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The Basilica of Sacré Coeur is as much a part of the Parisian skyline as the Eiffel Tower and has more visitors. It was built near the city’s highest spot, the location of the oldest church in Paris, St Pierre de Montmartre, and the original site of the Benedictine Abbey founded in 1133. Known as La Butte, Montmartre has a rich history dating back to the very beginnings of Paris.

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Le Lapin Agile was a favorite haunt of the likes of Picasso, Utrillo, and other impoverished artists with its cheap food and music. Not a tourist trap, it still offers an evening of songs and humor in the tradition of the vieux cabaret, something that has almost disappeared. Across the street is the famous Montmartre vineyard originally part of the Abbey.

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Place du Tertre began as a place where artists who were driven out of central Paris by Haussmann’s redesign of the city came because it was affordable. Cabarets flourished at the base of the butte because there were no city taxes to pay, and artists flourished here in the square. Such greats as Renoir, Picasso, Braque, Dufy, Manet, and Toulouse-Lautrec painted here and lived in the adjoining streets. These days it’s filled with tourists and often mediocre artists clamoring to paint your portrait. It’s worth a visit for the history, but once is usually enough.

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A typical Montmarte street that you will pass each day. Easy to understand why artists loved this area so rich with beauty and character. Utrillo found his muse in the stairways of Montmartre.

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The History