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Montmartre is a lot more than just a hill

Montmartre, a 130 metre hill in the northern section of Paris, France is one of the best known attractions in the City of Light.

Crowned by the striking white-domed Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur and offering undoubtedly the best views in Paris (except from the top of the Eiffel Tower) Montmartre is part of the Right Bank in the city’s 18th arrondissement.

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The summit usually attracts big crowds of people who have either walked up more than 300 steps or taken the automatic funicular railway from the streets below.

As well as gathering around the Sacre-Coeur basilica, the crowds spill into the adjoining Place du Tertre, where portrait sketchers and caricaturists compete for space.

However, there are some wonderful experiences to be gained by leaving the crowds behind and simply wandering among the cobbled streets of one of the most historic and fascinating neighbourhoods of Paris.

Montmarte vineyard

We started in Barbes-Rochechouart, to the east of the base of Montmartre.

This is a vibrant shopping area and street market, which runs down to the famous Moulin Rouge club.

After meandering among the stalls and exploring both tiny shops and big discount stores alike, we headed for the Rue de Steinkerque, which we had been told was a quaint and lively shortcut to the terraced gardens and grassy slopes beneath the basilica.

The Rue certainly lived up to its reputation. Its shops were busy with locals, but there appeared to be few visitors.

We opted to walk to the top of the hill and went looking for the Rue Foyatier, one of the most famous street in Paris, where steps carry you directly to the summit.

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Have no doubt, Montemarte is steep and the ascent can be tough going.

But on the positive side, this is Paris – and even its stone steps are a work of art. These ones are lined by attractive lamps, handrails, trees and occasional seating.

Montemarte oozes history and many of the buildings are glorious. There are also lovely private gardens and the sight of grape vines growing on the slopes at Rue Saint-Vincent was intriguing.

Locals explained that the Clos Montmartre Vinyard still produces a few hundred litres of wine each year. Naturally, the drop is keenly sought after.

As we walked from the Sacre-Coeur through the Place du Terte, with its lines of modern artists, it was easy to visualise that the likes of Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh had either operated studios or worked in or around Montmartre.Sue in Paris

If ever there was a place to feed creativity and inspiration, this is it.

Avoiding the popular restaurants around the summit, we explored the older, church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, before heading back into the surrounding suburb – content that we had visited an outstanding attraction, but also experienced the Montmartre that many of the tourists never see.

About Ian Roberts (255 Articles)
Ian Roberts is a veteran Australian journalist, PR man and writer/reviewer on accommodation and travel. Over many decades, Ian has travelled widely reporting and recording his experiences. His newsy columns - including Memorable Destination - have gained a big following among people seeking suggestions and objective information about accommodation, travel and destinations world-wide. Along with wife, Sue and her camera, Ian has taken up a particular challenge to help budget conscious seniors 50 and upward with travel and accommodation ideas - including suggestions for holding family reunions. Readers in Ian's home city of Newcastle Australia may also be aware of his travel and accommodation column in a local newspaper.

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