As far as famous landmarks go, le Moulin Rouge is way up there, alongside the Sacré-Coeur, both attracting hordes of tourists on a daily basis.
Similar in more ways than one, the two world-renowned attractions embody the bygone era of La Belle Epoque and can be found in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, one of the most diverse and buoyant parts of the city.
It is rich with history and has a vibrant local life (vie de quartier), an array of cultural offerings, a great choice of restaurants and heaps of magical streets and passageways to ignite your imagination and delight your eyes for days on end.
Le dix-huitième as locals call it, is at times loud and vulgar, subtle and elegant, modern and nostalgic, ugly and stunning, but for sure always surprising.
You never know what fun bistro, strange museum or gorgeous building is waiting for you around the corner. Time for a little tour!
The 18th arrondissement: history and topography
Paris’ outline as we know it today, with its current borders and composition, is somewhat new in regard to the history of the city.
As a matter of fact, the existing limits of la Ville lumière were drawn by the law of June 16 1859, which was promulgated following the Grand Paris vision of Emperor Napoleon III, a dream made reality by his acolyte and eminent urban planner Baron Haussmann.
In short, bordering communes were partially or entirely annexed to Paris, expanding and reshaping the map of the city. As a result, the number of arrondissements went up from 12 to 20. And thus, the 18th was born, formed by of parts of the former towns of Montmartre and La Chapelle.
Encompassing different neighbourhoods such as la Goutte d’or, Montmartre, North Pigalle and Chateau-Rouge, Jules-Joffrin, Place de Clichy (some official and unofficial administrative districts). There is so much to write about, all neighbourhoods will not be included in the article.
One cannot easily define this arrondissement with just a few words: diverse and eclectic might do the job, but they are far from enough.
Maybe this multiple, contrasted and indescribable nature is where the magic and beauty of le dix-huitième truly lies.
Located in the north of Paris, this area is home to various social classes and cultural groups. Young artists, wealthy tourists, fruit merchants and thirty-something bobos coexist in a rather smooth manner.
To explore our subject matter furthermore, here are three important quartiers one can find when living or visiting this arrondissement.
La butte Montmartre (butte means hill) is perhaps the most celebrated neighborhood of Paris. People from around the globe come to this mythical place where poets, writers and painters gathered at the end of the 19th century, living poorly but bursting with creative passion, hungry but living for their art.
Nowadays, gentrification has replaced the famished artists, but the memory of those times still lingers as you stroll through Place du Tertre and the streets surrounding the basilica Sacré-Coeur.
Yes, tourists are everywhere, but the place still holds a quiet charm. Furthermore, if you wander off and stroll down and up the lesser crowded and gorgeous streets, you will have a wonderful time just enjoying the settings.
Montmartre feels like a village at the top of the city, with its own architecture, its vineyards and its green and leafy landscape.
East of rue Clignancourt, you will find Château Rouge..
Chateau Rouge was the name given to a small castle built in the 18th century, which became a popular dance hall in the 19th century when it was eventually demolished.
If you decide to venture into this area, do not miss the rue Dejean market.
Bristling with flavors and noise, this is a permanent marché. Fish, vegetables and other products are displayed on the stands while people chat and shop. In this quarter, the atmosphere is energetic, creative, enthralling.
Chateau Rouge is home to delicious, north African restaurants and bakeries (almond and honey pastries are a delight).
Pigalle cannot leave you indifferent!
You’ll find the northern part of Pigalle located at the foot of the butte Montmartre and noticeable with its neon lights, sex shops, night clubs and concert venues.
Between Anvers and Blanche station, along the boulevard Rochechouart and boulevard de Clichy, this quartier is always crammed with people. They could be tourists on their way to le Moulin Rouge, trendy crowds eating at Bouillon Pigalle, cool kids queuing to catch a gig at l’Élysée-Montmartre, or hungry locals eating kebabs and crêpes after partying at le Divan du Monde.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Pigalle was an artist hood. then it became home to gangsters, crooks, and mobsters right before the Great War. Brothels, crimes and illicit activities became to be synonymous with Pigalle.
Today, the neighborhood consists of a mix of nostalgia, hip vibes, naughty storefronts but also a mundane feel (there are plenty of shops, cafés, markets and schools). It’s a must to stroll through the arrondissement.
Where to go, what to see: treasures of the eighteenth arrondissement
Bar à Bulles
Atop the nightclub La Machine du Moulin Rouge, you can find le Bar à Bulles. Opened in 2015, this restaurant and bar offers great food and drinks in a sumptuous location. Vintage furniture and green plants make for a cozy and elegant décor.
Also, the entrance is situated on Cité Véron, an exquisite passageway where icons and writers Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian used to live.
Not too far from the previous suggestion, walk up the rue Lepic.
- Here, you can see the famous Café des deux Moulins featured in the movie Amélie, and
- you can also buy cheese, chocolate and Provence products, to name a few of the many shops filling the popular street.
- You will then reach rue des Abbesses and its many bistros with terraces.
- It will be hard to choose where to sit for a drink or a meal, but I recommend le Saint Jean, le Sancerre or les Fistons.
- To quench your thirst, head to Chez Camille on rue Ravignan a wonderful bar with retro music and décor, where the spirit is always joyful.
- Other popular places are La Fourmi, Marlusse et Lapin, Tagada bar, and la Petite dernière.
- Another well-loved spot is the garden of the Hotel particulier Montmartre, a hidden treasure along the elegant avenue Junot.
Looking for some culture to feed your mind and soul?
- Reach the lovely place Charles Dullin, where trees and lampposts offer a charming setting to the Theatre de l’Atelier. Not only is it a magical little spot, but the plays offered at this theater are always interesting, entertaining and or challenging.
- Le Theatre Funambule: a smaller theater presenting up-and-coming artists and innovative shows, is a great place to discover talents and enjoy a fun evening.
Musée de Montmartre
This museum offers you the chance to plunge into the history of the neighborhood through their permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. What’s more, there is a beautiful garden to explore!
You can find one of the most famous cinemas of Paris, the old-fashioned Studio 28, located up on rue Tholozé. With French and international movies to satisfy the cinephile within you, this legendary building also has a garden where you relax and sip a cup of coffee.
For some good food
- The Sicilian restaurant Tentazioni is a must – they also have a shop. You could try le Bouillon Pigalle if you fancy a more classic French meal, or La Mascotte for a famous and delicious meal savoured at a Montmartre institution.
- Great boulangeries can also be found here, such as Coquelicot, Pain Pain, Raphaelle and le Genier à Pain. If like me you have a sweet tooth, the oriental pastries found in various bakeries around Barbès and Pigalle are very scrumptious.
- So many cafés, bars, concert halls and places to see!
- But more than anything, take the time to walk and immerse yourself in the spirit of this unique arrondissement. Cité du Midi, rue Gabrielle, allée des Brouillard, and rue Saint-Vincent.
I recommend that you get yourself lost in the magic of the eighteenth arrondissement, and do it soon!
Have you ever visited the eighteenth arrondissement? Do you have some places to recommend? Let us know in the comments section below!
NOTE: This popular Guide was published in December 2018, then refreshed and republished in 2021
1. Montmartre, by Christophe Meneboeuf via Wikipedia
2. Street map of the 18th, by OpenStreetMap via Wikipedia
3. Rue Dejean market, by Mbzt via Wikipedia
4. Pigalle, by Márcio Cabral de Moura via Flickr
5. Paris XVIII cité Véron, by via Wikimedia Commons
6. Abbesses metro, by zoetnet via Wikipedia
7. Musée de Montmartre, by Fmvh via Wikipedia
More in this series from Melissa
75003 – Not to be missed – lively, energetic historic – 3rd arrondissement, Paris
75009 – GUIDE to the Cool, Trendy & Exciting 9th arrondissement, Paris
75017 – Not to be missed Guide to the 17th arrondissement Paris and Parc Monceau
75018 – the unmissable GUIDE to the 18th arrondissement of Paris
75019 – a fabulous GUIDE to the enthralling laid-back19th arrondissement of Paris
75020 – the not to be missed GUIDE to the authentic artsy 20th arrondissement of Paris