Head away from the metro station of Anvers. Walk up and past the steps leading to the Sacré-Coeur. Avoid the crowds of Place du Tertre and continue through the cobbled lanes of Montmartre. Continue on your way right through until the fringes of the quirky district and you’ll stumble on an old castle looking building at the intersection where Rue Marcadet meets Rue du Mont Cenis. This is Château des Lys, an ancient edifice with over 300 years of history and one of the oldest buildings in all of Montmartre.
In search of hidden Châteaux in Montmartre: Château des Lys
For somewhere that’s so full of French history, it’s kind of surprising that Montmartre is a little lacking in the ‘château department’; in fact most of Paris proper is! But ever since passing the mysterious looking building on a little side street a little while ago, I’ve been intrigued as to its history. After all, it’s not every day you pass a turreted building in the heart of Montmartre.
Montmartre was once a hub of agriculture and farmland was abundant. Even in Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet, a park right behind where the Sacré-Coeur now stands, there was once a windmill. Château des Lys, built in 1771, is a prime example of a whole load of production which once took place in the 18e arrondissement of the city.
The building was first constructed as a mill for grinding products to be used in porcelain manufacturing. Located in Clignancourt (which was once a small village before it was engulfed by the ever-increasing Paris landscape), after the French Revolution, the building was transformed into a hotel and then a café known as La Tourelle. It was even once even used to sell fresh cows’ milk by the glass. The turret was painted a couple of times by famous French painter, Maurice Utrillo, in the early 1900s.
Once called the Donjon, it was then renamed the Don Juan, before its final name change and current title of Castle of the Lys. Although the Château is covered in graffiti and could do with a little bit of paint, today the turret part of the château is a historical classified monument. Every evening, the building functions as a Club for Swingers (or so I read- we obviously didn’t investigate for ourselves!)