There's no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups - and that's just on weekdays! However, head towards the back of the hill (the "butte") and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum. You'll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot.
For 5 euros entry into the Museum's Renoir gardens, enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.
Here you can avoid the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. The Café offers a snack menu that changes with the seasons and in the spirit of a tea room.
Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum
The sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants. Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.
I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing ...
By 1pm, I'd already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel's Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).
If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn't resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) - I'm looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l'Envin - not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.
All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!
Renoir's Swing in Montmartre, Rue Cortot
The view from the quiet Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.
The painting was presented at the Impressionists' exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics. The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir's artist friend and patron - jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.
The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.
The Oldest House in Montmartre
Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century. It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.
It wasn't until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.
Making your way to the back of the museum, you'll appreciate the views.
I've already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters. They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.
Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here's the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.
This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes.
This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult. For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.
The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)
Snack lunch menu: €16
Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).
Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)
Hello, I really enjoy your informative post. Love the quiche and wine suggestion ?my family and I are coming to Paris next Saturday for the first time ?Just until Monday. We will bring our two daughters, my sister and her husband. My sister and her her husband will take my girls to Disney all day Sunday. I am always so stressed when I go to a new place I do not know?my husband I are on our own in the city that day. I would love some tips and suggestions on where to eat lunch& dinner perhaps. grab a good coffee/ snack. I am so nervous about finding place which is too crowded or too full and etc. thanks very much in advance for any suggestions. Best regards. Sevtap McClellan
Great you're visiting!
I suggest you read my posts on ideal teatime spots in Paris by looking at "My Paris" - and my recent article about Rue Saint-Dominique's best pastry and tea shops in a few blocks. There are also many super restaurants in the street too, nearest the Eiffel Tower end. Les Cocottes de Christian Constant (no reservations, turn up EARLY!), also Thoumieux or its Brasserie.
Have a super time in Paris
Ohh thank you very much dear Jill. You are very kind. I really enjoy following you. We are very excited to finally come to Paris.
Sending you love!
It's such a real pleasure when I receive such a lovely response in return! Enjoy your trip x
Christina | Christina's Cucina
What a lovely hidden treasure, Jill! Thanks for letting us in on this gem. That vegetarian quiche looks delightful and I could go for one just like it right now (I'm starving- only had a salad for lunch)! 😉 I'm definitely putting Cafe Renoir and the Montmartre Museum Gardens on my list for my next visit to Paris (hopefully sooner than later)! I love that the swing is still in place!
Haste ye back to Paris, Christina. Yes, that swing is the best! Adore places that have interesting and arty history attached too.
Oops, meant to comment about the food and location too, both of which look real gems. Got carried away by the wine!
I always tend to get carried away when it comes to good wine, too, Linda! Cheers x
Ooh, I love Apremont wine. Fond memories of having vin chaud after cross country skiing in the massif de la Chartreuse.
Museum's Renoir gardens would be an oasis for me with its cafe. A glass of wine there with lunch sounds great. Last time I visited Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre I wish I had known about this place because the crowds were overwhelming and the eating establishments around there were very expensive. I would like to visit at night time - great to have this opportunity so thank you so much for this blog Jill.
totally agree on the expensive tourist traps around here, Thomasina. I love this tranquility and can imagine you will too!
Hold that thought Jill, I am so in need of a trip over there so I can just kick back and relax with good food and wine. I love somewhere that's quiet, beautiful and peaceful. Sounds so lovely. We are having the exact same 36°C
I'm hoping you will have that trip over to Paris, Bea!
What a beautiful place, Jill and the luncheon there sounds very nice! Could definitely make the hustle and bustle of Montmartre worth it! Wish I was there to attend the gardening classes! Great blog post!
It is very worth it, Betty. Lovely spot.
It's a great place for a quiet drink and as I said, Jean, look at the surroundings. Totally cool!
Or I should say, "swinging" 😉
I love Montmartre but each time been overwhelmed by the crowds. This sounds great to be able to dodge them and it looks so lovely. Thanks Jill!