I had heard the Painter's Square in Montmartre was a tourist trap. I agree that it can be, but I didn't feel 'taken.' There are shops and cafes set up around the square, and artists set up easels right in the middle. Some also walk around while drawing people sitting out at the cafes. I bought a painting from this guy, Michel, and bargained him down quite a bit. I realize that the geography may be a little off (hey, I know that Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower aren't right next to each other), but the painting reminds me every day of what a wonderful time I had in Paris.
WEll, just below the Sacre Coeur are the quarters known as Montmartre. The main attraction for tourists here is the square 'Place du Tertre'. This is mostly fake unfortunately. The artists on the square often get their pictures pre-made, and all they do is color them... Still you can always pretend it is all genuin.
Street Traders can be really annoying! There are lots of them and around the main tourist areas you will be approached every few minutes. Just say 'Non, merci' and turn away from them. If you show ANY interest they will not leave you alone! To be fair they don't ask ridiculous amounts but then again most of the stuff they sell is poor quality. Goods include flowers, jewellery, toys, pictures, postcards, drinks, sunglasses and handbags. I did buy a Jasmine 'flower' from a guy in a restaurant (the owner let him in), he only wanted 10 FF for it.
I class the street portrait artists as street sellers because they too can be very forceful. These artists attempt to follow the footsteps the likes of Picasso or Monet, but most have little real talent! The portraits are usually caricatures and the landscapes/still lives they sell are mass produced and not very nice really. Some of the portrait artists are worth sitting down for but do not assume that the examples they show you of their work will be anything like the quality you will get! Expect to pay a premium too - you are a rich foreigner in their eyes whether you actually are or not.
Place De Tertre.
We love this place, it's one of our favourite Paris destinations, but that's not to say it's not a tourist trap!
The place is swarming with artists of all types. Sketch artists, painters, sillouette cutters, musicians.
Some sit by their stalls and allow you to browse in peace. Others pester the life out of you. Some start to draw you despite your protests. Just be polite but firm, and don't buy if you don't want to.
It is a good spot to buy a souvenier of Paris, though, and we now have to 'originals' adorning our walls.
The portraitists on the place du tertre, 50 per cent of them are not artists at all, but you can tell right away, the artists are the weirdests and often the quietests, some of them are excellent, look at their work before you decide to get your portrait done, they usually have samples on their clipboards or posted around them. Some of them are super excellent and I know an Iranian Art Professor at the Sorbonne who rounds off the end of his month by doing portraits in Montmartre on the street and he is excellent.
Don't bother buying souvenirs (keyrings and such) off the street sellers in front of monuments, they usually charge more than the real souvenir shops. Unless you can talk them into giving you 10 for the price of one but that takes a lot of work and not worth the effort.
Parisian artist may seem nice when they draw you but they first tell you a price and afterwards want more money. Walk away and say this I will pay the price we agreed about the first time or nothing!
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