Part of the right bank of the River Seine and situated in the 18th arrondisement of Paris, Montmartre has exerted its spell over the world for generations. Occupied by Henry IV in the 16th century during his siege of Paris and later by the Russians during the Battle of Paris in 1814, Montmartre became famed during the 19th century as a popular drinking centre, due to its position outside the walls of Paris and exemption from taxes. By the mid-19th century, Montmartre had started to become the bohemian Shangri-la of Europe with artists such as Pisarro and Jongkind taking up residence there. At the turn of the century artists associations were formed and Montmartre became the centre of an art revolution, drawing in many of the artists whose work is famed and prized across the world today: Matisse; Derain; Van Gogh; Renoir; Degas and Dali, to name but a few.
Today, Montmartre is a designated historic district with strict control over any development to maintain its historic flavor. Although the glory days of impressionism, modernism and post-modernism may have passed, Montmartre still plays host to many artists who make a living from sketching or painting the many visitors and selling their artwork. In addition to the carefully preserved architecture, Montmartre has much to offer today's tourist. You can do no better than to rent a room in the arrondisement and there are some wonderfully quiet, tranquil corners of Montmartre in which to base your stay.
The reputation that Montmartre has for an almost magical atmosphere is well earned. Wander the narrow, cobbled streets, bustling with small shops, restaurants and galleries; sit outside one of the many pavement cafes with a small beer or a coffee and water, watching the world go by - laughing, frowning, hurrying or sauntering, but wholly absorbed in itself. Visit the tree-filled Place du Tertre to see the artwork of the painters earning their living in Montmartre, perhaps indulging yourself with a portrait to take home with you at the end of your holiday. Close to Place du Tertre is Espace Dali, featuring a permanent exhibition of some of Dali's work, while next door Espace Montmartre exhibits the work of contemporary artists. You could have dinner at the Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre's last windmill in a lovely location, situated in Rue Lepic at its junction with Rue Girardon and Rue d'Orchampt. Not far from here is the house of Dalida, the renowned singer and actress, who received 55 gold records and was the first to receive a diamond record, and sang in around ten different languages. Tucked away in Rue des Saules, you will find a little gem of a vineyard, Clos de Montmartre, which you would never guess would exist in the centre of Paris. Here, every year, is held the Fete des Vendanges, a five day grape harvest festival, and the vineyard produces around 700-800 litres of wine each year. Of course, no visit to Montmartre would be complete without visiting Moulin Rouge, famous of course for the invention of the modern can-can, which still offers dance revues and still has much of its turn of the century architectural and decorative appeal. Toulouse-Lautrec is intimately linked with Moulin Rouge through his posters and paintings which raised the club to international renown and for which he is still remembered.
These are just a few of the many attractions to be found in Montmartre and it would not be possible to list them all. There is a Tourist Information Centre, located centrally in Place du Tertre, which is open 7 days a week between the hours of 10am and 6pm and you can find out here about the many other places to visit locally. There are plenty of ATM points to withdraw cash if you don't have enough travel money with you. It is a good idea to use indoor cash machines whenever possible, particularly at night, and try not to go alone as this can make you appear a potential target. Some shops and restaurants may not have facilities to accept credit cards, although this is rare. Be careful about carrying too much money though, as the narrow, busy streets of Montmartre make it all too easy for pickpockets and for this reason, cash should be kept to a minimum. While you have probably brought your usual credit cards with you, the charges for using these overseas may soon mount up to more than you wanted to spend or had bargained for. Using a prepaid travel card can put paid to excess charges and unexpected expense. Getting around is quite easy with well designed public transport routes. The Paris underground, the Metro, (line 12) runs to Montmartre from the centre of Paris, stopping at Abbesses. Operating hours are Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays: 5.30am to 1.15am and Fridays and Saturdays between 5.30am and 2.15am. If you are travelling on the metro at the end of the evening, you should be at the station half an hour before closing to make sure that you catch the last train as they do run at different times, depending on the station. There is a funicular railway which takes you up to the top of Montmartre from the south and there is a designated bus which follows a circuit around Montmartre, making your sightseeing easier.
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