This post was last updated on September 3, 2018.
A walking tour of Montmartre
I love Paris and I love movies, so spending an afternoon on a walking tour of Montmartre with Paris Movie Walks author, Michael Schuermann and his wife, Marlys, was a highlight of my trip. Montmartre is rich in character, history, scenic views, artists and charm. It has also been the setting for many movies.
Montmartre in the movies
As we walked through Montmartre’s winding streets and climbed its staircases, Michael pointed out notable film locations, famous landmarks and lesser-known interesting sites. Just to give a few examples of Montmartre’s prominence in the movies, blockbusters like The Bourne Identity, the very popular Amélie, and La Vie en Rose which garnered an Academy Award for Marion Cotillard for her portrayal of Edith Piaf, have filmed in this picturesque area of Paris. One of the most famous classics set in Montmartre, (although not actually filmed in there) is An American in Paris.
Our walk started up one of the often-filmed staircases of Montmartre toward Sacré-Coeur Basilica at the summit. Its distinctive Romano-Byzantine architecture has been captured in many films and the location provides stunning views. We looked over the rooftops of Montmartre viewing the Eiffel Tower in the distance, a familiar scene in movies such as The Bourne Identity. A short distance from there, we looked up Rue Paul-Albert where in French Kiss Meg Ryan is throwing away money given to her by Kevin Kline. This is a popular spot for film-loving tourists.
I’m a fan of French actress Audrey Tatou who captivated international audiences as the title character in Amélie. Much of the filming was done in Montmartre and I thought about how wonderful it would be to spend time at Café des Deux Moulins, the place where Amélie worked, and watch those characters interact. The scenes were filmed in the café, but the cigarette counter that was prominently displayed in the movie is no longer there. Nearby are other familiar places from the movie, such as the street market, Boucherie des Gourmets and Les Petits Mitrons. This was a real treat to see the location of one of my favorite French movies.
Our tour also took us to the front of a small cinema called Studio 28. In 1930, it was the scene of a scandal when Salvador Dali’s and Luis Bunuel’s L’age d’or was shown there, prompting protests that led to the banning of the film. Another theatre of note is Cine 13 which is run as a hobby by French filmmaker, Claude Lelouch, who still lives in the area. Montmartre also plays a prominent role in the Claude Lelouch film, A Man and a Woman, the movie that probably formed my earliest visions of a hot French romance.
There are so many locations for movie buffs to identify and enjoy during a walk through Montmartre — Forget Paris, Sabrina, Everyone Says I Love You, Funny Face, Kiss of the Dragon, and more. But our walk also gave us a glimpse of other historic and interesting attractions of Montmartre.
Most people have heard of the famous cabaret, Moulin Rouge and its red windmill. But of the 13 once functional windmills (moulins) that were built during the 16th century for processing grapes and grain, only two remain. We viewed the Moulin de la Galette, where working-class Parisians gathered for entertainment in the 19th century and Moulin Radet, which is now a restaurant.
A haven for writers and artists
Of course, Montmartre is well-known as a haven for writers, poets and artists, such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir who lived and worked on Rue Cortot in what is now the Musée de Montmartre. Nearby on Rue des Saules is the famous old cabaret, the Lapin Agile, which has often been painted by artists, including Picasso and Utrillo.
A striking and amusing work of art we saw was the sculpture of Le Passe-Muraille depicting a man’s head, arms and one leg protruding from a stone wall. It is based on author Marcel Aymé’s story Le Passe-Muraille or “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls.”
We stopped in front of the rebuilt Bateau-Lavoir, which provided lodging and studios for artists, such as Picasso and Modigliani, and enjoyed envisioning them living and working there.
In the Place du Tertre (Artists’ Square), surrounded by cafés, we saw artists painting portraits and landscapes. Although filled with tourists, the square still brings to mind a vision of the past when renowned French artists gathered there.
Vineyards of Montmartre
Vineyards were once plentiful in Montmartre, but now there is only one. Clos Montmartre is a lovely sight on the hillside on Rue Cortot. The grapes are auctioned off for charity during Fêtes des Vendanges, the annual harvest festival.
With still so much more to experience in Montmartre left for future visits, we said “au revoir” to our gracious hosts. We made our way to the Place des Abbesses, walking through its vibrant Christmas Market to the beautiful Abbesses Metro station, ending our lovely visit and walking tour of Montmartre.
I did the self guided version myself last year, bought the book and strolled around sans M n M themselves, highly recommended of course but no doubt not a patch on the real deal! Oscars all round I say!
The book is really well done, isn’t it? Very easy to follow the walks and find particular locations. I want to try more of them next time in Paris.
Pingback: Tweets that mention On Location in Montmartre » Traveling with Sweeney -- Topsy.com
Ahhhh, would just love to spend a bit more time in Paris. We only ever went for a weekend and it was quick hop around the usual sites and then to the horse racing. That bit was great! :). An alternative tour like this, I suspect would reveal much more than we’ve already seen.
When you get back to Paris, do check out some of Michael’s walks in the book. They’re great step-by-step instructions and provide a lot of behind the scenes kind of information.
It was our pleasure meeting you, Cathy and Randy. Jools, we would have loved to have brought you for a tour as well. Unfortunately, when you visited, we were away. Perhaps next time? Thanks for the kind post.
Thanks for being such a great guide and host!
I could not have asked for a better tour aroubd Montmartre. I can feel the atmosphere through your every word.
That is very nice of you to say, Inka. Thanks!
What a fun tour! Montmartre is such a special place, I loved living there
J’adore Monmartre! Excellent post Cathy.
Kent and I were just having a very deep (we are so deep, you know) conversation about what makes a place romantic. Montmartre feels uncommonly romantic, even in a city as romantic as Paris.
Oh, and I just made the connection that this tour was with Michael of Easy Hiker. How fun!
You guys really are very deep. That’s part of the reason I like you so much!
Of course, a lot about what makes a place romantic has to do with time even more than place, but I think Montmartre is probably high on everyone’s list of romantic places once they’ve been there.
Looks like a lovely place. I think a lot of the time like in this case taking alternative tours pays off.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Paris, your post makes me reminisce. 🙂
Glad I could bring back some memories — all very good ones, I hope! Thanks for the comment.
nice pictures 🙂 i really like Montmartre too.
Vineyard in Montmartre, gee I’m enlightened.Memories of exploring this area in 74 must have faded 🙂
Would be nice to get back there and spend the time to really explore everything you reveal Cathy>
Thanks, Jim. The vineyard was quite a surprise. It’s a very lovely spot.
Great trip! Amazing how many movies have been filmed in Paris! No wonder Michael and Marlys have a thriving business about Paris Movie Walks! Love the photos and hope to meet both of them one day as well!
This sounds cool – I can’t believe I’ve still never been to Paris.
Beautifully written article 🙂 It makes me long to be in Montmartre right now. Like I posted on your Facebook fan page, “Amelie” is my favorite movie set in Paris. I didn’t know that Café des Deux Moulins was a real place—I’ll have to check it out next time I make it to Paris.
Thanks very much, Michael! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the cafe was a real place, too. Do check it out next time you’re in Paris.
Loved reading this. Did you know there are over 250 “major” movies filmed each year in Paris – that says something about Paris!! Paris -Je T’Aime!
Glad you enjoyed the story, John — thanks! Yes, Paris is an awesome place for movie locations.
such a beautifull country and city
Monmarte is a great place to see, i fell in love with it the first time i was there
What a fabulous tour! It made me dream about movies and Paris…
I love Montmartre and always make sure I visit every time I’m in Paris – I love everything about it, the vineyards, the cobblestones, the feeling that I am somewhat in the old Paris… Did you go inside the Amelie Cafe? I ate there during my last visit and it was a lot of fun being surrounded with all the memorabilia and eager fans!
I agree that there is such a wonderful feeling of old Paris there. How fun that you ate at Café des Deux Moulins – I’ll have to do that next time!
Great post, Cathy! We have yet to go to France, but we just found out that we may be heading there in the fall, and I can’t wait! You did such a wonderful job painting a picture of Montmarte, and it’ll definitely be on the list if we end up there this September!
Thanks very much for your kind words, Adam. Hope you get to go there in September.
Moulin Rouge was the movie that put Montmartre in my map, but it was Amelie that obsessed me with it! I love Amelie!! I’m still to go to Montmartre, but when I go, I’ll pretty much do most of the things you did before and visit those iconic places I’ve seen in movies… plus much more! 🙂
Amélie is just such a wonderful movie – characters, story, and Montmartre! Hope you’ll have your Montmartre experience soon!
Exquisitely evocative post! Paris is fascinating indeed, and this post describes it well, felt like I was there. A while ago I wrote a similar article about Rome, which is also a huge set, anywhere you go it reminds you of a movie!
Angela, thanks very much for your kind comment. I’m going to check out your Rome article — another place I’ve yet to visit!
We had one of our most memorable meals in Montmartre. We were exploring and got caught in a storm. We jumped into the first cafe we could find and enjoyed platters of artisan cheese, freshly baked breads and cured meats. It was a truly Parisian experience!
Sounds like a lovely trip, Cathy! I absolutely loved Montmartre when I was in Paris. Isn’t it great when you have your own tour guide? I tend to learn so much more about a place that way.
Sounds like you had a fantastic day Cathy!
Well written article. You make it all sound so romantic – as Paris should be portrayed. Sounds like you had a lovely trip. And you own tour guide? Wow!! That must have been special.
Pingback: December in Paris | Traveling with Sweeney
Pingback: Introducing Mr. TWS | Traveling with Sweeney
Strangely I love walking in Montmartre alone, watch the tourists and locals while sitting in some cafe.
Nice post 🙂
Pingback: 3 Days in Paris: Best Things to Do | Traveling with Sweeney