Last Updated on 14th September 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
If Paris is your favourite city, then Montmartre is the ultimate dream destination. Complete with a small town French vibe, endless cobbled lanes, and even its own vineyard, there’s certainly more to Montmartre than meets the eye. Here’s a quick guide to the best of hidden gems, secret spots in Montmartre.
Sinking House of Montmartre
First things first: some of Montmartre’s best gems are those which are hidden in plain sight. Head up the steps towards the Saré-Coeur and look to your right. The red brick building to create this clever optical illiusion will be clearly visible across the grassy lawn. Tilt your camera to the side and voilá– you’ve formed the sinking house of Montmartre!
Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet
Of all the places to see the Sacré-Coeur in Paris, the pretty square of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet is probably the best of the lot. Away from the crowds of Place du Tertre and steps away from the throng of tourists who are forever snapping photos of the world-famous Basilica, Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet is easily one of the best kept secrets of the 18th arrondissement.
Nestled in a tiny space behind the world-famous basilica, this green space is the site of a former windmill and was also home to a pub named ‘Tower of Solferino between 1853 and 1860. Today the green space is the perfect place to relax with friends, read a good book, or enjoy a picnic in the summer sun.
Château des Lys
Located a little further away from the beaten tourist track, Château des Lys is one of the few places in Montmartre, and indeed Paris, to have the name ‘château’. Only a few other places in Montmartre are named as ‘Châteaux’, with the most notable one being the still-functioning water behind the Sacré-Coeur.
Complete with its own turret, this ancient building has seen plenty of uses over the years; including as a dairy where cows were milked one side, and glasses of milk were sold to the public in the other side of the building. Today, the château functions as a libertine’s club.
If you’re looking for the ultimate secret location in Montmartre, then you simply must head to Clos Montmartre, the 18e arrondissement’s only surviving vineyard. Although the vines are closed to the public for much of the year, they can still easily be admired through the wrought iron fence which surrounds the sloping vineyard.
Tucked away just behind Musée de Montmartre, the vineyard produces 1500 half litre bottles annually and hosts an annual festival post-harvest which is open to the public. Although the wine produced may not be the finest in France, all profits from sales of the vin go towards local community projects.
La Folie Sandrin
In the heart of Montmartre, not far from where artists still tout their wares at Place du Tertre and tourists snap panoramic views of the Eiffel Tower, La Folie Sandrin lies somewhat obscured by towering hedges. Somewhere along Rue Norvins, no. 22 to be precise, some of the buildings here date all the way back to the 18th-century, i.e. pre French Revolution and give the area a French countryside feel.
In 1795, the mansion house was sold to a wine merchant. By 1806, the building was transformed into a centre for mental health. Today, La Folie Sandrin remains private property, though its stunning façade can still be admired from the roadside of Rue Norvins…
Go searching for the lost Parisian windmills
Once upon a time, before the city limits stretched this far away from the Seine, Montmartre was home to endless expanses of farmland and all the green space. Though it has since been absorbed into the fabric of Paris, small traces of Montmartre’s agricultural past remain to this day.
Two of these pieces of history can be seen in the form of Moulin de la Galette, two windmills which date back to the days when grain produced on nearby farms was ground in Montmartre. While one of the windmills has since been transformed into a popular restaurant, the other can only be spied through the trees.
Sure, you’ve heard that Montmartre has its own special museum, that of Musée de Montmartre. But did you know that tucked away, behind the museum (and included in the entry price of your ticket) there’s a hidden green oasis? The Renoir Gardens were named for the house’s former owner and are the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of busy 18e arrondissement life.
Get a little lost…
Of all the secret spots in Montmartre listed in this article, one of the very best things to do is simply to let your feet guide you and end up a little lost. After all, how else will you find some of the best secret spots in Montmartre and hidden attractions unless you go old-school, ditch the technology (read: Instagram and your phone) and head out with camera in one hand, curiosity in the other…
Otherwise, one of the most unusual things to do in Montmartre would be to take yourself on a free and self-guided walking tour of the district. This way, you’ll get to really enjoy the best of secret Montmartre just like a local. For those who wish to enjoy a more guided experience, this Romantic Paris Vintage Citroën 2CV Tour is one of the most romantic experiences to be had anywhere in the City of Love!
Cimetière du Calvaire
Truth be told, the oldest cemetery in Paris also happens to be the hardest to access! The smallest cemetery in the city is called Cimetière du Calvaire was once just outside the city walls and is the final resting place of the man for which the Bougainvillea flower is named as well as the family tomb of those who created Moulin de la Galette.
First constructed in the mid-19th-century, plenty of notable Montmartre residents have since been interred there. Elsewhere in the 18th arrondissement, the Cimetière du Calvaire is located in a churchyard close to the Sacreé Coeur and is only open to the public once a year, on the 1st of November (which is All Saints Day in France).
For one of the more unusual views of the Sacré-Coeur, take the time to meander along the ever so pretty rue Saint-Rustique. Often alleged to be the oldest street in Paris, this pedestrian-only lane connects a group of cafés to the road which runs alongside the Sacré-Coeur.
Rue Saint-Rustique is also said to date all the way back to the Middle Ages, meaning that one wander along this ancient road is guaranteed to feel as if you’re stepping back into Montmartre of old!
Birthplace of Renault Cars
If you’ve ever gone shopping for cars in Europe, or even if you’ve simply driven down any highway, you’ll likely be familiar with the French car brand ‘Renault’. What you may well not know is that the famous car brand was born quite by accident, and as a result of a bet, on rue Lepic in Montmartre.
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!
Villa des Platanes
Wander around Montmartre and its surrounds for long enough, and you’ll soon stumble upon plenty of quirky architecture, dead-end roads, and small cobbled passageways often referred to as ‘cité’s. One of the prettiest enclaves of them all is (sadly) closed to the public.
Unless that is, you manage to find a friendly resident to let you in! however, the beautiful mash-up of architectural styles that is Villa des Platanes can still be spotted from the roadside, not far from the Moulin Rouge. In another part of the district, Villa Leandre is all English-inspired art-deco houses and is easily one of the most beautiful streets in Paris.
Cimetière Saint Vincent
While everyone knows that Montmartre has a large cemetery named for it, a graveyard which now sleeps under a large iron bridge, what is less known is that there are several smaller cemeteries dotted throughout the 18e. One of these is the Saint Vincent Cemetery, a small graveyard with just 900 tombs.
One of the lesser-known hidden gems of Montmartre which also happens to be perfect for movie lovers is the cinema of Studio 28. Situated at 10 Rue Tholozé, this historic theatre has existed in some form or another since 1928. Today, the film screens unique and interesting movies.
Things to know before visiting the 18th arrondissement of Paris
If I could just give you one Paris travel tip, it would be that comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must! The district of Montmartre is filled with ups and downs, steps, and many cobbled lanes. As such, this is not the place to bring your high heels or those chic shoes you still need to break in!
While English is widely spoken, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language, French. Learning a few simple words like ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘sorry’ is a great place to start. In order to help you get by, I recommend bringing along a simple French Phrasebook like this one.
For those looking to explore the 18th area of Paris in further depth, you might consider actually staying there. Luxurious options include Maison Souquet and Hotel Particulier Montmartre, while more affordable places to stay can be found in the form of Timhotel Montmartre and Hotel Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur.
Finally, Paris, like much of mainland Europe, uses type C and E. This means that if you’re travelling from the US, Canada, the UK, and many other countries, then you’ll need to purchase a travel adaptor. This all in one adaptor contains USB ports and works with several different plugs.
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