Montmartre and The Moulin Rouge

Montmartre is a section  of Paris that has set the scene in countless novels, numerous movies and thousands of paintings. Travelers visit Montmartre to see the panoramic view of  Paris from the church of the Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur), mix with the numerous artists at the Place du Tertre and for the show at  the Moulin RougeMontmartre and its attractions are world famous and worth seeing, but the area is somewhat Bohemian and frayed around the edges. In addition, the location is a little removed from the main attractions in Paris and, as a consequence, we would not recommend booking a hotel in Montmartre.

Montmartre and surrounding attractions

Montmartre
Montmartre

Montmartre

(located to the north of l’Opera Garnier.)

Our favorite approach to the area is to take the Metro to Abesses (Rue des Abbesses) and walk to the bottom of hill topped by Sacré Coeur.  If you are strapped for time or plan to ascend to the top of the dome of Sacré Coeur, take the funicular to the top. By the way, if you are a fan of Robert De Niro and the movie Ronin, this is the location of  the café where the movie starts and ends.

The Sacré Coeur Basilica

Set on the bluff in Montmartre (Martyr’s Mound), this church, built by donations, is a well-known Parisian landmark. The Basilica was constructed in the late 19th century and completed early in the 20th century.  Its look  is characterized by several cupolas and dominated by its impressive central dome. The dome contains a spectacular bell, the Savoyarde, which weighs-in at close to 20 tons. The interior of  Sacré Coeur is beautiful and the altar mosaic is spectacular, but most come for the view of Paris from the dome of the Basilica. We usually settle for the “cheap seats” and take in the view from the terrace of the Basilica, which  is often crowded with sightseers.

Place du Tertre
Place du Tertre – Photo credit: Sorin Popovich

Local musicians can tell a tourist a mile away!  During a visit to Sacré Coeur, we were gazing at Paris from the steps in front of the church, enjoying the view. A wizened old fellow came around the corner, loaded up his accordion and serenaded us with “La Vie en Rose”. It was like a scene in a movie and it worked just fine!

Place du Tertre

Sacré Coeur is surrounded by the winding streets of Montmartre made famous by the writers and artists who once lived in this quixotic neighborhood.. The nearby Place du Tertre (place of the mound) is a fanciful little square filled with artists displaying their paintings and other artists who will gladly paint a portrait of you. Stop and have drink while soaking up some of the local ambiance. This is a fun place to visit.

The Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge

(Located on the border between Montmartre and Pigalle) 9th arrondissement (R) (Bal du Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy)

The Moulin Rouge (the Red Mill) has an interesting history, including being featured in paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec. The tickets for the performances are pricey and the densely packed audience consists, predominately, of tourists. The show is fun, lively, and if you want to see the “Can-Can” in Paris, this is the place to see it. Since April of 2004, the theater has been a no smoking zone. Tickets can be arranged at numerous locations around Paris, or you can make reservations at the official website of the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge continues to be a popular attraction, especially with the men in the audience who are stunned that their wife wanted them to attend a show featuring long-legged, bare breasted showgirls (actually, partial nudity is only a brief part of the show).   Tickets are fairly pricey for two drinks, uncomfortable seats and being wedged around a small table with people you don’t know. On the other hand, the Moulin Rouge is a Paris legend and the dancers are very good.

The neighborhood around the Moulin Rouge (the Pigalle) is “edgy” and full of strip clubs and peep shows, although it is usually crowded with tourists. Many of the clubs in this area,  have an unsavory reputation and several are known  for extorting excessive and unwarranted fees from anyone brave enough to enter.  If anyone on the street suggest that you buy them a drink – head the other direction.  We recommend that you limit your activities here to the Moulin Rouge.  Even so, exercise caution when leaving the show, as pickpockets, hustlers, and pimps abound.

Cabs may be hard to find when the show at the Moulin Rouge ends. You can catch the Metro at the Blanche Station, if your show lets out before the Metro shuts down around midnight (check the Metro  for current schedules).