If I were to recommend just one arrondissement to experience so as to enjoy the nostalgia of Paris of old, it would be Montmartre. Thanks to its smattering of cobbled lanes, an abundance of vintage architecture, and vibe that’s different from the rest of the French capital, Montmartre is a must-see during any trip to the city. And with that said, perhaps no other street in the 18th encapsulates the spirit of the district quite like that of rue Lepic.
After all, this Parisian road was once called ‘home’ by world-famous artist Vincent Van Gogh, together with his brother Theo. Not only this, but rue Lepic is the legendary birthplace of the Renault car and the location where many of the lost windmills of Paris once stood…
A brief history of rue Lepic
Wander along Rue Lepic today and you can expect to explore a sweeping street that curves from the top of the Butte Montmartre at Parc Jean-Baptiste Clément and right down the hill to a point where the road transforms into rue des Abbesses. Nowadays, the road is best-known for its steep incline and a fantastic selection of independent eateries, boutiques, and grocery shops. The nearest metro station in Blanche.
The first attestation of this Montmartre road dates back centuries when it was little more than a dirt track. in 1852, the road was named rue de l’Empereur, before being christened rue Lepic in 1864 for a general of the same name who was a French cavalry commander of the French Revolution.
Up and down, down and up: the cobbled lane of Rue Lepic snakes around many of the more important locations and attractions of the Montmartre arrondissement. Perhaps most notably, many a famous artist and writer have resided in the street over the years, including Vincent Van Gogh (at no. 55) and the painter Charles Léandre (at no. 59). Over time, the road has also been home to many a famous bar, café, and cabaret.
Perhaps most interestingly, it was also along this little Parisian street where Louis Renault (you know, like the car brand ‘RENAULT’) built his first car in 1898. The story goes that Renault made a bet with his friends that his little ‘Voiturette’ would not make it up the steep slope of rue Lepic. Luckily for Louis and the world, his car did, indeed, make it! And in managing this feat, Renault received 12 car orders, thus starting the world-famous car brand!
Things to see and do on rue Lepic
Perhaps one of the more surprising features of this Parisian street is the presence of two windmills. Relics of times gone by, once upon a time Montmartre would have been its own town surrounded by farmland. Since absorbed into the fabric of Paris, today just one of the lost Paris windmills can be spied from the roadside today.
However, worth noting is that many of the major moulins which once littered the landscape of the 18th arrondissement were to be found along the route rue Lepic now follows. For example, Moulin-Vieux once stood at No. 37 and was demolished in 1860, while the 17th-century Moulin de la Petite-Tour stood between 85 and 87.
For movie buffs, the French film Amélie likely needs no introduction. Largely set around the Montmartre and Canal Saint Martin area of the city, at No. 15, Rue Lepic you’ll soon discover the Café des 2 Moulins, where some of the major scenes of the movie were set.
Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Montmartre
If you fancy delving more into the fascinating story behind the 18th arrondissement of Paris, then this Montmartre walking tour comes complete with a map and couldn’t be easier to follow. Encompassing many of the most important attractions in the arrondissement, all you need is a smartphone and your comfiest shoes!
Go shopping along rue Lepic
Thanks to its position in Montmartre, there is still a myriad of independent shopping experiences to be had along this old road. Some stops you should add along the route include;
No. 26 L’Epicerie du Terroir – This independent deli stocks everything from spices to fleur-du-sel to biscuits baked the traditional way. Enter the shop at any given moment and you can expect to find the shop filled from floor to ceiling with all kinds of tasty and authentically French goodies!
No. 20 Fromagerie Lepic – For a true taste of French cuisine, it’s essential to taste the local cheese! Easily one of the best spots to stop and pick up some local fromage is at Fromagerie Lepic, which boasts no less than 100 varieties of cheese!