This post is part of our Love Letter series: first-person accounts of what we love about Paris.
I first fell in love with Montmartre on the big screen, thanks to its starring role in Amélie. And like my heroine’s own connection to her neighborhood, it’s the first place I started to feel at home in Paris.
When I visited a shared apartment in Montmartre which came with all the basics as well as a view of the Sacré-Cœur from my bedroom, I knew it was too good to pass up. Decent apartments don’t come around very often in this city. Even fewer come with a view of an iconic monument to remind you that you’re living your Parisian dream.
Finding a home in Paris
And so started my life in Paris. I’d already lived here for months, though. The first place I called home was the bourgeois and unexciting 16th arrondissement (which I don’t recommend) before moving on to Le Marais (which I do, if you can find a decent apartment). But it was in Montmartre where I started to feel like I actually lived here.
Name-dropping Amélie sounds like a cliché, but Montmartre really feels like its own little village. Sure, there are more tourists here than you ever see in the film (director Jean-Pierre Jeunet must have deleted them in post-production). And I wasn’t matchmaking locals or chatting up any of my neighbors. But I did find my regular haunts where I could also feel like I belonged—not like someone passing through for the weekend.
As all Parisians know, the first thing to do when you explore your new quartier is to find a good bakery. Bread is life here, and one of my favorite habits was picking up a baguette from Pain Pain. I’d often find myself nibbling on the end, as all true Parisians do, as I walked home. It was a simple French pleasure which I loved to indulge in: a fresh-baked baguette with plenty of salted butter.
Pain Pain is also where my friends and I would pick up supplies for a picnic on sunny days on the grass of the Sacré-Cœur. But to avoid the guilt of too many trips to my newfound local bakery, I also had to find a new running route. The hills of Montmartre and the steps up to the Sacré-Cœur made for a pretty torturous 30 minutes, but it was worth it for all those delicious buttery carbs. And that’s not to mention the early morning view once I had reached the top—one of the best in Paris, and luckily for me, right on my doorstep.
Montmartre by night
By night, I loved strolling down rue des Abbesses and picking any bar at random to enjoy a glass of wine and some people-watching. Although for food it’s worth being more discerning—tourists love this street too—I did stumble upon the cozy bistro I had in mind when I moved to Paris.
Though not quite Amélie’s cafe, Un Zèbre à Montmartre serves up good hearty French food, and the terrace outside is perfect for soaking up the buzz from the street.
I was also a regular at Marlusse et Lapin, where I would try to squeeze my way past the packed bar with my €5 pint. My goal: to get into the shabby but charming back room, furnished with a bed, bath, Singer sewing machine, and even a swing.
When friends visited, a drink on the rooftop of Terrass Hotel never failed to impress with its Eiffel Tower view. Another popular option was to head to the bar at Hôtel Particulier Montmartre, which is still a favorite of mine even now—not only for the well crafted drinks, but also its hidden location behind a gated driveway at the back of Montmartre. The hotel even has its own “secret” garden—a peaceful sanctuary away from the tourists and packed summer terraces.
I left Montmartre two years ago to move to the 11th arrondissement, which I love for different reasons. But Montmartre will always be a special place for me. Even if I don’t visit as much as I would like, I can always enjoy its charm at home with Amélie and the magic of cinema.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Paris? Just add your email address in the form below!
Nicola Leigh Stewart is a travel writer who, after living in London and Madrid, finally settled in Paris. Always thinking about her next meal, her favorite thing about France is the food, and she spends most of her weekends in search of the flakiest pain au chocolat in Paris, the best fromagerie, and more importantly, the best cocktail happy hour.