(Photo via tumblr)
Montmartre is a neighborhood situated on a 130 meter high hill in the northern end of the Right Bank of Paris. The name of the hill and neighborhood is derived from the Latin Mons Martis (“Mount of Mars”), and later the Christianised Montmartre, which translates to “mountain of the martyr” in French. Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris, was beheaded on the hill around 250 AD, and legend of his martyrdom holds that he carried his head all the way from Montmartre to the river Seine.
Montmartre was actually outside the city limits of Paris until the 1860s, when Napoleon III and his urban planner Baron Haussman increased the number of Paris’ arrondissements, or districts, from 12 to 20. As wealthier residents moved into the city center and the original arrondissements, the poor and working class were forced to areas on the outskirts of Paris, like Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. By the end of the 19th century, Montmartre became an artist hub as part of the bohemian movement. Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali lived and worked in the area. Josephine Baker, Le Corbusier, and Django Reinhardt are rumored to have met regularly at art salons such as R-26.
Today, Montmartre is best known for its village-like cobble stone streets, the nightclub le Moulin Rouge (popularized by the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film of the same name), and the domineering dome-shaped Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, which sits at the very tip of the hill. The area is now far from a bohemian colony of struggling artists and cafe dwellers, but rather one of the most expensive and exclusive real estate districts of Paris. Montmartre is one of the most-visited destinations in Paris, and the top of the hill (although it is quite a hike!) offers a sublime view of the entirety of the city.