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 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. 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’. 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.
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…
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.
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).
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.