Montparnasse highlights

Discovering Montparnasse: Highlights of Paris’s Artistic Hub


Montparnasse, an area in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, is a vibrant neighborhood steeped in history and culture. Once a bohemian haven for artists, writers, and intellectuals, it continues to be a dynamic part of the city with a unique blend of old-world charm and modern attractions. From its artistic legacy to its bustling markets and iconic skyscrapers, Montparnasse offers a wealth of experiences for visitors. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the highlights of Montparnasse and uncover why this neighborhood should be on every traveler’s itinerary.

Historical and Cultural Background

The Bohemian Past

Montparnasse gained prominence in the early 20th century as a cultural and artistic hub. Renowned for its cafes, studios, and vibrant nightlife, it attracted famous artists and intellectuals such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, and Ernest Hemingway. This era of artistic flourishing has left an indelible mark on the neighborhood, making it a must-visit for those interested in Paris’s artistic heritage.

Literary and Artistic Cafés

The cafes of Montparnasse were more than just places to drink coffee; they were the heart of the artistic community. Le Dôme, La Closerie des Lilas, and La Coupole are just a few of the legendary establishments where artists and writers would gather to exchange ideas and create masterpieces. Today, these cafes still operate, offering a glimpse into the past and a chance to walk in the footsteps of the greats.

Key Attractions in Montparnasse

The Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse)

Standing at 210 meters, the Montparnasse Tower is the only skyscraper within Paris proper and offers spectacular views of the city. The 56th-floor observation deck provides a panoramic view of Paris’s most iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre. Visiting the Montparnasse Tower is an excellent way to get a bird’s eye view of the city and take in its beauty from above.

Montparnasse Cemetery (Cimetière du Montparnasse)

Montparnasse Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous figures, including writers, artists, and philosophers. Notable graves include those of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, and Charles Baudelaire. The cemetery is a peaceful place to stroll and reflect, offering a unique way to connect with the history and culture of Montparnasse.

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain

The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art is a modern art museum located in Montparnasse. Housed in a striking glass building designed by architect Jean Nouvel, the museum hosts rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, featuring both established and emerging artists. It’s a fantastic place to explore the cutting-edge of the art world and see works that push the boundaries of creativity.

Musée Bourdelle

Located in the former studio of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, this museum showcases a vast collection of his works, including sculptures, drawings, and photographs. The museum also features beautiful gardens adorned with Bourdelle’s sculptures, providing a serene and inspiring environment to appreciate his artistry.

Montparnasse’s Vibrant Markets and Shopping

Marché Edgar Quinet

The Edgar Quinet Market is a bustling open-air market held twice a week along the Boulevard Edgar Quinet. It offers a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, flowers, and artisanal products. Exploring this market is a delightful way to experience local Parisian life and sample some of the best food the city has to offer.

Rue de la Gaîté

Rue de la Gaîté is a lively street known for its theaters, cafes, and shops. It’s a great place to catch a play or a comedy show, enjoy a meal, or simply soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Montparnasse. The street is also home to the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse, one of the oldest theaters in Paris.

Culinary Delights in Montparnasse

Breton Crêperies

Montparnasse is famous for its Breton crêperies, offering some of the best crêpes and galettes in Paris. These traditional Breton dishes are a must-try when visiting the neighborhood. Crêperie Josselin and La Crêperie de Quimper are two popular spots where you can indulge in these delicious treats.

La Coupole

La Coupole is an iconic brasserie that has been a fixture in Montparnasse since 1927. Known for its Art Deco interior and vibrant atmosphere, it has hosted many famous patrons over the years. The menu features classic French dishes, including seafood platters, steak tartare, and escargot. Dining at La Coupole is not just a meal but an experience, offering a taste of Montparnasse’s rich history.

Exploring Montparnasse by Night

Nightlife and Entertainment

Montparnasse comes alive at night with its array of bars, clubs, and theaters. The area around Rue de la Gaîté is particularly vibrant, with numerous venues offering live music, comedy shows, and theatrical performances. Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet drink at a historic café or a lively night out, Montparnasse has something to offer.

Montparnasse Tower at Night

For a breathtaking view of Paris by night, head to the Montparnasse Tower’s observation deck. The city lights create a magical panorama, with the Eiffel Tower’s sparkling lights as the centerpiece. It’s a romantic and unforgettable experience, perfect for ending a day of exploration in Montparnasse.

Hidden Gems in Montparnasse

La Ruche

La Ruche, meaning “The Hive,” is a historic artists’ residence founded in 1902 by sculptor Alfred Boucher. It provided affordable studios for artists and became a creative hub for many notable figures, including Chagall, Léger, and Modigliani. Today, La Ruche continues to serve as a working artists’ community and is a fascinating place to visit for those interested in Montparnasse’s artistic legacy.

Jardin Atlantique

Located above the Gare Montparnasse railway station, the Jardin Atlantique is a hidden oasis in the heart of Montparnasse. This elevated park features beautiful gardens, walking paths, and a variety of sculptures. It’s an ideal spot for a peaceful stroll or a relaxing break from sightseeing.


Montparnasse is a neighborhood that embodies the spirit of Paris with its rich artistic history, vibrant markets, iconic landmarks, and lively nightlife. Whether you’re an art lover, history buff, foodie, or simply looking to explore a unique part of the city, Montparnasse has something to offer. From the breathtaking views atop the Montparnasse Tower to the tranquil paths of the Montparnasse Cemetery, every corner of this neighborhood tells a story. So, on your next trip to Paris, be sure to spend some time discovering the many highlights of Montparnasse—you won’t be disappointed.

Happy exploring!