A Visit to Montmartre
- Written by Abdallah Farid - IMBA Alumnus - Egypt
- IMBA Student Blog
I always heard about Montmartre and how charming it is, but until now I didn't have the chance to visit it. So finally last weekend, I decided to join a guided tour in Montmartre. I preferred guided tours rather than self given tours in order to get sufficient information and knowledge of the places I visit. The tour was so amazing and the place was more than charming. It was very nice to find myself in the place that hosts colorful artists, writers, painters, musicians, sculptors and architects. In the past, it was the biggest host for all kind of artists. Let me give you some brief history about this historic place.
Montmartre, located in the 18th arrondissement, is considered one of the most historic areas of Paris. The area became famous because of its panoramic views of Paris and the existence of the "Sacré-coeur" basilica on the hill. The "Sacré-coeur is a white-domed church which was built to serve as a reminder for the city's struggle for independence.
The Montmartre district was initially a rural village dotted with vineyards and windmills. This goes back to the mid 19th century when the nuns used to make wine and consequently the area became a popular drinking area. The district later changed more into a place filled with entertainment venues, especially after the opening of Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir. These famous nightclubs used to host famous singers and performers like Marcelle Lender, Georges Guibourg, Jane Avril and Damia. These artists contributed to increasing the number of visitors to the Montmartre district as people came to have some wine and enjoy their performances.
Additionally, the Montmartre district was very famous because of the inhabitance of a lot of artists in it in the 19th century. Artists like Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Gen Paul, and Henri Matisse worked in Montmartre and received their inspiration from the magnificent views. Some of these artists lived and worked together in a commune called Le Bateau-Lavoir, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1970 and still exists in Montmartre today.
The main reason behind the inhabitance of all of these artists in Montmartre was due to Montmartre's remote location and the inexpensive lodgings which contributed to transforming the area into a working-class neighborhood that became known for its liberal reputation and underground culture.
If you are lucky visiting Paris during the first weekend from the October you can attend the Fête des Vendanges of Montmartre, which is attended each year by more than 350,000 people. There, you can see the house of Dalida, a famous French singer. It was very nice to see especially for me as this singer performed in Egypt in the past. With the Arabic language, it was very interesting for me to see her house.
In Montmartre, there is a large outdoor square area with a lot of art stalls where you can have a portrait drawn or just enjoy a walk in the narrow alleys and to see the artists work and the ivy-clad houses in the area. Also, you will find a lot of street vendors selling reasonably priced and cool souvenirs, plenty of authentic French restaurants , and coffees shops for a reasonable price all while enjoying a nice view of Paris.
Montmartre is no longer a quiet village packed with vines and windmills. Today, it's an area tightly packed with houses spiraling round the hill below the sugary, white dome of Sacré-Coeur. However it will always remain the most romantic area in Paris and one of the most touristic spots in all of France.