If you are spending time in Paris, I recommend that you allocate a day to visiting the Monmartre area and the Moulin Rouge. A full day will allow you time to enjoy the Sacre Coeur, Saint-Pierre de Monmartre and the are around the Moulin Rouge (Pigalle quarter). Here’s my recommended one day itinerary. For other ideas, I recommend this One Day in Paris Itinerary by Pam and Kathrine.
Getting to Monmartre
Take the Metro to Anvers (it’s cheaper to buy a book of 10 tickets with a 20% discount). When you arrive, be prepared to climb a lot of steps to the top to visit Sacre Coeur, the Sacred heart, and view Paris from the highest point other than the Eiffel Tower.
The Sacre Coeur is a Catholic Basilica built in a similar style to St Marco in Venice. It’s a beautiful example of Roman-Byzantine architecture and a contrast to the classic French Gothic style architecture of Notre Dame. It’s free to enter, so make sure that you go inside and see the Apse Mosaic. Remember that it is a place of worship, so observe silence and no photography is allowed inside the basilica (the below image is from Wikimedia commons). If you would like to climb the 300 steps to the top of the 83 metre high dome for a full view of the city of Paris, you will need to pay an extra 5€. However, you can get a fantastic view and good pictures of the city from the forecourt.
Saint-Pierre de Monmartre and Calvaire Graveyard
Saint-Pierre is one of the oldest Churches in Paris (built in 1134). It also used to be a Benedictine Monastery. You can enter the Church for free. Also, the Calvaire graveyard in its grounds is the oldest and smallest graveyard in Paris. Entrance to Calvaire and tours of the graveyard are free.
Monmartre Artesan District
After you have spent time admiring the Sacre Coeur and Saint-Pierre, head down through Monmartre, the artistic district. The thin, steep, cobbled streets are unique to this area, which attracts craftsmen, artists and buskers. This is a great place to shop for souvenirs and soak up the bohemian atmosphere. However, it can be pricey to stop for food and drink in Monmartre, so I recommend continuing your walk down towards the Moulin Rouge (Pigalle area), where you get more value for money.
Moulin Rouge and Pigalle Quarter
If you continue walking down towards Metro station ‘blanche’, you will end up in Pigalle quarter near the Moulin Rouge. Stop to take a picture of the Moulin Rouge or Red Mill, where can-can dancers traditionally flashed their bloomers in a high energy dance.
If you would like to stay for the Moulin Rouge show, you can book your tickets here. Make sure that you book in advance to avoid disappointment. Pigalle district has the reputation of being a bit ‘seedy’ – it’s Paris’ Red Light district. In a sex shop window I even saw an Eiffel Tower dildo!!!! If you’re not prudish, you can enjoy the sex shops and even stay through to the evening of strip-teases and debauchery! Even if this is not your scene, it’s a part of Paris that must be experienced!
Where to Eat in the Pigalle Quarter
There are plenty of reasonably priced French restaurants near the Moulin Rouge. I highly recommend Rouge Bis on the corner directly opposite the Moulin Rouge. They offer a high quality selection of Duck Lamb, Tuna and chicken mains as well as classic French specials. Mains are around €15. For a cheaper option of French food, go to Le Gorumet on Rue de Bruxelles, near Place de Clichy. It’s excellent value for money. If you really just fancy a cheap burger or steak and chips, head to Buffalo Grill near Blanch Metro station. They do value meals with steak or burger mains, side salad, drink and desert for around €16. Unless you want a very rare steak, make sure that you order it ‘bon cuit!’ Basically, if you ask for it well-done, it will come out medium – the French like their rare steaks!
Where to stay in Monmartre and Pigalle
Accommodation in Paris can be extremely expensive. It will be cheaper to stay in Pigalle than near the Seine. If you are on a backpackers budget, I highly recommend the Plug-In Monmartre Boutique hostel. Although €38 per night for a four person dorm, this is actually quite good value for the city of Paris. You can also get a twin room for around $108. Be aware that some of the hotels in and around Pigalle and Monmartre for less than €100 have extremely small hotel rooms. You don’t get much for your money in the city of love. We stayed in Hotel Fiat and could hardly sit on the toilet in the bathroom without brushing your knees against the wall! A similar situation was reported by travellers staying at Hotel des Arts. If your budget can stretch to it, I would recommend the Hotel Saint-Louis Pigalle, which is more spacious and located approximately 800m from Sacre Coeur. Another great option is to be an apartment through AirBnB. Opt for the Monmartre area or 18th district. You can get $40 dollars free travel credit by signing up with this link. If you are spending some time in Paris, I highly recommend that you take the Seine River Dinner Cruise.