Montparnasse. The name is a promise of creativity and of a cheerful life. In this stroll, we’ll search for the artistic essence of Montparnasse, meeting Picasso, Giacometti, Man Ray or Modigliani along the way...
Follow the guide and you’ll trace the very lively and creative footsteps of the 'Montparnos'.
1 / Zadkine Museum
Our walk begins in the artists' Montparnasse with the discovery of a hidden treasure, the Zadkine Museum.
Enter by pushing the gates of this pretty 18th century house open, and you’ll find yourself in the residence of Ossip Zadkine, a sculptor of Russian origin, an essential figure of the School of Paris, a contemporary of Picasso, Modigliani or Brancusi and a key element of the Montparnasse, vibrating with artists.
We bet that you will fall in love with this adorable house (an old outbuilding of the convent of Notre-Dame de Sion) where he lived from 1910 onward with his wife Valentine Prax. You may even like more its hidden garden, unexpected, populated by statues whose location the artist himself has chosen.
Note that access to the permanent collections (and the garden) is free of charge.
100, rue d’Assas, Paris 6th
Every day from 10am to 6pm. Closed on Monday
Tel.: 01 55 42 77 20
More info on the musée Zadkine
2 / La Closerie des Lilas
Aaaah, La Closerie des Lilas...Set on the crossroads of Port Royal, this mythical café still resonates with the dances and debates that have shaken it up from since its founding in 1847.
Modigliani, André Breton, Aragon, Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, André Gide, Paul Eluard, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Man Ray are among the artists and writers who have walked the splendid mosaic floor of the Closerie. Even today, many artists and writers can still be found there, and each year the Prix de la Closerie des Lilas is awarded, which rewards a book written by a woman. That's how art resonates within these Art Deco style walls!
Did you know? It was at the Closerie des Lilas that a dispute between Tristan Tzara and André Breton literally put an end to Dadaism, giving birth to the Surrealist movement.
La Closerie des Lilas - 171 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 6e
More info on the Closerie des Lilas
3 / Rue Campagne Première
Welcome to rue Campagne-Première, perhaps the most iconic street of Montparnasse artistic scene. The greatest artists of the day have all put their painter’s brushes or their writer’s feathers in one of the workshops on this mythical street. Do you need a ride?
No. 3 / Today it is a contemporary building without much interest... but in the early 20th century, the sculptor François Pompon and the painter Amedeo Modigliani lived there in "housing workshops".
No. 5 / From 1929 to 1935, the writer-poet Louis Aragon and his companion, Elsa Triolet, lived in a workshop at n°5.
No. 9 / This is the former "Cité des artistes” (City of Artists). Constructed using materials from dismantled structures featured in the 1889 Universal Exhibition, the 128 workshops at the heart of the Campagne-Première street compose a small village. Among the artists working here, great names include the painters Leonard Foujita (until 1917), Giorgio de Chirico, Amedeo Modigliani, Vassili Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti and the writer Reiner Maria Rilke.
Today, many artists still live behind the large door (a former carriage entrance) at 9 rue Campagne-Première. However, unless there is a happy coincidence or a cultural event (watch the site Les ateliers du 9), the Cité des artistes cannot be visited.
No. 14 / You are in front of the home of the painter Yves Klein, who lived and worked in this building from 1958 to 1962. It was in this apartment that he created the "New Realism" movement with art critic Pierre Restany.
No. 17bis / The photographer Eugène Atget had his apartment there. It was here that his photographic career was born. Penniless, Atget was looking for a source of income. Realizing that the painters in his neighborhood lacked photographic documents to inspire them, he decided to provide them with those documents! And so Eugène Atget tirelessly photographed Paris and its surroundings for years, selling his work to the Cité des artistes, down the street. His clients? Foujita, Derain, and Utrillo, among others...
No. 23 / In 1917, the painter Léonard Foujita set up his studio there.
No. 29 / The Hotel Istria still exists, with its pretty marquee. But it is now much more chic than at the beginning of the 20th century, when penniless artists rented rooms by the month. On his guest-list? Rainer Maria Rilke (mentioned at n°9), Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Kiki de Montparnasse, Tristan Tzara, Éric Satie, Elsa Triolet (before she met with Louis Aragon) or Man Ray stayed there. And now you, perhaps, to rediscover the spirit of the Montparnos?
No. 31 and 31bis / This building is the star of the street. It’s undoubtedly the most beautiful workshop building ever built in Paris, with its reinforced concrete structure and its succession of workshop windows built in duplex. Built in 1911, the structure was awarded a prize in the City of Paris facade competition the same year.
The workshop offers 4 floors of duplex atelier. The sculptors are positioned on the ground floor, and the painters above - even if, because it faces due west, the building at 31 never provided the optimal light they would have needed (the constant and soft northern light).
A wealthy, even bourgeois building, the 31 welcomed mostly "successful" artists. Man Ray and Kiki de Montparnasse could afford a workshop there, as could Aragon and Elsa Triolet.
Chaïm Soutine also rented a workshop there, and Pierre Restany and Jean-Pierre Raynaud also lived there.
To fully enjoy the sumptuousness of the 31, make a small detour through the Passage d'Enfer (you enter it via 247 boulevard Raspail, push the gate, it is open). In addition to marvelling at the pastel blinds of this former working-class villa, you will discover the rear of the 31 with its pretty ceramics and town houses. A dream.
Did you know? It was at the end of Campagne Première street that Michel Poiccard (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo), the hero of Breathless, Jean-Claude Godard's cult film, collapsed and died.
Rue Campagne-Première, Paris 14th
4 / Atelier de Pablo Picasso
On your way to the Giacometti Institute, take a look at 242 boulevard Raspail. This opulent mansion, with its large windows, was one of Pablo Picasso's workshops (after a few years at No. 11, on that same boulevard).
Former workshop of Pablo Picasso - 242 boulevard Raspail, Paris 14th
5 /Giacometti Institute
Here you are, in front of the 5 bis rue Victor Schoelcher, a luxurious and flamboyant private mansion. Here you are in front of the Giacometti Institute and not in front of Alberto Giacometti's house, because the artist spent his life in great poverty. But it is in this beautiful house that the Giacometti Foundation has chosen to reconstruct Alberto's workshop. Temporary exhibitions also provide an opportunity to revisit Giacometti's work and its resonance with the time or other works. Be sure, however, to plan your trip in advance.
The Institute can only be visited by pre-booking.
Did you know? Towards the rue d’Alésia, at 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron, about 15 minutes from the Institute, is where you’ll find the (modest) workshop that Alberto Giacometti shared with his brother Diego, from 1926 until his death in 1966. And if you look up at the adjoining building, you’ll see where Simone de Beauvoir lived for many years.
Giacometti Institute - 5 bis rue Victor Schoelcher, Paris 14th
More info on the Giacometti Institute
6 / Montparnasse Cemetery
Of the artists that lived in the district, some of them rest there forever, and others have signed works on friendly graves. Let’s go and meet the Montparnos in the Montparnasse cemetery.
This is where Auguste Bartholdi, Paul Belmondo, Constantin Brancusi, Brassaï, César, Henri Fantin-Latour, Balthazar Lobo, Serge Gainsbourg, Willy Mucha, Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir, Chaïm Soutine, Roland Topor, and Zao Wou-Ki are all buried.
Remarkable tombs also include:
- On Robert Thibier’s grave, Niki de Saint Phalle has signed two sculptures: "Ricardo's cat" and "The Bird"
- On sculptor César’s tomb, you will find a centaur created by the artist himself
A visit to know everything!
But the best way to discover the remarkable tenants of this magnificent cemetery, the 2nd largest in Paris after Père-Lachaise, is to book a visit with Explore Paris! Two hours of investigation and discovery await you.
Montparnasse Cemetery, 3 boulevard Edgar Quinet, Paris 14th
More info on the Montparnasse cemetery
7 / 5 and 9 rue Delambre
At No. 5 / The painter Léonard Foujita lived and worked in this building.
At No. 9 / Built in 1926, this building housed a hotel offering artist studios for rent. Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and even dancer Isadora Duncan stayed there.
Rue Delambre – Paris 14th
8 / Le marché de la création
If the « Montparnasse des Montparnos » has disappeared, it resurfaces every Sunday at the Marché de la Création, on Boulevard Edgar Quinet.
From painters and engravers, to sculptors, photographers and ceramists, today's artists offer their works to the public. There is something for everyone and it is an opportunity for nice discussions. So, don't hesitate to meet them!
Marché de la Création - 56 boulevard Edgar Quinet – Paris 14e
More info on the Marché de la Création, on Boulevard Edgar Quinet
Time for a break
A little something to eat? Want to taste the spirit of Montparnasse? Take a stroll to the Carrefour Vavin the Montparnos loved so much (it’s officially named Place Pablo-Picasso). The offer of restaurants and cafés is so generous that you should easily find your food happiness!
Between the large historical breweries (La Coupole, Le Select, Le Dôme and La Rotonde) and the delicious creperies on the nearby rue du Montparnasse (rue des Bretons!), our heart swings.
And if your dream is simply a bench in the calm, enjoy a Parnassian break in the shade of Notre-Dame des Champs church, in Ozanam Square.
Carrefour Vavin / Place Pablo-Picasso, Paris 6th
Rue du Montparnasse, Paris 14
Square Ozanam - 18 rue Stanislas, Paris 6th
9 / The cafés on boulevard du Montparnasse
The four Cafés on Boulevard du Montparnarsse face each other. Gathered around the Vavin carrefour, they tell the joyful and artistic history of the neighborhood. What are we talking abiout? The 4 legendary cafés of Montparnasse: La Coupole, La Rotonde, Le Select, and Le Dôme.
You can of course admire them from the boulevard - you will probably like the rococo-like decoration of the Dome... as for the neon "Le Select", we guarantee you that it is very instagrammable!
If you choose La Coupole
The mosaics are classified there, as are the columns. With 400 seats, La Coupole has long been the largest restaurant in Paris. The famous brasserie - whose front has been redone - has welcomed more famous customers than can be listed. But you should know that Alberto Giacometti drew there all night on paper tablecloths - that he always took with him in the early morning, and that Josephine Baker liked to come there with Chiquita, her tamed cheetah.
Did you know? If you plan to eat there, order a lamb curry. It’s the signature house (which may be served by an Indian in traditional costume, eternal folklore of La Coupole, long interrupted, recently revived).
La Coupole - 102 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 14th
More info on La Coupole
If you choose La Rotonde
The future Presidents of the French Republic are definitely in favor of La Rotonde! François Hollande celebrated his victory at the Socialist Party primary election, in 2011, here. Emmanuel Macron celebrated his qualification for the second round of the 2017 presidential election.
Did you know? Until 1959, the adjoining cinema and restaurant were part of La Rotonde.
La Rotonde Montparnasse - 105 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 14th
More info on La Rotonde
If you choose Le Select
A haven for "Montparnos" artists as well as its neighbors and competitors, Le Select was the first café in Paris to remain open all night long! And for the dose of contemporary glamour, know that American actress Scarlett Johansson is addicted to the famous "Select roast chicken"!
Did you know? The Select and its pretty neon lights also served as a secure base for homosexual figures in the artistic world (including actor Jean Marais) during the Nazi Occupation during the Second World War.
Le Select - 99 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 14th
More info on The Select
If you choose Le Dôme
The Dôme was the first café in Montparnasse but above all the meeting point of the "Anglo-American literary colony" of Paris, at the beginning of the 20th century.
Did you know? The famous “regulars” of the Dôme called themselves "the dômiers". Among them no less than Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vassily Kandinsky, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Max Ernst, Anaïs Nin, Amedeo Modigliani, Man Ray or Pablo Picasso (absolutely non-exhaustive list).
Le Dôme - 108 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 14th
More info on the The Dôme
10 / Villa Vassilieff
A city of artists hidden behind Montparnasse train station, Villa Vassilieff bears the name of the artist who animated it in the 1910s.
In 1911, the Russian painter and sculptor Marie Vassilieff, a former student of the painter Henri Matisse, set up her studio & academy at the bottom of this small paved green impasse.
In 1920, she willingly transformed the workshop into a canteen for penniless artists, supporting and welcoming the (future) great names of the avant-garde: Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, Léger or Chagall.
The place fell into a bit of oblivion and became an unsuccessful museum... before being reborn from its ashes.
Come visit the Villa Vassilieff. You will find an artists' residence, a contemporary artexhibition space, a café and above all a little bit of the avant-garde spirit that animated this district of Montparnasse for so long!
Villa Vassilieff - 21 avenue du Maine, Paris 15th
More info on Villa Vassilieff
11 / Musée Bourdelle
Enter the spectacular building where the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle lived and practiced his art. Discover its 19th century wooden workshop and the contemporary extension which has been added to it, signed by the immense architect Christian de Portzampac. Walk through the brick galleries along a peristyle that encircles a garden dotted with sculptures.
The Musée Bourdelle is a place of art and life, but also almost a place of contemplation, of calm, in this garden on the edge of a bustling Montparnasse.
Finish your walk and then head in to the Musée. Access to the permanent collections is free!
Musée Bourdelle - 18 rue Antoine Bourdelle, Paris 15th
More info on the Musée Bourdelle