In search of authentic Montmartre

A guest post by Marlys Schuermann.

Paris is, essentially, a 19th century town with a few older buildings thrown in: the showcase city for the rampant optimism of the Belle Epoque, and little in modern day Paris reminds the visitor of earlier, more humble periods. Of all the city’s quartiers, only Montmartre – an unassuming suburb at the time of the 19th century’s ambitious urban regeneration schemes – has been able to preserve some of its ancient charm. But what Baron Haussmann’s wrecking balls failed to achieve, commercial pressures might still bring about. For many years, Montmartre was sorely neglected while most of Paris got its Hausmannian Grands Boulevards. Its poshest street today, Avenue Junot, was once a squatters area that even the police were scared to invade. This neglect has, by and large, contributed to Montmartre retaining its village atmosphere, with narrow hilly cobblestoned streets that have attracted, first, artists, and in later years fashion designers – and movie producers.

"The old shops on rue de La Vieuville in Montmartre"

When we moved here in 1993, it still had quite a smattering of the old usual shops in a small neighbourhood – the local barber, the green grocer, the picture frame restorer. There still was the hole-in-the-wall bar where locals would have their first coffee of the day standing by the bar. Most days, when walking the dog, we were treated to an amusing scene – a cobbler, sitting outside in front of his tiny shop doing what he did best, renewing old soles.

Today, these are all gone. Over the years, shop leases came up for renewal but were given up because the rent increased. The success of the movie “Amelie“ was partly to blame. Montmartre became fashionable and so did its bricks and mortars. Street by street, Montmartre has been transformed into one big boutique, albeit retaining some of its own unique bohemian charm and character.

Rue de la Vieuville in Montmartre

"Fashionable boutiques along the rue de la Vieuville in Montmartre"

The Rue De La Vieuville – just off the Abbesses metro station – has in the past attracted less attention than some other streets of Montmartre, which has enabled it to resist the relentless drive towards “Ameliefication”. It is a street where you can still see vestiges of the old, authentic Montmartre – but you have to hurry: otherwise, you will only see them … disappear.

Rue De La Vieuville is a good example of a street that has undergone substantial change – only one of the 20 or so shops was already there when we arrived in the 1990s – but that still manages to hang on to it “village charm”. It has resisted being tourist-ified for a while, but the inevitable gentrification is slowly and surely sneaking in.

"The old plumber's workshops in rue de la Vieuville in Montmartre"

A building that once belonged to the friendly local plumber now houses a salon where fish in a basin snack on the old skin off your feet.

"Fish spa on the rue La vieuville in Montmartre Paris"

The old carpenter workshop has become a vintage boutique,

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and in front of the shop where the Montmartrois used to find the wallpaper to decorate their drawing rooms, the jeunesse dorée of Paris (and Berlin, and Amsterdam …) now sip their cafés au lait.

"Once a wallpaper shop in rue de la Vieuville in Montmartre"

Have you noticed the vibrant colours used on the façades of the old shops?

"A vegetarian restaurant on rue de La Vieuville in Montmartre Paris"

It is the street running parallel to Rue Yvonne Le Tac that most visitors take from the Metro station Abbesses to get to the Sacre Coeur. If however, you are searching for a little bit of the old style and authentic Montmartre, you should turn your steps towards Rue De La Vieuville.

”I Love Montmartre tourist shop in rue de La Vieuville Montmartre"

When next in Montmartre, take the detour and look around. It may not be here for much longer. Even better, opt to stay in an apartment in Montmartre to truly immerse yourself in the local scene. Click here for more information about apartment stays in Paris.

About the guest writer
This guest post was submitted by Marlys, a resident of Montmartre for the last 20 years. She’s also the other half of the Easy Hiker team and wife to Michael Schuermann author of guide book Paris Movie Walks.

Read other guest posts by Marlys:

Note: This post was brought to you in partnership with All Paris Apartments.

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6 Responses to “In search of authentic Montmartre”

  1. Sofie 22/11/2012 3:35 pm
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    Great post! i’ve just been to Paris for the first time and although thus a tourist myself, I thought it was a shame that all those cobbled streets where so filled up with souvenir shops…

  2. Marlys 14/08/2012 1:49 pm
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    Andi, I also think Montmartre is the best part of Paris. I would say that, wouldn’t I? ;-)

  3. Marlys 14/08/2012 1:47 pm
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    Thanks for your compliments, Risovic. I hope soon you can experience romantic Montmartre too.

  4. Risovic 20/06/2012 9:52 am
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    Well…Looks is not so romantic anymore … but impression of author is very realistic I think !
    I never been there and I don’t have right to say to much //-:)))

    Montmartre has always been for me a symbol for a lot of romance and lot of art ,

    Well done! All compliments to the author!

  5. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures 22/05/2012 2:35 pm
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    Montmartre is my favorite part of Paris!

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