Centuries ago, Montmartre was a quiet, rural village. Today, this neighbourhood is the beating heart of the city, full of bohemian art galleries, glamorous cabarets and hilltop panoramas.

1. Watch cabaret at Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile is a quintessentially French cabaret, with less glitz than Las Vegas but with all the authenticity of vintage Paris. It evokes the feeling of a Second World War-era wine bar, where locals would sing traditional songs to drown their sorrows. Artists Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso were once regulars.


2. Eat beneath a giant windmill at Moulin de la Galette

Photo by Marc Bertrand.

With a giant windmill atop its roof, Moulin de la Galette is among the most visually arresting buildings in all of Montmartre. Picasso even immortalized the venue in one of his paintings. This restaurant serves classic French cuisine, from Burgundy snails to gourmet foie gras, plus mouth-watering crepes for dessert. Bon appétit


3. Get a history lesson at Musée de Montmartre

Photo by Charly Lataste.

The Musée de Montmartre chronicles the history of this once-rural village that was home to sprawling vineyards and working windmills. Discover how the original Moulin Rouge cabaret venue once featured a giant elephant and bellydance performances in its gardens, along with other fascinating stories.


4. Stay at the Hôtel Le Chat Noir

Celebrate the area’s history at the showgirl-chic Hôtel Le Chat Noir, which is located a few doors down from the Moulin Rouge. The hotel was once home to a famous cabaret that counted artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec among its regulars. Some rooms include balconies, while others boast Eiffel Tower views.


5. Mingle in Place du Tertre

Photo by Alain Potignon.

A wander through the famous Place du Tertre, or Artists’ Square, is not to be missed. Honouring Montmartre’s reputation as a creative centre, the area is filled with quirky galleries along with artists keen to paint passersby. This is the ideal place to commission a souvenir caricature.

6. Drink absinthe at the Royal Fromentin hotel

Photo courtesy of Hotel Royal Fromentin.

Although the area was once renowned for its vineyards, Montmartre’s nightlife wasn’t only fuelled by wine. While urban legend claims absinthe intoxication as one reason Vincent van Gogh chopped off his ear, the infamous tipple is as safe to drink as any other liquor. Drop into the bar at the Royal Fromentin hotel to try a cocktail, or two, featuring this anise-flavoured spirit.


Two More Things to Do in Montmartre

Check out the Sinking House. An optical illusion makes it appear as though it’s sinking into the ground.

Don’t leave without admiring the panoramic city views from the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.

[This story appears in the February 2020 edition of WestJet Magazine.]