I have wanted to visit Paris for as long as I can remember, but despite it only being a short flight from my home country of Scotland, I somehow never got around to going when I was younger. It took me until I was 24 to finally make it to the “City of Love”, when a last minute place on a press trip popped up.
I was working for a small newspaper in Glasgow when a PR contacted me, offering a friend and I the chance to spend the weekend, living like a local, in the Parisian “village” of Montmartre. My oldest friend didn’t take much convincing (who would turn down Paris?) and after a quick direct flight from Glasgow to Charles de-Gaulle, we were on our way to our “home-away-from-home” for the weekend.
A Very parisian apartment
Our Montmartre apartment turned out to be right next to the Abbesses metro station (which was perfect for jumping into the city centre for some sight-seeing later in the weekend), on the beautiful cobbled Rue la Vieuville.
Tucked in between little cafes, vintage shops and restaurants, the apartment was spacious and kitted out with stylish furniture and cool art prints, including a huge map of old-world Paris.
HouseTrip apartments are often still lived in by the owners for the majority of the year, which makes them much homelier than a hotel or long-term let. Ours definitely had some personal touches (and a huge DVD collection…although who has time to watch movies when you have all of Paris to explore?!)
We were lucky enough to eat in some really great restaurants in the heart of Montmartre, which had been recommended and organised as part of the trip.
Just a five-minute walk from our apartment, we were booked in for Friday night dinner at the packed La Bascule. The restaurant is a popular local haunt, with great French cuisine and reasonable prices. We were squeezed into a tiny table at the back, which made for excellent people watching. We seemed to be the only tourists – all the tables were full of families loudly enjoying the excellent food and seemingly never-ending flow of French wine.
In most of the restaurants, cafes and bistros that line the streets of Montmartre, you’ll be pushed to find any English translations on the menu – which, as we (accidentally) discovered, can actually lead to you ordering some pretty awesome food you might not usually be brave enough to try. We loved their camembert, calamari and Foie Gras…but my favourite was their special dessert (shocker!) – the Pain Perdi.
Le Grand 8
This restaurant is tucked away behind the Sacre-Coeur and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside, the food and atmosphere make for the quintessential French-dining experience. Le Grand 8 is another small restaurant, but, unlike La Bascule, it doesn’t have quite the same hustle and bustle. We had dinner there on a quiet Saturday night, and the majority of the other tables were occupied by loved-up couples. The food (from another entirely-French menu) was insanely good – I had veal with mushroom risotto (amazing) and a pot of what I basically described as caramel heaven to my friend.
After eating here, we walked off (some) of the calories with a stroll around the Sacre-Coeur…which is a pretty great place to see all the bright lights of Paris at night.
Tours by Locals
We spent our Saturday morning learning about Montmartre’s history and discovering some of the village’s more hidden points of interest with Gabriela – our local Montmartre guide from Tours by Locals.
Gabriela led us through the winding streets past pretty restaurants, resident parks, artists’ studios (including one where Picasso once worked) historical landmarks and Montmartre’s only remaining vineyard.
We stopped at Place du Tertre to watch the dozens of artists who paint there daily and then headed for a day-light tour of the Sacre-Coeur.
Afterwards, we grabbed a drink at Le Bistrot des Martyrs and then did some vintage shopping in Montmartre’s great second-hand clothing shops.
Whether we were on our guided tour, heading out for dinner or exploring by ourselves, we found art everywhere we went.
All you have to do is look – it might be on a building, painted on the road, coming out of a wall…if you are observant, there is always something interesting to see!
Combine the street art with every single restaurant, bar or shop having stylish or old Parisian-style signage and you basically have an art lover’s (or Intagramer’s) ideal neigbourhood!
A trip to Montmartre wouldn’t be complete without taking in its more…adult side.
Yes, Pigalle – the area at the foot of Montmartre – is sleazy as hell, and lined with sex-shop and peep-shows, playing host to some of the more interesting characters of the night after dark…but you can’t leave without at least seeing the Moulin Rouge.
If you’ve never been before, be prepared…it’s certainly not glamorous (forget the movie!) and even our tour guide had warned us against wandering around there by ourselves. We then blatantly ignored this advice in our search for a good club on the Saturday night…and somehow survived to tell the tale…just be smart (and don’t wear heels, unless you want to break one of the endless cobbled streets!)
Paris City Sights
On our last day, we hopped on the metro at Abbesses and headed into the city centre. Montmartre is an amazing place to explore in itself, but it’s also such a great place to use as base for seeing the rest of the city.
We headed for the 1st Arrondissement to visit the Louvre (and have some very touristy photos taken in front of the Louvre Pyramid!) and then grabbed a quick takeaway coffee to drink at the Grand Bassin in Jardin des Tuileries.
We wandered over the Pont des Arts, with its thousands of “Love Locks” and pretty view of the Seine before heading for the main attraction – The Eiffel Tower.
After spending some time lazily wandering around the Champ de Mars (and taking about a million photos of the Eiffel Tower) we headed across the Pont d’Iéna (for more photos!) and followed Avenue de New York along the banks of the river.
We were flying out later that afternoon so after another coffee, we jumped back on the metro to Abbesses to pack up our things and say goodbye to our little Parisian apartment.
PARIS NEED TO KNOW
GETTING THERE & AWAY
We flew with easyJet, direct from Glasgow to Paris Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) for £98 return, but you can get flights this October from just £34.99.
We jumped in the first taxi we could find at the airport because our flight had been delayed and it was getting late (which turned out to be ridiculously expensive) but if you plan ahead and use a company like T2 Transfer, you can organise much more budget-friendly transport to and from the airport.
Our little Parisian apartment was booked through HouseTrip.com, but sadly that particular listing isn’t available anymore.
MONTMARTRE BUCKET LIST:
- Montmartre Walking Tour – One of the best ways to see the city – particularly all the hidden highlights of Montmartre – through the eyes of a local. We used toursbylocals.com, but for great, free tours try www.discoverwalks.com
- Sacré-Cœur Basilica – Wander around the incredibly beautiful basilica and take in the view of the city below
- Le Grand 8 – Just behind the Sacré-Cœur, this little hidden gem of a restaurant is highly recommended for fine French cuisine…just remember you might need your translation guide for the strictly non-English menus!
- Pigalle – At the foot of Montmartre, you’ll find the sleazy-but-unmissable Pigalle district, where the famous (and overpriced!) Moulin Rouge sits alongside sex-shops, clubs and peep-shows
- Place du Tertre – The square near Saint-Pierre de Montmartre (one of the oldest churches in Paris) where dozens of artists and illustrators gather daily to sell their works to tourists
*One last thing…I was invited to Paris as part of a press trip (when I was working as a journalist for a newspaper in Scotland) which covered flights, accommodation and a tour. Everything else I personally paid for. This post also contains affiliate links but all views are, as always, my own.