Sunday, 22 October 2017

Paris Montmartre / Pigalle Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.5 km (3.4 miles), terrain: one hill, gain 60 meters

If there is one neighborhood in Paris that fits every tourist's romantic Paris dream, it has to be Montmartre. This is the place where so many impressionist painters made Paris the center of the art world, where Toulouse-Lautrec painted the cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge.
Artist in Montmartre: you just have to love Paris!
Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse, Degas, Picasso, Modigliani... They all lived and worked here, and they painted the scenes that played out before them in the streets and cafés of Montmartre. Many of them are now buried in the Montmartre cemetery.

The neighborhood is not big, so we'll zig-zag a bit on this short run, to see a few of the most scenic streets. Montmartre is one of the few hills in the Paris area, so this is one place to actually do some real hill-climbing.

South of the hill is the gritty Pigalle red-light district, with clubs like the Moulin Rouge, which adds a nice contrast to the picturesque hilltop. We'll combine the two neighborhoods, plus the cemetery into one really interesting run!
Start of the run at Place Pigalle
So get yourself to Place Pigalle, easy to reach with the Pigalle station of the number 2 and 12 Metro lines. The Folies Pigalle club lines one side of the round place.
Along Boulevard de Rochechouart
The big street here is the Boulevard de Clichy. It has a wide, tree-lined pedestrian promenade down the middle, so we'll follow that eastwards. We'll pass Star's Music store with its amazing variety of musical instruments, and a lot of local shops. Lots of people of leisure sit around on the benches along the promenade day and night.

The street-name soon changes to Boulevard de Rochechouart, and you'll come to Place d'Anvers on the right side. It's a nice little square, so let's round it and enjoy the greenery and come back out to the boulevard.
Place d'Anvers
Now we'll head north towards Montmartre hill. So cross the boulevard and run northwards along Rue de Steinkerque.

In two blocks you'll be at the base of the hill with Sacré-Cœur basilica crowning the hilltop with its beautiful white domes, throning above a park along the slope. This is the one-kilometer mark.
Sacré-Cœur from below
There are lots of people here, plenty of tourists and a lot of hustlers trying to separate them from their money. As runners, luckily, we're too fast for them...

So run up the zig-zag pathways heading to the top, then continue on the central steps to the plaza in front of this really impressive church.
View from the top!
The view from the top is great! You can see southwards and eastwards across the whole city. And good news: that was already the main climb, there isn't much more of a rise for the rest of the run!

Now turn left (westwards) to run past Sacré-Cœur along Rue Azais. It ends soon at Rue du Mont Cenis, where you turn right to run a bit uphill to a square at an older church, St. Pierre. This church is left from an old monastery at the site, built where St. Dennis was martyred by the Romans.

Until the late 1800s, the hill was still mainly open country: just the monastery on top, with hillsides covered with vineyards and fields, and with 13 windmills grinding the grain for the nearby city.
Portrait artists in action at Place du Tertre
Turn your back to St. Pierre and run straight west along Rue Norvins to the next square in just a block: the Place du Tertre. This square is the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants, and the whole square is full of their outdoor tables. In the evening, the colorful lights make it enchanting.
Street scene in Montmartre
Really talented portrait artists line the square, waiting for people to request a portrait. It's fascinating to take a look.

So circle the square and continue down Rue Norvins for a couple of blocks, one of the most charming streets you'll ever see. In fact, EVERYTHING around here is charming. Keep your eyes open! A lot of things look somehow familiar if you've spent any time looking at impressionist art.
At La Bonne Franquette
At the first right-hand turn, take that street, Rue des Saules past more famous spots. That restaurant on the right, La Bonne Franquette, was made famous by van Gogh in his painting "La Guinguette". Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Monet and Zola all used to drink there.

We head downhill, then turn left at the first chance (at the pink house called La Maison Rose, onto Rue de l'Abreuvoir.
Photo shooting at La Maison Rose
The road leads to a square called Place Dalida, named after a popular singer and actress who had lived nearby. A lot of fans make a pilgrimage to her statue at the square. There is a viewpoint down the steps to the north. This area is noticeably quieter than the touristy area behind us: a nice change!
Fans visit Dalida
Now turn south along Rue Girardon for just a hundred meters, till Square Suzanne Buisson comes up on the right.

At the 2-kilometer mark, turn into the square to run past the boules players and others relaxing in this nice little park. Exit to the north through the flower gardens.  
Boules players in the heart of Montmartre
NOTE: at the moment, the northern part of the park is being renovated, so you have to head back to Place Dalida and turn left to run westwards, down the narrow lane that heads past the park.

Exit the park to the left and head west along quiet Rue Simon Dereure. It ends at Avenue Junot, where you turn left and follow it as it curves uphill back towards the area where we already were. On the right side, take a look into the beautiful little cul-de-sac, Villa Léandre.
Nice homes along Villa Léandre
When you reach the first intersection, at Rue Girardon, turn right and run the block till it ends at Le Moulin de la Galette (one of the old windmills, and scene of one of Renoir's most famous paintings, "Bal du moulin de la Galette".

Now continue along the narrow alley, Rue d'Orchampt. There is some interesting street art along the house walls here, so keep your eyes open!
Rue d'Orchampt
The alley turns to the left and continues downhill until it meets a couple of squares that connect, bringing you farther down the hill. So head downhill through Place Èmile-Boudeau and pass a couple of friendly pubs.
Place Èmile-Boudeau, heading downhill
Keep running straight downhill along Rue Ravignan until it ends at one of the main streets down along the hillside, the Rue des Abbesses.

This is a lively neighborhood, with lanes heading further downhill, and restaurants and shops all around.

Let's turn left to run just two blocks to the Place des Abbesses, a spot that looks so Parisian. This 3-kilometer mark has a carousel and a Metro station, and there's an interesting little park behind it, with its "Le mur des je t'aime", the "I love you" wall. The words are translated into lots of languages all over the wall, and many romantics head here to take a few pictures.
The "I love you" wall
Circle the park then head back along Rue des Abbesses in the other direction, heading downhill to the west.

Run about five blocks, until the road splits. Continue straight along the left-hand street, Rue Joseph de Maistre (stay to the left of the nice old half-timbered house with the Le Basilic restaurant).
This way along Rue des Abbesses!
In a block, you'll come to a busy street, Rue Caulaincourt, where you turn left. You'll cross a bridge above the Cimetière de Montmartre below. The cemetery was built in an old gypsum quarry, which is why it's so low. In fact, the whole hill is honey-combed by old gypsum mines. The mining started back in the Celtic days, before the Romans arrived.

At the south end of the bridge, take the stairs downward and then turn left to enter the cemetery, at the 4-kilometer mark. It's an interesting place, with memorials to lots of famous locals (lots of artists, and Dalida again!).
The Montmartre cemetery
Basically, just circle the cemetery on whichever paths you think look most interesting. You'll have to exit at the same place that you came in.

It's a bit eerie, a sea of old tombs and monuments, in its own little netherworld below the busy city streets.

When you exit the cemetery, continue south, down Avenue Rachel until it ends at Boulevard de Clichy.

Now you just have to get to the promenade in the middle again and turn left to run eastwards back to Place Pigalle.
The Moulin Rouge, always good for a picture!
Along the way, you'll pass the Moulin Rouge club on the left side with its famous dance revue (cancan was invented here). And a few hundred meters later, you'll be at Pigalle again. Now that was a lot of contrast!

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