I am in shock! Really in shock by all the comments that I have read here concerning Montmartre. Considering I live here, I wonder why I didn't realize that everything was so overpriced or that I could buy drugs from people in the bathroom at bars - not to say these things didn't happen but they are so far from the norm.
I not only live in Montmartre, I rent properties here and have had so many glowing reviews about our guests' experience here. Maybe it was because they met us, locals who leave them with a guide book of information on the nice restaurants we love to eat in on a regular basis. Maybe it's because we DON'T tell them to eat at Place du Tetre. You go to Rome and you are outside the Coliseum you will be accosted by people trying to get into a photo with you and charge you for it. Who hasn't been cat-called on the streets in numerous cities around the world? But does that mean the place should be shut down and is not worth your time? I think not. Montmartre is large and is not limited to the few steps that most visitors take to walk up to Sacre Coeur from metro Anvers up rue Steinkerque- personally I don't go there. I don't like the crowds - Crowds equal possible problems. Why not stroll up Ave Junot from rue Caulaincourt or hop on the Montmartrobus from metro Pigalle or metro Jules Joffrin?
Want restaurants that are not tourist traps - where you will find real people, eating good food - ask a local (you see it all the time on the travel shows, no? So maybe it works). Try any of these: Le Relais Gascon - 6 rue des Abbesses, Lui L'Insolent - 15 rue Caulaincourt, Au Virage Lepic - 61 rue Lepic, Le Petit Caboulet - 6, place Jacques Froment . . . Just to name a few.
In other words experience it for yourself. Other people's experience is very very important but sometimes you have to wonder. I think I will have to start telling my guests to come to this site to re-educate people about the area because this is sooo sad, I could almost shed a tear.
Monmartre has a lot of artists wanting to draw your face - they will approach you as you are walking along the la Place du Tertre...and unless you really do want to have your charcoal-painting or if you want to help a struggling artist, don't agree to have your face drawn because they do charge a bit high (50 Euro upwards for a few minutes) - this happened to a friend of ours.. .
It is a bit awkward to back-off and not pay if your face has already been drawn...
I personnaly regret to find that the Place du Tertre is over crowded by tourists whereas there are so many other places much more interesting to be discovered in Paris. Place du Tertre is really built up for tourists and the so-called artists make ugly paintings !
Unique Suggestions Just don't go
Fun Alternatives If you are interested in art, the Salvador Dali museum is 100 m from Place du Tertre.
Walking around the Sacre Ceour at night is definately at your own risk, especially if you are alone! Be prepared to be relentlessly hassled and harrassed. Some of the men have thread which they weave into bracelets. They trap you by stringing the end of the thread onto your finger and then while they are platting, they ask you various personal questions. This information is passed from hustler to hustler, so they all know about you and can figure out how much money etc you have. People have had their pockets picked whilst this is happening. You will walk for 5 minutes and run into some who knows your name and where you are from.
These guys also ask for sex are not adverse to following you through the streets of Montemarte, pretending they are not! Although I didn't really have any problems in the streets of Montemarte, it mostly came from the Sacre Ceoure.
Beware the street sellers trying to rip you off for a piece of cotton that they claim will help your sex life (hence the name jiggy-jiggy). At the base of the Sacre Coure they will ask you to hold out your little finger and then tie a piece of cotton around it and continue to make a wrist band. After they have tied it to your wrist they will tell you they normally charge 20 euro each, but since you're nice you can have it for 10 euro. We pleaded poor and got two for less then 2 euro, not that we really wanted any.
Unique Suggestions Advice, either ignore them or tell them your sex life already has enough jiggy-jiggy!!
This cafe/bar at 15 Rue Lepic (the bottom end of the road) was a location in the film 'Amelie' and is recognisable the moment you go in. Even the toilets and the bar fittings are the same, and there's a garden gnome at the back of the bar. Prices are not touristy as Rue Lepic has many local retailers.
Unique Suggestions Don't bother going on a Saturday - you won't get a seat. Friday is much quieter.
The Place du Tertre in Montmarte has alot of artists who will draw your portrait or paint scenery. This is not cheap mind you. But walking around as they can't afford a place in the square are various portrait artists or caricturists. They charge quite alot too. And they will try to get your attention by approaching you outright. Sometimes they use compliments about your looks to get your attention. Don't bother unless you really want to.
Unique Suggestions Just walk on by.
Just return from Paris and my only one bad experience was exaclty when everyone experienced when heading up on the steps . A goup of these scums African guys cornered me ( i am pretty big for a asian guy ) and ask he to show my hands . I know what they are up to and left my hands in my pocket ... one of them got pretty agressive when i fimly said no and jsut walk ahead .. he tried to block my path a while but i carried on . At the point of time i really iwsh i had a weapon and put this guy down .. sorry to sound agressive but these guys are just really low down con man . So my advise is ... aviod the step and try going they the back way , cant remember the name but the small villiage behind the chuch. Cheers
As everyone has noted try to avoid contact with the seedy looking black guys at the base of the stairs and out front of the church itself.
I couldnt beleive the police would allow them to blast gangster rap at full volume 20 feet from the entrance to the church.
Unique Suggestions Whatever you do dont let them put the string around your finger.
The Sacre Couer is a beautiful place to visit, especially at night. But beware of young males who prowl around. If you give them your hand they will tie a knot around your finger and make friendship bracelets, and once they have tied them around your wrist it is impossible to take them off or hand them back, so you have no option but to pay. My partner and I ended up paying seven euros for two bits of string, and that took considerable haggling!
Unique Suggestions Don't get into a conversation or make eye contact with these people, as they make it very difficult to walk away. One thing which did seem to work - a French girl laughed at them and said "Je suis n'pas un tourist!" ("I am not a tourist!") and they left her alone.
By allowing some guy to make me a dumb looking friendship bracelet at the bottom of the steps to le Sacre Coeur. When he approached me and asked to see my wrist, I hardly expected that the guy would swiftly wrap a few strings around my wrist and proceed to braid them. And then he wouldn't let go of the strings (or my wrist) until I gave him a couple of Euros! I would like to blame my naivity on jet leg, but...
Beware similar scams around Paris. I met a bunch of people at Le Village Hostel who had unwittingly fallen for the same scam. One girl had even paid 10 Euros for the dumb braided strings!
Yes, it's a beautiful building. Yes, it's magnificently located on top of the hill overlooking the city. Yes, Montmartre around it is bustling with activity. The thruth of the matter, however, is that you can easily skip the interior as it's dark, gloomy and pretty austere and all tourist facilities around it are overpriced. Visit the top of the hill, take a few pics and wander off into Montmartre for more fun!