We chose to visit Montmarte as we read about the artists' village at Place du Tertre which sounded absolutely charming. When we arrived at the little enclave I was immediately met by an artist with a clipboard easel who started to sketch my portrait without my consent or agreement. He struck up a conversation while he drew. Another did the same with my husband who kept saying 'no'. We assumed they were struggling artists but during their conversation these two Frenchmen revealed that they play tennis and golf. Before we knew it we were given these two portraits which looked nothing like us and were told to pay 80euros each! We were stunned by how much it cost us and we tried to refuse as it seemed much too much but we were immediately surrounded by other clipboard-bearing artists. Not wanting any trouble we paid off but were left very upset and cheated and the visit left an extremely bitter taste. We paid 10 euros to view Dali works, 9 euros for classics at the Louvre and 8 euros for masterpieces at the Musee D'Orsay...160euros for pithy sketches of us just seemed like a scam and we were just paying for their golf and tennis activities.
Unique Suggestions: If these artists walk up to you, just say 'no' and walk away or ask 'how much' first, which was our biggest mistake.
Fun Alternatives: It is a lovely place to visit but watch out for these artists.
The trap in Montmartre is related to street artists.
You will find a lot of them in Montmartre and on the way to Sacre Coeur.
They for sure won't bother you too much, they will approach in a nice way and ask you for a caricature drawing of yourself.
Now the trap is that they will not talk about the cost they will simply say like "Don't worry i will draw and if you don't like it's ok."
Once the caricature is finished they will ask you a fee of 50 or even more EUR.
You can avoid that by:
1 Simply say you are not interestad, smile and go forward your way
2 Ask the final price before you accept them to draw your caricature
3 If you really like the drawing they did, just let them draw your face and pay based on your estimated value on the caricature
To be honest i prefer to say "No thank you".
We were strolling through Place du Tertre, ducking in and out of shops. We came out of one and a guy carrying a sketch pad approached my wife. "Please let me draw you," he said. We kept saying no but he was persistent. "It is a tradition at Montmartre," he answered in his finest French accent. I kept insisting that we weren't interested in buying a sketch. "No problem if you don't like," was his answer. Okay, fine, sketch away.
So he did, getting off to a good start by capturing her eyes perfectly. I stood behind him and watched, all the while swatting away several artists wanting to draw me. As he progressed, his work regressed, and when he was done it looked nothing like her. Then came the zinger. "Fifty euros for you."
"No way," I said, waving my hand and walking away. He started to follow us and was obviously irritated at our decline of his rip-off attempt. "You Americans, all you understand is Coca-Cola," he spat as we disappeared into the crowd.
Unique Suggestions: Hint: if you want your portrait done, there is an area adjacent to the square where a bunch of sit-down artists set up shop. We walked through there and saw some amazing work. You'll probably have to pay a hefty sum, but most of them look worth the money.
There are many street artists in Paris. Some of them are extremely talented and will not approach you because their work speaks for itself. Be wary of artists who do approach you. We had a man come up to us and ask to draw us. He was very charming, spoke great English and acted like our friend. We said no but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He drew a sketchy cartoon picture which looks nothing like us (yes thats meant to be me and my boyfriends floating head next to the Eiffel Tower). He then wanted us to pay him a ridiculous amount of euros for something which we could have drawn ourselves. He wasn't aggressive at all, quite the opposite which is probably why we gave in to him, but we managed to knock his price down. My boyfriend did buy the drawing but only for the right price. Just be wary of people who approach you.
Unique Suggestions: If you are approached then just tell them you've already been drawn by another artist.
I didn't know where else to put this. This happened to me three times in one day in Paris. The first time it happened was near the Musée D'Orsay, the second near Invalides, the third near the Tour Eiffel near Les egouts (the sewers). I didn't fall for it but I saw one stupid tourist get disturbed by it. You will be walking along a street when you suddenly see A RING on the ground. The other pedestrian approaching you from the opposite direction picks it up and inquires you about it. I said no, it's not mine. The person (in this case a woman) said NO, NO it's YOURS, pressuring you to take it. I didn't and went on my way. I saw another ring near Invalides and shook my head at the scammer before he could pick it up. The third time I again shook my head at the scammer, but I watched him spring a ring at a tourist. The foolish tourist eventually accepted the ring, and the scammer shook his hand stagily and walked off... soon after he returns to hit the tourist up for cash. The incident I witnessed ended up in shouts, and probably upset the tourist's afternoon.
Unique Suggestions: Look out for denim jackets, they all wore denim jackets. I'm serious.
Place du Tertre is is a well known square in the heart of Montmartre. As the former main square of the village, it attracts many visitors, and anyone exploring Montmartre usually ends up here at some point.
I've tried to avoid this square the last few times I've been in Montmartre. Every time I return there seems to be an even greater concentration of shops and restaurants aimed at tourists. If you go for a drink or a meal here you'll pay well over the odds though that doesn't seem to deter the thousands who visit. The square is also well known for its street-artists who charge inordinate amount for their pictures.
Unique Suggestions: Try not to buy anything here.
Fun Alternatives: Try visiting some of Montmartre's quieter streets nearby. There will be less people around and you'll get better deals.
Street-artists congregate at many of the city's tourist spots and will hassle you until you let them draw your portrait. I've often seen these guys ask upwards of 200 Francs (25 Euros). Usually they quote a price beforehand and by the time the picture is drawn the price will have trebled. This can be confusing for tourists who don't speak great French or who don't want to be appear rude.
One particular guy (pictured) offered to caricature my brother for free, as he wanted a sample to display to potential customers. 'Fine', we said. So off he went and drew a picture of Kevin, which came out pretty well in fact. He then had the guile to ask for 100 Francs. We laughed and said not a chance. But as it was a good picture we gave him 20F.
Unique Suggestions: Find out the price up front and pay no more at the end regardless of what they ask for.
Fun Alternatives: Don't get your portrait taken.
Place du Tertre, the artists' square, crowds galore. This is the way it is during the daytime, but if you can get there early in the morning...
Unique Suggestions: then perhaps you can watch the sunrise over Paris on the edges of the Place du Tertre, perhaps down rue Calvaire the street that is also stairs. Or come in the evening after the crowds have gone away and enjoy the Place then. It's especially peaceful at midnight
To avoid the grasping artist (and they're not all like that) the easiest thing to do is avoid eye contact. If they reach out for you move away.
Fun Alternatives: Montmartre is a large area, noted for it's "village-like" atmosphere. Go down the side streets, visit the area around Au Lapin Agile, Le Clos Montmartre, Cimetiere St-Vincent (rue des Saules & rue St-Vincent) or to the area to the east and down from Sacre-Coeur or even the area behind this monumental church for some peace & quiet.
Or hunt down the sites associated with Amelie to feel more of the Montmartrois flavor. Or shop at the rue Lepic street market!
Montmartre is so much more than Sacre-Coeur or the artists' square.
One of the photos features La Mere Catherine where the term "bistro" was first used for a place that prepared quick meals. The Russians who were occupying this area in the late 1800s would stomp on their tables shouting out "bistro, bistro" ("quickly, quickly") in order to get their food faster!
Photos: April 2003 & Feb 2006
Throughout the city, notably at the main tourist points there are people only to willing to draw tourists. They seem to charge quite a large amount of money for a quite poor drawing or caricature (50€ in some cases)
Dont fall into the trap, many will be genuine, but most are pretty poor.
Unique Suggestions: Ignore them, or say no thank - better still do not get involved in a conversation.
You should note that if you have well styled hair and bright clothing, you will no doubt be an obvious target for these "artists".
Fun Alternatives: If you must get a drawing done of yourself - go to Montmartre and see others getting drawn first.
Actually, don't destroy the beautiful square, but inflict a very slow and painful death to all the so called artists who paint ugly paintings for tourists.
Most of the time, they don't even paint, or just pretend to paint pre-painted paintings
That's a lot of "paint" in a single phrase.
For those who wonder what I am talking about, place du Tertre is a little square on top of montmartre where throngs of tourists buy ugly stuff to gangsters dressed as "French artists".
Unique Suggestions: If you don't kill them, at least torture them for a while.
Fun Alternatives: Oh please, you know better than that !
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