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Walking Around Montmartre, a Bohemian Neighborhood | Tour Review

When I was visiting Paris in 2022, I went on quite a few tours. Some were self-guided, and some were with a tour guide. It’s great to have some guidance on where to go in specific parts of Paris because it’s SO huge and there’s SO much to see, so I highly recommend trying a tour or two out if you haven’t considered it before.

I picked this Montmartre tour specifically because I was nervous walking around the neighborhood by myself. The area just around the Moulin Rouge seemed very rough, and the first time I went there on my own I got spooked and left after 15 minutes. A guided tour with a knowledgeable local and a group of other tourists as a buffer seemed the best way to explore that area, so I decided to book it.

Turns out the tour mostly went up into the fancier part of Montmartre anyway, but I still think it was a good choice.

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Montmartre: why visit?

A picturesque street in Montmartre, lined with old buildings and cobblestone paths.

Montmartre became famous because of all the bohemian artists and writers who lived there at the end of the 19th century to the early 20th century. I’m talking people like Monet, Renoir, Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Suzanne Valadon, Picasso, and van Gogh. American poet Langston Hughes worked in Montmartre, and many celebrities (like Josephine Baker) came over to hang out in its artsy clubs.

Nowadays it’s famous for its nightclubs, bars, and many movies shot in or near the area. And of course, the artistic crowd got pushed out as soon as it became cool to live there, and now many of the apartments are full of rich folks. Still, there’s plenty of historic things to see and lots of art still remaining, so it’s worth checking it out. Especially if you like street art!

Montmartre: From Moulin Rouge to Sacré Coeur Tour

I booked this walking tour through Free Tours By Foot, which is a wonderful website for finding free walking tours in cities all over the world. This specific tour was led by Discover Walks, with a local French guide who spoke very good English. It was 90 minutes long and we had about 12 people in our group.

While it wasn’t a huge group, the neighborhood was very crowded as it was a weekend– and Paris is crowded anyway, as it’s one of the most-visited cities in the world. Our tour guide didn’t have a microphone so it was occasionally difficult to hear what he said, but otherwise he was good at getting us over to a quieter area to explain the history and such.

Reminder: free walking tour guides depend on tips given at the end of the tour! I usually give the equivalent of $10-20 USD depending on how long the tour was and how well it went.

Montmartre Tour Itinerary

Here’s some of the places we went to on the tour, with photos and my impressions of the area. These are the main highlights– we saw a bunch of small things while walking from one place to another as well.

Moulin Rouge

The iconic red windmill of the Moulin Rouge cabaret in Montmartre.

The windmill topper is striking, even in the day time, but also this particular part of the street is SO SKETCHY. The whole area is full of sex shops, which doesn’t help. Paris is surprisingly sketchy in a lot of places you wouldn’t expect, actually.

Van Gogh’s Windmill

This is the windmill that Van Gogh used for his Le Moulin de la Galette paintings, and one of the only remaining original windmill in the area that once had many more. Montmartre is a hilly neighborhood, so using windmills made a lot of sense at the time.

Picasso’s Workshop

aka the Bateau-Lavoir building at No. 13 Rue Ravignan. Actually, Picasso was never in THIS building, as the original burnt down in 1970. The facade is the same, though!

Van Gogh’s Apartment (exterior)

The exterior of the apartment building where Van Gogh once lived.

It just looks like a regular apartment building. 🙁

Artists’ Square

This was a fun part of the neighborhood. Tons of artists doing portraits and selling art, and lots of great street art on the surrounding buildings.

Going down the stairs from this square was fun, but I would NOT want to go the other way.

The Vineyard (exterior)

A small working vineyard in Rue Saint-Vincent, which you can visit and buy wine from.

Dalida’s House and Statue

Dalida was a French singer and actress who maybe isn’t as popular outside of France as French people think she is. Her house and a bust of her are popular tourist destinations but no-one in my whole group had heard of her before, so we a little underwhelmed.

Sacré-Cœur Cathedral (exterior)

The striking white domes of Sacré-Cœur Basilica, viewed from a distance.

Apparently locals HATE this building because of its history, starting from when it was built in the 1870s. I guess French people are really good at holding inter-generational grudges.

Montmartre Grafitti & Street Art

After the tour, I felt confident enough that I could walk around the area by myself, so I went back to some places and took more photos. Mostly of the street art, because there was a ton of it! Good mix of paintings, stickers, paper/paste, tile and 3D sculptures.

Here’s a gallery of some of my favorites:

I also stopped by the Wall of Love, which has the words “I Love You” written in different languages. It’s popular to get your photo taken near your language– be warned, though! It’s super crowded.

Was it worth going on this tour?

Definitely yes!

In particular, I liked that the tour talked about the actual people who lived in Montmartre over the years, and how it transformed from an artists’ area to a rich person’s neighborhood, and the detriment of that to the local flavor. Our guide was great at pointing out interesting graffiti and street art as well.

Where to find free walking tours in Paris


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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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