When I first visited Paris, I was sixteen years old and on a school trip.  I fell in love quickly and easily, and Paris remains one of my favorite cities to this day.

My favorite neighborhood of that first visit?  Montmartre, the artsy settlement on a hill, filled with winding streets, artists, astounding views, Amelie, and the Moulin Rouge.

Before arriving in Paris, your Paris travel info will tell you that Montmartre has always been a neighborhood of artists and bohemians.  (If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge, however, you know this already!)

You can see today’s artists and bohemians at the top of the hill, just behind the Sacre-Coeur.

Getting your portrait drawn can be dirt cheap — or mind-numbingly expensive.  My advice?  You get what you pay for.  Quality artists won’t compromise on price; the ones who grab your arm and just start drawing before negotiating wildly will give you a much worse product.

What else?  There are views!

Montmartre sits on top of a hill overlooking all of Paris.  (The Eiffel Tower is to the right of this image — you can only see if you climb to the top of the church!)  This is where you will find absolutely spectacular views of the city.  It never gets boring looking over a city this beautiful.

Another thing I love about Montmartre?  The cafes.

Paris is famous for its cafe culture, and Montmartre has a lot of interesting, colorful ones.  When the cafes look this good, it’s easy to stay all day with your latte!  Most of the time, I end up going for crepes — first, a savory gallette, and later, a sweet crepe for dessert.

But of all the pleasures of Montmartre, my favorite is just walking around the city streets.

Once you get away from the touristy areas with the touts trying to rip you off, it starts feeling like another city — the Paris of years, possibly even centuries, ago.  People water the flowers on their balconies, and go shopping for food, and walk their dogs.  This is where people live, not where tourists come to gawk.

It sounds so usual and expected, but trust me, Paris is magical.  And there’s no better place to see that than Montmartre.