Last Updated on 1st February 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
Situated in the very heart of Montmartre, one of the most famous squares of all of Paris is that of Place du Tertre, which is world-famous for its painters, cafés, and ambiance. Here’s a quick history of the Square, as well as how to visit and things to know before you go.
A history of Place du Tertre
The Montmartre square can be found a stone’s throw away from the Sacré-Coeur Basilica and dates all the way back to the 12th-century when the square lay at the very heart of the Benedictine Montmartre Abbey.
The ecclesiastical complex was established by King Louis VI in 1133 and thrived for centuries until the French Revolution at the end of the 18th-century. Place du Tertre itself was first opened to the public in 1635 as the central square for the village of Montmartre.
You see, despite what many people might think, the 18th arrondissement was not even a part of Paris itself. Instead, Montmartre was a separate village populated by windmills, vineyards, and farmland. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 19th-century that Montmartre was incorporated into the fabric of Paris itself.
From the moment the square was originally opened to the public during the 17th-century, artists, singers, and other performers would congregate in the central meeting place. After so many centuries as a cultural hub, perhaps this is why Place du Tertre remains so well-known for being an artistic centre to this day…
The artists of Place du Tertre
In spite of what you might think, it’s actually pretty hard to become a painter on Place du Tertre. There are a limited number of places, which are set by the local town hall. Each year, only five or six new spots to paint become available, which is when the artists’ in residence on the square move away or pass away.
In order to gain a permit to paint on the square, artists must submit a portfolio of their work and, if accepted and a place becomes available, they’ll be issued a card which proves they’re allowed to work on the square.
On Place du Tertre itself, there are small markings on the ground, around the central café terraces which dictate the 1 metre squared section that the artist is allowed to work from. It’s technically illegal for artists to work outside of this space in Montmartre, and artists caught doing so can face a fine. The section which is at the side of the square which is most passed by by tourists is known as the Champs Élysées and is the most coveted spot of the artists’ areas.
How to visit Place du Tertre
As one of the most popular places in Paris, it should come as no surprise that Place du Tertre is forever busy and bustling. As such, if you want to make the most of the Parisian square without the crowds, then you’ll want to visit earlier in the day and mid-week if possible.
Like many other famous tourist squares in Europe, the best places to shop and eat can be found a little way away from the central touristic spot, which in this case is Place du Tertre. In term of food offerings, much of Montmartre is incredibly touristic and so I would avoid most of the eateries.
With this being said, there are a few places I particularly love. GRENOUILLES is a crêperie just steps away from the Sacré-Coeur which sells piping hot galettes, as well as vin chaud during the colder months of the year. Meanwhile, for those looking to indulge in a more filling meal, Le Refuge des Fondus is a delightful fondue restaurant where they serve the wine out of baby bottles!