Especially if it’s your first time in Paris, Montmartre is probably on your top ten of places to visit. The hill – or Butte – of Montmartre affords a wonderful view over the city from the terrace in front of the white meringue of Sacré-Coeur and its historic winding streets are so different from the broad boulevards of the rest of the city.
But while the traveller spirit is usually willing, sometimes the tourist’s flesh weakens. Especially in the summer, when Paris can be enervatingly hot, or in winter when ice and rain enter the soul, it’s tempting to stay in a cosy café or in a bright, airy museum, rather than strike out into the streets of the city.
Here’s a way to see Montmartre and rest your weary feet at the same time. Even better, it will cost you just two t+ tickets from your métro/bus carnet. The Montmartrobus is a nifty minibus, intended for local residents, that goes from the base of the hill right over the top to the other side. Best of all, it goes up in one direction and comes back via an almost entirely different route, thanks to the one-way system.
Begin at place Pigalle (métro Pigalle). Make sure to composter (stamp) your ticket in the machine and take a seat at the back for the best view. You go up the rue des Martyrs, once home to raffish transvestite cabarets, now like so much of the rest of Montmartre, given over to servicing tourists’ need for souvenirs. On past the place des Abbesses, where the “lovers’ wall” in the little park is worth a look, to the rue Lepic where you can see the Moulin de la Galette, painted by Renoir, and now one the last examples of the many windmills for which Montmartre was once famous. The bus route skirts the tourist trap of the place du Tertre, with its itinerant caricaturists, and goes on past the last vineyard in Paris and Le Lapin Agile cabaret, to finish at the local mairie (town hall) at place Jules Joffrin (métro Jules Joffrin).
Stop for a coffee or a snack, give your children a ride on the manège (carrousel) or just cross the square to get the Montmartrobus back down. You have to use a second t+ ticket. Stay alert as the bus swings round the base of Sacré-Coeur and look to the left for a stunning view over Paris. You pass the top of the Funicular (another bargain way to get up the hill for the price of a t+ métro ticket). On the way back down to Pigalle you’ll see many of the little cobbled streets and steep steps for which Montmartre is famous, and be thankful you don’t have to climb any of them.
Of course, you can get off at any of the stops and explore further. Apart from Sacré-Coeur, the privately-run Musée de Montmartre is worth a visit. Here you can see lots of relics of the area’s artistic heyday and absorb some of its bohemian history.
Need to know
Montmartrobus runs between 8am and 1am daily up to four or five times an hour at peak times and costs one métro ticket up and one down. See a map of the route on the Ratp (Paris public transport) website