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Montmartre: a village within a city with some hidden gems
When most people think of Montmartre, they imagine the gleaming white domed façade of the Sacré Coeur church that dominates Paris. Or they recall the artists at their easels waylaying tourists in the Place du Tertre. These are certainly symbols of this legendary area of the city but there’s more to it than that.
The 130-meter (426 feet) high Butte (hill) de Montmartre used to be outside the city limits. Even today, this part of the 18th arrondissement (district) retains its village-like atmosphere.
The wine-producing vineyard in the rue Saint-Vincent, the windmill Moulin de la Galette and the narrow streets preserve the impression that this is a place apart. And the steep sidewalks and flights of steps have graced numerous movies.
It’s very different from the broad Haussmannian boulevards and spacious squares of central Paris. Montmartre has long been a magnet for artists, singers and entertainers: Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, Erik Satie, Mistinguett and Dalida – to name just a few – all lived and/or worked there. Today, it’s the haunt of media and showbiz moguls and high-tech entrepreneurs.
The south side of the hill, which overlooks the rest of the city, is where the tourists mostly hang out. It sweeps down towards the red-light district of Pigalle, famous for the Moulin Rouge cabaret. But the ‘other’ Montmartre with its hidden gems is not far away. Just off the boulevard de Clichy, you’ll find the private villa des Platanes, a tranquil, green oasis.
Splendid 19th-century apartment buildings are grouped around paved courtyards open only to residents. Close by, the Cité du Midi is also a private cul-de-sac, taking its name from former residents who came from the south of France. The former Bains-Douches (public bath house) Pigalle is situated there, with only its porcelain tiled façade remaining. The alley opens into a small, circular place where the buildings follow its curve.
On the other side of the boulevard de Clichy, avenue Frochot is a calm, tree-lined cul-de-sac lined with elegant 19th-century mansions and closed off by a wrought-iron gate. Writers Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo lived there and it has been home to artists and musicians. No. 1 is reputed to be haunted.
The north side of the hill is further off the beaten trail. Stylish avenue Junot is noted for its elegant apartment blocks and houses. It was named after General Junot, who had a volatile relationship with Napoleon and was nicknamed ‘the Tempest’. Villa Léandre is a delightful alleyway off the avenue Junot, lined with pretty houses of English inspiration. Each house is different.
Also just off the Avenue Junot is the private Hameau des Artistes. This chic spot has some magnificent houses and peaceful gardens. Also situated here is a stone obelisk, erected in 1736, marking the line of the Paris meridian.
Figures for the 4th quarter of 2013 issued by the Association of Notaires (officials who handle property transactions) show a median price of 7,860€/m2 for the Grand-Carrières neighborhood. This is the most expensive part of the 18th arrondissement and prices here increased by 2.9% over the year. But the notaires’ figures conceal considerable variation and micro-markets, such as the villa Léandra or avenue Junot, where properties can command up to 14,000€/m2. There is a higher concentration of houses in Montmartre, some with gardens, than in most other parts of Paris. They are usually snapped up when they come onto the market.
For a large apartment with a terrace or garden and a view, expect to pay the kinds of prices properties command in the Marais (4th arrondissement). Smaller properties in ultra-charming Montmartre, without a view or garden, are more reasonably priced.
*Photo provided courtesy of Haven in Paris
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