Paris,  Travel

Paris in July: Place du Tertre

Paris in July, a blogging meme sponsored by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, is an event I look forward to each year. It’s been a while since I actively participated, but I always read others’ posts and travel vicariously through them

This year my Parisian posts will focus on art – especially the French Impressionists – who are prominently featured in my recent Middle-Grade novel, Ellie’s Paris Adventure.

This week’s post will focus on Place du Tertre – the inspiration for my Travel through Art series. I’ve written extensively about this area in the past, but I thought a revisit might be helpful for context. And besides… I never tire of returning to this lovely little spot.

I fell in love with this area the first time I visited in 2006. We began our tour of Montmartre, the village at the top of the hill, at the Sacre-Coeur basilica on the top of the hill. Then we made our way through the small winding streets to the square in the center of the village: The Place du Tertre – or artists’ square.

The square employs 300 artists, but only accommodates 150 at a time, so they alternate work days, setting up their easels from mid-morning until late evening. Artists must submit a portfolio every year to earn one of the coveted spots. The annual payment of 500 euros seems quite reasonable given the popularity of this location.

While some may consider this area a tourist trap, I find it charming and reminiscent of a different time and place. Struggling artists often made Montmartre their home: painters like Degas and Cassatt in the late nineteenth century, and artists like Picasso and Dali during the early twentieth century.

I imagine Renoir carrying his canvas, paints, and easel through the square towards the local restaurant on the Rue Lepic. He is in the midst of painting his masterpiece, Le Moulin de la Galette.

Or I envision Degas walking to his studio apartment with his sketchbook tucked under his arm after an afternoon with the ballerinas at the Garnier opera house.

I envision their cramped studios on the top floor of one of the nearby brownstones. I imagine they awake at sunrise, compelled to follow its light. Once they find the right spot, they set up their easels and feverishly sketch the scene before the light changes. They paint the ordinariness of everyday life as if seeing it for the first time. They paint for love of art and nature rather than mercenary reasons.

Today, small cafes surround the square, where many visitors accept their offer of a nice place to sit, sip a coffee, and people-watch. Once again, I imagine the Impressionists (and post-Impressionists) ending the day sipping an espresso with one another, discussing the nuances of light, the blending of colors, and the beauty of art.

I have had the good fortune to revisit Paris in 2011, 2015 and 2017. Each time I make sure to return to this quaint artisan village on top of the hill.



  • mae

    You have a very different view of Paris than I do. My favorite spots are almost all on the Left Bank. Historically, I agree with you — the area around the Sacré Coeur was once a center of the artistic world. But for the present time, I am of the view you disagree with: that this area has become a tourist trap. It’s fascinating to see the opposite viewpoint, that you see the past instead of the present.

    best… mae at

    • Molly Totoro

      Isn’t that interesting, Mae. My most memorable experience on the Left Bank was some sleazy guy trying to pick me up at a cafe just outside Luxembourg Gardens. I have a hard time ever wanting to visit that area again 🙂 I’m sure I will give it another try sometime in the future. Thanks for stopping by!

  • jeanie

    What a wonderful post! And I agree, I don’t see Place du Tertre as a tourist trap but a delightful spot that does indeed inspire the imagination of times past. I love the Impressionists and that period and I look forward to more of your Paris in July posts. I’m playing along, too. My first is three or four down by now on my blog, The Marmelade Gypsy. It’s about St. Malo, where “All the Light You Cannot See” was set. It’s on Tamara’s blog link for the past week too!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Jeanie! I have not yet read “All the Light We Cannot See” but I have it patiently waiting on my shelf because so many highly recommended it.

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