Cité of lovers
This romantic little enclave, modeled on a London square by the British architect Edward Cresy in 1830, is also known as the “cité des Trois-Frères”. Once through the first entrance, follow the tinkling of the fountain until you reach the second square courtyard, framed by elegant neoclassical facades and colonnades. Those lucky enough to live in this delightful spot included Alexandre Dumas the elder (at no. 2), George Sand (no. 5) et Frederic Chopin (no. 9).
A nest for a Duke
Look up, and you'll notice a detail that sets this haussmanien residence apart from its neighbours: a stone owl keeps watch from its roost near the third floor. It's the signature of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, famous for his restoration of medieval buildings such as Notre Dame, the city of Carcassonne, the basilica of Saint-Denis, and the “author” of several buildings in Paris. This one, built in 1862, was where Viollet le Duc had his offices and private apartment.
Built between 1849-1851 on the orders of Louis-Napoleon before he became Napoleon III, this ensemble of buildings was intended to provide "healthy and well-ventilated" housing for 250 workers at the nearby gasworks. Based on Fournier's phalanstère, it was both a utopian project and a means of keeping tabs on the working classes. Notice the attractive staircases lit by stained glass windows. Footbridges connect the different dwellings, reminiscent of industrial architecture, and in the shady garden at the back of the building, you can still see the old fountain.
A funny old church
Built by Théodore Ballu, between 1861 and 1867, this church is distinguished by its double staircase leading onto the square below, where you'll find three fountains representing Faith, Hope and Charity. In contrast to the neo-classical churches of the first half of the 19th century, it has a richly sculpted neo-Renaissance facade, and is topped with a bold 65 metre bell tower. The great French composer, Olivier Messiaen was organist here for forty years. The little square is a handy spot for a sandwich break before heading uphill to Montmartre.
Grace and good looks
Since 1947, this fine hall has sported a billiards sign over the entrance. Some are here purely for the snooker, but for others it's an excuse to sit with a drink at one of the 16 tables, and savour the surroundings. This lovely building, with its bright stained glass and pilaster-framed panels, was once one of the many “bouillons Duval”. Called after the butcher, Pierre-Louis Duval who invented them, these working class brasseries served up modest victuals such as beef tea, costing just a few pennies.
On the 29 Avril 1874, Victor Hugo moved into the fourth floor of this austere building without balconies. With him were his mistress, Juliette Drouet, his daughter-in-law, Alice and his grandchildren, Georges and Jeanne. The writer held lots of receptions here, inviting the glittering figures of the day - including the Goncourt brothers, Louis Blanc, Flaubert, Gambetta, Clémenceau. It was here that Hugo penned his last novel, "Ninety-three", dedicated to the French Revolution and the Convention.
Cité of poets
Beside the Moulin Rouge is a sleepy survivor of another age: a blind alley, 80 metres by 3 metres, its entrance marked by an attractive blue and white enamel sign. Before WWII, this plot of little houses and tiny gardens was a place where hoodlums hung out. In 1953, Jacques Prévert moved in at No. 6b, and was soon joined across the landing by Boris Vian. It was here that Vian wrote his novel "l’Arrache-cœur" and the song "Le Déserteur"). Raymond Queneau and Eugène Ionesco lived here too. As for Véron, he was mayor of Montmartre from 1830 to 1841.
“Here lies Alphonsine Plessis, born 15th January, 1824, departed 3rd February, 1847”. A modest epitaph in Montmartre cemetery marks the grave of the most famous courtisan of the 19th century. She was the inspiration for "The Lady of the Camelias", by Alexandre Dumas the younger, and Verdi's "La Traviata". There are always flowers around her white tomb. A country girl from Orne, she started out as a modest milliner in Paris, before rising to fame as a courtisan. Under the name Marie Duplessis, she mixed with the toast of the art and literary world. She died, aged 23, of tubercolosis.