Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Abbesses Quarter in Montmartre

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Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Abbesses Quarter in Montmartre
This is the second in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. I felt the romance of old Montmartre as soon as I arrived at the Abbesses metro station. One of only three surviving Art Nouveau stations, the glazed canopy over the entrance, designed by Hector Guimard in 1900, the elegant green railings, street lamps and – what fun! – a carousel, all promised a walk through Belle Époque Paris. The station’s name however is a look back much further, to the abbesses of the 12th century Benedictine Abbey founded here by Louis VI and destroyed in the French Revolution. The Église St Jean de Montmartre is directly opposite the station and I could see immediately why its nickname is Notre Dame des Briques. Its façade is indeed red brick, chosen at the request of Abbot Sobaux who wanted his new church to fit the “industrial age” and thus “speak” to his parishioners at the turn of the last century. Its structure is of reinforced cement, which allowed an elegant interior, mounted on slender pillars, and the Art Nouveau decor, with its geometric patterns and bronze, blue and gold ceramic decorations is stylish and beautiful. Unusual, certainly, but I was glad that objections from traditionalists – and there were quite a few – were overruled and the church was completed in 1904. Église St Jean de Montmartre. Photo: Marian Jones Continuing up Rue des Abbesses, I soon sensed a certain hedonism. Cafés abounded, one sign announcing that food and drink would be served until two o’clock in the morning, and chalked blackboards offered such hearty bistro treats as soupe à l’oignon and moules-frites. The charm of the Vrai Paris café with its balcony of tumbling flowers struck me immediately, and I later discovered that it’s one of the city’s most Instagrammable spots! The street had a cheerful atmosphere, somewhere I could stop for an ice cream, buy some costume jewelry or just settle down with a coffee to watch the passers-by. Vrai Paris café. Photo: Marian Jones A right turn into Rue Tholozé brought an instant change of scene. Looking up past the pretty houses, flower-filled window boxes bringing an individual touch to the uniform balconies, I caught a glimpse of the Moulin de la Galette. One of the last surviving windmills in Montmartre, it’s a nod to the area’s industrial past, but better known as the dance hall it became in the late 19th century. The mill was transformed by a green-painted trellis forming a roof over the garden and, being a little cheaper than neighboring dance halls, it soon attracted a large crowd of good-humored revelers, especially on Sunday afternoons. And, of course, it was the setting for Renoir’s “Bal au Moulin de la Galette.”

Lead photo credit : The Abbesses metro station. Photo: Steve Cadman/ Wikimedia commons

More in Abbesses, Dalida, Flâneries in Paris, Montmartre, Moulin de la Galette

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.


  • Bobbi Fath
    2022-02-03 06:39:56
    Bobbi Fath
    Fabulous. Not able to be in Paris since 2020 so this reading of walk done several times helps fill void until later this year! Merci


    • Marian Jones
      2022-02-15 10:23:17
      Marian Jones
      Thank you for your kind comment, Bobbi. I hope you are able to make it back to Paris soon!