A beautifully preserved village outpost far removed from the cacophony of the city around it, Montmartre retains a strong sense of community and immense pride in its colourful past. As is often inevitable with iconic neighbourhoods, parts of Montmartre have succumbed to the siren call of triumphantly tacky tourism but stick to the itinerary below and you'll be rewarded with the supremely sublime.
Starting with the tacky... unless you are eager to experience a projectile vomit worth of 50-shades-of-tasteless sex shops, neon-lit peepshows and litter-strewn pavements, do not access the Butte from Pigalle (ie via Bvd Clichy/Bvd Rochechouart, nearest metro stops Anvers or Blanche). Instead:
- get off at Abbesses metro, or
- (even better) take the back-route past Montmartre cemetery (the final sojourn for Parisian glitterati such as Zola, Offenbach, Dumas fils, Degas, Truffaut and Nijinsky and therefore very popular with the morbidly curious) and up through the peaceful Lamarck-Caulaincourt neighbourhood (nearest metro stop: Lamarck-Caulaincourt).
Avoid as you would a pandemic of swine flu the area stretching from the front of the Sacré Coeur down to Pigalle. This is a hub of scam artists, Eastern-European beggar/pickpocket gangs and tasteless souvenirs. Equally, forget Place des Tertre- a temple to tourist tat.
Leave behind the crowds at Sacré Coeur Basilica (a bulbous ho-hum of an edifice worthwhile principally for its views over Paris) and enter Rue de Mont Cenis, where one of Paris' oldest churches, St-Pierre de Montmartre, is situated (its 7th century Roman columns proof that sustainable development was alive and recycling in the 12th century).
Continue to Rue Cortot and the Musée Montmartre where hidden gardens and enchanting views over the Lapin Agile cabaret and the Clos-Montmartre vineyards will transport you back in time to when Montmartre was little more than a sleepy village. The museum's Café Renoir is an absolute charmer and the ideal spot for a quick break far from the mayhem of the Butte (special mention for aperitif evenings on Thursdays in summer).
Wander the gorgeous cobblestoned streets and vine-covered cottages of Rue de l'Abreuvoir, Allée des Brouillards, Villa Leandre and Avenue Junot (home to some of Paris' priciest real estate).
On the way, stop at Square Suzanne Buisson. Here, a fountain marks the spot where legend has it the martyred St Denis, Paris' first bishop, stopped to wash his head (a miracle considering it had been freshly separated from the rest of his body by the Romans). Nearby, Place Marcel-Aymé is home to the Passe-Muraille sculpture.
Explore the shops along Rue des Abesses and Rue Lepic (on Rue Lepic look out for the wrought-iron entrance of Moulin de la Galette, the (in)famous dance hall immortalized by Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso et al).
- Hotel Particulier, 23 Avenue Junot, 75018- Tucked away behind high gates and 900 sq m of enchanting garden, this intimate, five-room boutique residence is a concentrate of effortless Parisian originality and cachet. Perfect for a romantic weekend à deux. Special mention for weekend summer brunches in the garden (complete with home-laid eggs and Montmartre honey).
- Terass Hotel, 12-14 rue Joseph de Maistre, 75018- Contemporary comfort and stellar rooftop views over Paris.
- Vava, 42 rue Véron, 75018- vava-voom for this cool new neo-bistro with a former Ducasse (Louis XV) disciple at the helm.
- Polisssons, 35 rue Ramey, 75018- a spot-on neighbourhood bistro offering bistronomically rebooted comfort food.
- Le Bistrot de la Galette, 102ter Rue Lepic, 75018 - A retro ambiance and flaky-crusted galettes alongside a handful of traditional Parisian dishes.
- Le Coq Rico, 98 Rue Lepic, 75018- A pared down modern décor for this chic rôtisserie specialising in (yes, you've guessed it) anything and everything to do with our feathered friends.
- Le Lamarck, 8 Rue Lamarck, 75018- Only a short walk away from the Sacre Cœur, this small bistronomic eaterie offers a level of food and service light years away from that of the surrounding tourist-traps. Proof that miracles still happen on the Mount!
- Roberta, 5bis, rue de la Vieuville, 75018 (no reservations)- Home-made pasta and primo Italian produce (handily situated just across from the Le Mur des Je t'Aime, Jehan-Rictus Square).
- La Bossue, 9 Rue Joseph de Maistre, 75018- A cosy, welcoming all-day tea room offering a lovely selection of daily baked cakes and tarts.
- La Maison Rose, 2 rue de l'Abreuvoir, 75018- Recently rebooted, this pretty-in-pink Montmartre icon (immortalized in paintings by Picasso and Utrillo) today focuses on seasonal, locally sourced products and short, traditional menus.
Make the most of the brilliant boulangeries and pâtisseries spinkled over the western quadrant of the Butte:
- Gilles Marchal, 9 Rue Ravignan, 75018- one of Paris' best-known (and nicest) pastry-chef stars.
- Pain Pain, 88 rue des Martyrs, 75018- excellent breads and 2012 winner of best Parisian baguette.
- Gontran Cherrier, 22 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 - bread's rock 'n roll celebrity baker. Excellent buns and pâtisseries.
- Boris Lumé, 48 r Caulaincourt, 75018.
- Chocolat Illèné, 2-4 Rue Tholozé, 75018- Excellent artisanal chocolates (the macarons are pretty good too)