If you want to learn more about one of Paris’s neighborhoods, you couldn’t have picked a better one than Montparnasse. This area is pretty well-known for being a literary, artistic, and philosophical center of France’s capital.
This is where artists like Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Emile Zola set up camp at some of the local cafes. It’s where they wrote, conversed, composed, painted, and lived!
Many masterpieces were produced in Montparnasse during that moment in history, and that’s one of the main reasons why it’s still one of the most visited neighborhoods in Paris today. Of course, this area has other claims to fame, some of which we look at below.
So if you’re ready to learn more about this popular district, let our article be your neighborhood guide to all the interesting areas in Montparnasse.
Visit the Catacombs of Paris
Although certainly not for the squeamish, this part of Montparnasse will leave a lasting impression on all visitors. Located right under the feet of cafe revelers sipping lattes above, the Catacombs of Paris are said to house the remains of over six million people.
The corpses were moved to the maze of tunnels under the city after many cemeteries were shut down for sanitary reasons in the 1790s. However, instead of being buried in the normal fashion, or at least piled up and covered with dirt or mud, the skeletons and skulls of the corpses were arranged in a macabre way lining the walls of the underground maze.
There’s no other sight in the world that comes close to triggering supernatural eeriness the way this place does. If you think you can handle it, then take a walk down these underground tunnels as your first activity during your visit to Paris.
Make Your Way to the Observatory
The Paris Observatory is among the largest and most visited astronomical centers on earth. It was built way back in 1667, and today it offers a diverse scientific and technical heritage. A visit to this site will allow you to experience the story of this research institution which is woven into the years of its rich history since the beginning.
Until the end of the 20th century, this building, which represents the best of French astronomy, was a place for observation only. Now it’s one of the foremost institutions in instrument design, theoretical research, and every other major area of astronomy.
A visit here will definitely be rewarding with regards to the level of information and interesting facts that you will come away with.
Discover Modern Art at the Fondation Cartier
The Fondation Cartier, or Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, as it is also known, has an impressive exhibit of almost one thousand artworks by 300 artists from all over the world. This contemporary art museum is located in the capital’s 14th arrondissement, Montparnasse, and is open every day except Monday.
This building is home to a lot of the city’s most precious treasures. If you’re someone who appreciates the originality and charm of contemporary art, then you’ll absolutely love taking a stroll through the exhibits showcased here. The building is made entirely from steel and glass, and this location is also well-known for its gorgeous garden filled with lush vegetation that offers a beautiful oasis to all nature lovers.
Every week there are artistic performances, vernissages, exhibitions, shows, and various other cultural events organized at the Fondation Cartier to support new artists and pay tribute to some of the greatest names in modern art.
Visit The Blue House – Rue de la Gaité
The Blue House in Montparnasse’s neighborhood is a charming place in the heart of the district. It has a relaxed atmosphere which makes it the perfect place to visit during your exploration of Montparnasse. It’s tucked away on the Rue de la Gaite, and there you’ll find a vibrant crowd that is ever ready to experience fun and laughter.
This place is located on one of the most lively streets in France’s capital. As the name suggests, this building is vibrant and colorful – designed to brighten up the daily life of city dwellers. There are many bars, bistros, and cafes on this street which was developed in the early 19th century.
As more public dances, cabarets, and open-air dance halls came to Rue de la Gaite, bit by bit the street became more specialized. By the end of the century, some theaters had started to move in, some of which are still standing even today. One example is the Theatre Bobino which you can see as you walk down this popular street.
The Blue House is just a stone’s throw away from all the nice Parisian bistros and there are plenty of local restaurants that you’ll be able to enjoy gourmet cuisine, wine tasting, and more – all within walking distance.
Climb to the top of the Montparnasse Tower
There are many reasons why you might choose to climb to the top of this tower. For one thing, towering over 210m above the ground, this building easily offers some of the best views of the city. Also, here you get the complete experience.
There’s everything to do in this building, including restaurants, bars, kid-friendly concerts, games, and so on. The rooftop terrace is frequently hosting exceptional activities for the whole family. This is one of the main reasons more and more people are now opting to climb to the top of Montparnasse’s Tower as opposed to the Eiffel Tower.
You can even go ice skating on the roof! In addition to having such a diverse range of unbelievably fun activities, this building also has ticket prices that are much less expensive, compared to the Eiffel Tower entry fee. So as you can see, no matter what type of activity or experience you want to have, you’ll find it at one level or another of the Montparnasse Tower.
Discover the restaurants that awakened the creativity of international artists
Le Dôme and La Coupole are two famed restaurants in Montparnasse, Paris, where intellectuals were known to gather since the early 1900s. Cafe du Dome was opened in 1898, and it was the first cafe of its kind in the area. It quickly grew in popularity and was soon boiling with intense artistic life.
La Coupole was built in 1927 and quickly became a symbol of Montparnasse’s history. These two restaurants are particularly famed for having inspired the creativity of the many international artists who came here to write, paint, and compose.
If ever there was a storied place to enjoy your meals, these two restaurants are it! They both adapt to all your needs and desires, from breakfast meals to lunch, dinner, and aperitif time where you can have creative cocktails at the American bar. There’s also a private lounge at Le Dome where you can go for fun dance evenings.
Visit the cemetery where some of the famous artists rest
The Montparnasse Cemetery has roughly 35,000 graves, some of which belong to the most famous people in the world. Some notable names include Susan Sontag, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Baudelaire, and Serge Gainsbourg.
There are many other famous people who are buried in this cemetery, and during your visit, you’ll be able to wander around to find the resting places of some of your favorite artists.
This is a highly popular place for visitors to the Montparnasse neighborhood, and in addition to finding the greatest names in art history, you’ll also find a wide variety of famed individuals, including philosophers, political figures, actors, and writers. Also, this cemetery also houses a number of tombs to commemorate the people who died in the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war.
Picnic at the Atlantic Garden or Garden of the Cité Universitaire
If you love gardens and taking walks in nature, you’ll absolutely love the Atlantic Garden. Here you can relax and take in your surroundings while having a picnic at any time of the day. The area is right above the train station, and the suspended garden covers over three hectares of space.
Created by celebrated landscape artists, Michel Pena, and Francois Brun, the marine-themed garden features large geometric lawn shapes that are a beautiful sight to behold. This enchanting space is easily accessible from Place des Martyrs.
There’s nothing better than being able to pick a neighborhood and then explore it at your leisure. When you visit this neighborhood, you’ll be able to wander about to see what you can stumble across.
From lively bars to charming cafes, theaters, and department stores, Montparnasse has it all. From here you also have easy access to all the area’s historical sites, including the Champs-Elysees, Latin Quarter, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and more.