Discovering the Soul of Paris in Montmartre
If you are planning a Parisian getaway, there is so much to see and do. It is difficult to fit all of the glories, beauty, and wonder of Paris into just a single week or two. It often requires a much longer stay, or grabbing up opportunities that capture l’essence de Paris. To do that, you should start your exploring in charming Montmartre, a suburb of Paris that has captured the spirit of Paris for generations.
Flickr by: Pedro Szekely
In this part of Paris is where all the Eurostar passengers exit the Gare du Nord train station, right in the middle between the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissements and walk northwest a few blocks. Then do all of the following to experience a taste of the most popular attractions in this part of one of the world’s most famous cities.
La Moulin Rouge
The unmistakable windmill of the Moulin Rouge towers over the neighborhood as you walk away from the train station toward Montmartre. Evening shows, live performances, music, entertainment, drinks, and food are available only at night, so if you arrive early in the day, plan to circle back. You should also dress appropriately, as it is customary to dress well if you want to gain entrance to the Moulin Rouge. Essentially, very casual dress is not allowed.
Moulin Rouge offers three showtimes in the evening. Your best option is to arrive early for the dinner service and show, and then stay the night. Reservations are recommended, but reservations are not always easy to get. Le menu for each dinner service each day is posted outside of the entrance doors to Moulin Rouge. If there is something you do not want to eat that will be served, you can skip the dinner show that day, or wait for a day when the dinner menu is more to your tastes.
Brunch in Montmartre Central
A very popular tradition with Parisian residents and tourists alike is brunch in Montmartre. This event runs from Wednesday through Saturday, all year long. The only times that brunch during these days of the week is not served is on a holiday, or when the weather is particularly dreadful.
Most of the restaurants, bakeries, cafes, bistros, charcuteries, and patisseries in this neighborhood of Montmartre offer a selection of popular brunch items. Croissants, pastries, sausages, yogurt, fruit, eggs, coffee, tea, and a selection of other drinks can be purchased and eaten outdoors en plein air or inside, if seating is available.
Les Galleries Lafayette
Your next stop needs to be Les Galleries Lafayette. Similar to an American shopping mall, but much more upscale, you can tour several small artists’ galleries, dine in any of the little bistro shops, and explore the many boutiques that reside in the ancient walls of this building. You can literally spend an entire leisurely day here, shopping, eating, drinking, and becoming acquainted with some of Montmartre’s resident artists, just like Monet and Van Gogh once did.
Le Basilique de Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre
Another iconic place to visit while you are spending a few glorious days in Montmartre is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Just a few blocks behind the Moulin Rouge and smack in the middle of all of the little shops participating in the brunch tours occurring regularly, this ancient church is both a popular entertainment venue as well as a fully working church. Mass is held daily, but you will have to check the hours at which mass is held. Confessional times are also available if so desired. Otherwise, tour the church like everyone else, and marvel at the stained glass and beautiful architecture that has managed to survive for centuries.
The Best Times to Go
The rush of the tourist season occurs during summer “holidays,” or what Americans would refer to as summer vacation from school. For Europeans, this is generally June or August, so if possible, avoid traveling to Paris during the summer months. Things quiet down quite a bit after Mid-September, and pick up again in Mid-December. Christmas markets in Paris
Paris is absolutely beautiful in the fall and in the spring. You might want to plan your visit during April-early June, or September to late-November. Various festivals occur all year long, with many different seasonal food delicacies and treats.
Check with a travel agent to see what types of Parisian festivals or unique tourist attractions will be coming up or occurring during the days when you plan to visit. Then you can maximize your trip planning by learning how to fit the events and places you most want to see into your itinerary. Additionally, you can select a pre-planned itinerary that hits the high notes, and add on special events right before you leave for your trip, or when you arrive at your hotel in Paris.