If you’re looking to get lost somewhere in search of your heart, Montmartre is just the place for it. Situated atop a hill in the 18th arrondisement of the City of Lights, Montmartre has a lot to offer to a wandering soul. It has been home to quite a few famous artists, including Picasso and Van Gogh, and still inspires artists and painters to this day.
Even though it has its share of major attractions such as its museums, the Moulin Rouge and others, the best experience I had in Montmartre was the early morning stroll I took through its enthralling streets.
The best time to start your exploration of the area would be at sunrise or soon after, when there aren’t many people or vehicles around, and you can take in the beauty of the cobbled streets, the beautiful architecture and the smell of fresh bread baking in the morning. It is important that you give yourself time to let everything in- the beauty of the structures, the melody of the early morning birdsong, the fresh morning air, and every little thing that makes you believe in magic.
You should remember that walking through Montmartre is like reading a fairy tale. You must do it at your own pace, and it’s no fun if you don’t let yourself get lost in the pages.
Here are some of the sights you should look out for on your stroll:
1) La Basilique du Sacre Coeur
You may want to begin by walking to La Basilique du Sacre Coeur, where you may be able to hear the morning prayers to add a bit of magic to your fairy tale. You can even catch a glimpse of the beautiful city without the crowds getting in your way from the basilica.
After you’ve marvelled at the beauty of the basilica and the city, you might want to switch on the navigation in your phone, but try not to use it so much. We are trying to get lost, after all! It’s best to decide on a comfortable radius to explore, then pick a direction and start walking.
2) The Apartment of one of Montmartre’s Celebrities
Montmartre has been home to many celebrities in the past, and it’s unlikely that you won’t stumble across one of their residences on your walk. Just keep an eye out for any apartments or memorials of the many famous people the place has inspired. You’ll be able to spot the apartments of Van Gogh and Dalida as well as Picasso’s first studio if you go west from the basilica, towards the Cimetiere de Montmartre .
3) A Quaint Windmill
The windmills were used to grind grains and crush fruit once upon a time, and have even caught the attention of artists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and others. If you get a chance to visit le Moulin de la Galette or le Moulin Radette, do not miss it! They’re both quite close to each-other and in the same direction as the previously mentioned apartments.
4) Montmartre’s Hard-Working Artists
In the morning hours, when the streets aren’t bustling with crowds and vehicles, you may be able to be just in time to see the first artists arrive at the Place du Tertre with their canvas and paints and set up their stands amidst the cafes and restaurants. You will also find a few enchanting views of the Sacre Coeur basilica from the Place du Tertre, so make sure you have your camera with you (or don’t, and enjoy a simple stroll and take in all the enchantic sights without any distractions)!
5) Some Utterly Beautiful Streets
Now these you’ll have to find by yourself, by turning into every random street you can see. Just remember the way to go back, or keep a map handy, and you won’t have to waste any time worrying about getting lost. I should be honest here, though- my lack of skill at map-reading is what led me to the most beautiful streets I’ve ever seen, so maybe it’ll help you too. It’s best to look at all the paths that go off the main roads, select a few of them and explore them to find your favourite tranquil streets and squares in Montmartre as you take a few hours in the morning to believe in magic!