorious elevated location. From the terrace in front of the basilica there are wonderful views over the city but for the best panorama take a walk to the west where you can stand and survey the whole of Paris with the Eifel tower dominating the horizon. It is from here that you get the best view of the tower especially at night when the lights make for a striking vista.

The highlight of any visit to Montmartre is the Place du Tertre, a gorgeous square where artists gather day and night painting and displaying their works. There is a village atmosphere here quite removed from the rest of the city and there is an elegant and yet slightly bohemian feel. The square is surrounded by many pleasant bars and restaurants but the location comes at a price so be prepared to pay dear for that coffee! Here you can really feel the romance. It is a small part of a large city which will draw you in and beg you to return.

On returning to street level after your sojourn on Montmartre you may wish to take advantage of being in the area and take walk down to the legendary Moulin Rouge cabaret club. You will be traversing the red light district and so some of the merchandise in the shop windows is quite interesting! There is a buzz around the Moulin Rouge at night with the club itself adding a striking splash of colour to the already vibrant street.

 

Montmartre is like a pretty oasis in an otherwise rather down at heel region of Paris. No trip to the city would be complete without a pilgrimage up the hill and it is well worth enduring the unpleasant streets below in order to get there. Be prepared for crowds though, the beauty of Montmartre is anything but a secret and you won’t have the place to yourself.