Discover the cultural side of north Pigalle
This lively district at the foot of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica also has quiet streets, secret gardens and cabarets
North Pigalle (often shortened to ‘NoPi’) extends along Boulevard de Clichy and Boulevard de Rochechouart on the slopes of the Montmartre hill, at the foot of the Sacré Cœur Basilica. It is a lively, trendy district filled with concert venues and cafés. Ignore the risqué neon signs and the souvenir shops – there are plenty of cultural highlights and entertainment venues to see here. You’ll often catch a glimpse of the basilica as you wander the area’s charming little streets.
Start from the Blanche metro station (Line 2).
1 / Moulin Rouge
As you come out of the metro, look up and you’ll spot the trademark windmill overlooking Place Blanche. Opened in 1889, the cabaret was a Paris nightlife landmark in the Roaring Twenties (it has since reinvented itself as a theatre, cinema and music hall). Its French can-can performers were an irresistible draw for revellers. The Moulin Rouge was the favourite haunt of artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Auguste Renoir. These days its shows are enjoyed by visitors from around the world. The adjacent building houses a nightclub, the Machine du Moulin Rouge, hosting live electronic music, rock and hip-hop shows as well as parties. Climb to the rooftop and you’ll discover a little oasis of greenery. Then walk down the cul-de-sac along the side of the building, known as Cité Véron. Number 4 bis is the Bar à Bulle, which has a pleasant terrace dotted with Japanese maples. Another short walk and climb will lead you to another one-of-a-kind terrace under the blades of the famous windmill, from where you can look down at the bustling Boulevard de Clichy.
Moulin Rouge - 82 boulevard de Clichy, Paris 18th
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La Machine du Moulin Rouge - 90 boulevard de Clichy, Paris 18th
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Le Bar à Bulle - 4 bis cité Véron, Paris 18th
Return to Boulevard de Clichy and walk east until you reach Number 64.
2 / Trois Baudets
Behind the art deco façade of Number 64, Boulevard de Clichy is a former dance hall, transformed in the late 1940s into a show venue called Les Trois Baudets with the aim of giving young emerging artists an opportunity to make their stage debut. It was here that the likes of Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco first performed in front of an audience. The venue remains a breeding ground for emerging artists.
Les Trois Baudets – 64 boulevard de Clichy, Paris 18th
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Take Rue Coustou to get to Rue Lepic.
Time for a break? The terrace of the Lux Bar is the perfect place to have coffee and a croissant in a quintessentially Parisian setting as you watch the comings and goings on Rue Lepic. The colourful belle époque decor inside features Montmartre scenes.
Lux Bar - 12 rue Lepic, Paris 18th
At the junction of Rue Lepic and Rue des Abbesses, turn into Rue Tholozé.
3 / Studio 28
This venue – much loved by Montmartre film enthusiasts – has a charmingly retro exterior. Studio 28 opened in 1928, which makes it the oldest cinema still in operation in Paris. It was also the city’s first arthouse cinema. You can have a bite to eat after the film in the small heated winter garden. Jean Cocteau, who was one of the cinema’s patrons, designed the light fixtures in the auditorium.
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4 / Moulin de la Galette
Montmartre was once a rural village inhabited by farmers, craftspeople and millers. Of the fifteen windmills on the hill in the 17th and 18th centuries, only two remain: the Radet and the Blute-Fin. Both are now the property of the Moulin de la Galette, the outdoor dance hall immortalized by Renoir in his famous painting. It is now a restaurant. To the right of it, a former neighbourhood cinema, Théatre Lepic, has been restored to its original function as an intimate live venue, run since 2004 by Salomé Lelouch.
Le Moulin de la Galette – 83 rue Lepic, Paris 18th
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Théâtre Lepic – 1 avenue Junot, Paris 18th
5 / Passe Muraille
Walk across the square facing the theatre for a closer look at a striking sculpture you will see there, titled LePasse-muraille (The Walker-Through-Walls). Sculpted by Jean Marais, it represents a character in a short story by Marcel Aymé, trapped, as in the story, in the exact spot in which the scene is presumed to have taken place. The writer spent much of his life living in Montmartre, on Rue Norvins, and most of his novels are set in the area. The City of Paris has named the little square with the statue after him.
Place Marcel Aymé, Paris 18th
Retrace your steps and turn into Rue d’Orchampt, which begins diagonally across from the Moulin de la Galette.
6 / Rue d’Orchampt et la Maison de Dalida
Rue d'Orchampt is mainly known as the street where the Egyptian-born French-Italian singer Dalida once lived – for 25 years, at Number 11 bis. Even today, many people visiting the area stop to stare up at the house in silent tribute. The side of the street with odd-numbered houses looks as if it hasn’t changed one iota since the early 20th century. It is lined with artists’ studios that managed to survive the 1970 fire that destroyed the Bateau-Lavoir building, once home to a group of famous artists. Picasso, Braque, Brancusi and Modigliani all worked there. It was renovated in 1978, and the façade of the new building overlooking Place Emile Goudeau rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire.
Maison de Dalida – 11 bis rue d’Orchampt, Paris 18th
Cross Place Emile Goudeau (with its magnificent view over Paris and the dome of Les Invalides), turn left into Rue des Trois Frères, and right into Passage des Abbesses.
7 / Jardin des Abbesses
A small porch at Number 10 leads into the well-hidden Jardin des Abbesses: a reminder of the ‘Dames de Montmartre’, or ‘Ladies of Montmartre’, as the residents of the Abbey of Montmartre, a former Benedictine monastery for women, were known. The abbey was inhabited until the Revolution. This medicinal herb garden made up of square beds is a shady haven on hot summer days.
Jardin des Abbesses – 10 passage des Abbesses, Paris 18th
Now make your way to Place des Abbesses.
8 / Jardin Jehan Rictus and the I Love you wall
The Jehan Rictus garden on Place des Abbesses is named after the poet Gabriel Randon de Saint-Amand, known as Jehan Rictus. Tucked away behind the flowering cherry trees, maples, sycamores and old roses is an artwork by Frédérique Baron Claire Kito: the ‘Mur des je t’aime’, or ‘I Love You’ wall. This mural made up entirely of enamel tiles features the phrase ‘I love you’ 311 times in a variety of languages.
Jardin Jehan Rictus – 14 place des Abbesses, Paris 18th
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Walk down Rue des Abbesses and turn right into Rue des Martyrs.
9 / Two cabarets Chez Michou and Madame Arthur
There are two legendary cabarets located on either side of Rue des Martyrs. To your left, at Number 80, you will see the pink and blue awning of Chez Michou, a fixture of the neighbourhood since 1956. Every evening, at around eight o’ clock, a small crowd gathers here to watch performers in drag parodying famous singers, past and present. A little further down, at Number 75 bis, is the vermilion-painted rococo façade of Madame Arthur. This place – the city’s first post-war drag cabaret – was given a makeover in 2015 by Divan du Monde, the venue next door. Three nights a week, it hosts some of the wildest parties in Paris.
Chez Michou – 80 rue des Martyrs, Paris 18th
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Madame Arthur – 75 bis rue des Martyrs, Paris 18th
10 / Théâtre de l’Atelier
Place Charles Dullin is the location of the neo-classically styled Théâtre de l’Atelier. Now a listed monument, this Italian-style theatre originally known as Le Montmartre has been operating since it first opened in 1822. Jean Cocteau, Luigi Pirandello, Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Michel Bouquet have featured on the programme.
Théâtre de l’Atelier - 1 place Charles Dullin, Paris 18th
At the bottom of Rue des Martyrs, turn left into Boulevard de Rochechouart.
11 / L’Elysée Montmartre
The Elysée Montmartre at Number 72, Boulevard de Rochechouart was originally a 19th-century ballroom where people danced the can-can. It has been a cabaret, a café-concert, a boxing ring and a show venue at various points in its history. It is now a concert hall. The art nouveau-style building is adorned with a bas-relief of a dancing woman brought here from the old Bal Mabille, and the ballroom has been given listed building status.
L’Elysée Montmartre – 72 boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris 18th
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12 / The Trianon
Built in 1894 on the site formerly occupied by the Jardin de l'Élysée-Montmartre, the Trianon hosted shows by famous performers of the time such as Mistinguett and La Goulue. In the course of the 20th century, it was repurposed into a music hall, a cinema and finally a theatre. A listed building, it is now a show and concert venue. The art deco-style café and restaurant on the ground floor, Le Petit Trianon, was part of the original venue. It reopened some years ago.
Le Trianon – 80 boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris 18th
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Walk up Rue Steinkerque and turn right when you reach Place Saint Pierre.
13 / La Halle Saint-Pierre
An elegant structure built in the style favoured by the architect Victor Baltard, the Halle Saint Pierre houses a museum devoted to art brut and folk art, as well as an art gallery, a bookshop and a café. This pleasant, brightly-lit space hosts major temporary exhibitions, and organizes artistic and cultural activities mirroring the theme of each exhibition.
La Halle Saint Pierre – 2 rue Ronsard, Paris 18th
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Walk down Rue Livingstone, which becomes Rue d’Orsel, to return to Boulevard de Rochechouart. Head towards the Barbès metro station.
14 / The Louxor
When you reach the metro station, you will find yourself looking at the superb mosaics adorning the façade of the Louxor, a cinema built in 1921 in an art deco style that drew inspiration from Ancient Egypt. Wind up your walk with a refreshing drink on the rooftop Bar du Louxor, from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, with the pink neon signs of the discount store Tati and the overhead metro in the forefront.
Le Louxor – Palais du cinéma - 170 boulevard de Magenta, Paris 10th
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To enjoy a gourmet tour of Montmartre with a guide: Paris a Dream