Last Updated on 26th September 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
For a few select days each Autumn, visitors to the 18th arrondissement of Paris will be delighted to discover that you can actually visit the city’s most exclusive vineyard during the annual Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival. A unique way to experience the district, not to mention learn all about how the French vin is made, here’s your ultimate guide to everything you should know about the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre!
Fête des vendanges de Montmartre 2019 dates: Wednesday 9th – Sunday 13th October 2019
A history of the Fête des vendanges de Montmartre
The secret Parisian vineyard is hidden behind the Musée de Montmartre and close to the oh-so-famous Lapin Agile 19th-century Cabaret House. Once upon a time, Montmartre was a village outside of the city limits of Paris and was only actually absorbed into the fabric of the French capital itself until the mid-19th-century.
Prior to this time, the ‘French village’ was populated by many a windmill (just a few of which survive to this day) and plenty of farmland. Thanks to its rural nature, vines have been attested to have been grown on the Butte Montmartre since at least 944, and perhaps even earlier (though some records suggest that the first vines weren’t planted until the ecclesiastical women of the Abbey of Montmartre in the 12th-century).
Whatever the date, the rich history of the Clos Montmartre has undoubtedly contributed to the ‘village vibe’ the 18th arrondissement enjoys now. The vineyard you see today was actually created by the City of Paris in 1933 as a way of stopping real estate developers from purchasing the land. Prior to the creation of Clos Montmartre, the 0.15 hectares of land had been used as both a children’s playground and as a dumping ground, among other things.
Once created, the new green space was more than welcomed in a city which was quickly developing. The very first ‘Harvest Festival’ of Montmartre was held just one year later in 1934. With this being said, the newly planted vines had not yet produced any grapes! Nevertheless, the tradition has carried on for many a decade and regularly draws in crowds from Paris and beyond.
How to visit the Montmartre Grape Harvest festival
Unfortunately, the Montmartre vineyard remains closed for much of the year, allowing for the vines to thrive and the grapes to grow. With this being said, the nature of the wire railings surrounding the picturesque spot mean that the secret spot is still pretty visible, especially from the location right beside the entrance gate to the ‘clos’ (which itself features an ever so adorable miniature handle shaped like a wine bottle).
Known in French as the Fête des vendanges de Montmartre and organised by the Mairie (town hall) of the 18th arrondissement, the festival is now in its 86th edition and is well worth a visit if you’re in town when it occurs. During this time, parades take place and local people from all walks of life (schools, wine vendors, viticulturists, artists, and others) are invited to take part.
Since 1934, the Fête des vendanges de Montmartre has taken place annually during the second weekend of October. The event is free to visit. Typically, the weekend consists of plenty of different types of celebrations; during the course of three days, there are talks, dances, concerts, and guided walks.
There’s even an impressive fireworks display during the Festival (usually on the Saturday night), as well as a ‘Not Getting Married Ceremony/ Ball’ (which typically takes place on Sunday). Visit the Grape Harvest of Montmartre today and you’ll be frequenting one of the most visited events in Paris, third only to the Paris-Plage and the Nuit Blanche. All in all, some 400,000 people enjoy the Fête des vendanges de Montmartre each year.