Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 30: Montparnasse

Stroll 30 Montparnasse's Lion of Belfort

Quick Description: Montparnasse Tower with  56th and 59th floor views, the Catacombs, famous cafes of Boulevard du Montparnasse, a WWII museum, three art museums, Cimetiere de Montparnasse, a food market, and much more.   

Where: Central Left Bank, along Blvd du Montparnasse and south of it.  

Best Days:  Tues – Sat (Wed and Sat to experience Marche Edgar Quinet).

Best Time to Start: 9:30am – 11am  

Note: Due to the size of the Montparnasse neighborhood and the distance between groups of attractions, this stroll is divided into two parts, connected by a short Metro ride.   The first part also offers two optional detours (to a cemetery and a sculpture museum), and the second part offers an optional extension (to two art museums).  The two parts can be taken in reverse order or independent of one another.

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Start and End Points:

Part A: Start on the median plaza of Blvd Edgar Quinet where that street intersects with Rue du Montparnasse / Rue de la Gaite, outside Metro station Edgar Quinet (#6 line).  End on Blvd du Montparnasse, where it intersects with Blvd Raspail, outside Metro Station Vavin (#4 line).  

Part B: Start and End at Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (a one block segment of Avenue du General Leclerc), where it intersects with Place Denfert-Rochereau, outside Metro station Denfert-Rochereau (#4, #6 lines).  Note: the optional extension of this part of the stroll has the same end point.

Metro Ride Between Part A and Part B: From Metro station Vavin two stops to Metro station Denfert-Rochereau via the #4 line.


Part A 40 min walk, @3 hrs with all venues (i.e., @1-1.5 hrs for Tour Montparnasse observation decks and @20 min for Church of Notre Dame des Champs, plus some extra time on the walk route as it passes through the Edgar Quinet outdoor market, if in session).  Add @1-1.5 hrs for optional detour to Cimetiere Montparnasse including walking to it and back.  Add @1-1.5 hrs for optional detour to Musee Antoine Bourdelle, including walking to it and back.    Early Departure Option after the tower and before the famous cafes of Blvd du Montparnasse (or can be Early Metro connection to Part B of the stroll).  

Part B 20 min walk, @2.5 hrs with all venues (i.e, @1.5 hrs for Catacombs de Paris, @45 min for Musee de la Liberation de Paris, and some extra time on the walk route as it passes though the Rue Daguerre  food market street).  Optional Extension: 20-30 min walk, @2hrs with all venues (i.e., @30-45 min for Institut Giacometti, @30-60 min for Fondation Cartier).    

Metro ride between Part A and Part B is @5-10 min.

Best Days:  Tues – Sat (Wed and Sat to experience Marche Edgar Quinet).

Best Time to Start: 9:30am – 11am  

Connects:  by Metro rides on the #4 line, to Stroll 1 (Ile de la Cite), Stroll 2 (The Latin Quarter), Stroll 3, (Quarter of the Mint), Stroll 11 (Saint Germain- East) and Stroll 12 (Saint Germain – West).  Also connects by Metro ride on the #6 line to Stroll 19 (Passy) and Stroll 20 (Eiffel Tower & Vicinity), and a standalone site, the Arc de Triomphe; and connects by a short Metro ride on the #6 and and #7 lines combined to Stroll 29 (The Southern Fifth).

Past and Present:  In the 1920s and 1930s, the decades between the two World Wars, Paris was the scene of unprecedented artistic creativity and social liberation, and the Montparnasse neighborhood was at the center of it.  Boulevard du Montparnasse and its big cafes were where artists, writers, intellectuals and socialites hobnobbed and partied till dawn.  Rue de la Gaite nearby was home to theaters and cabarets headlined by original performers such as Josephine Baker and “Kiki de Montparnasse.”  Further south, where rents were dirt cheap, impoverished painters and sculptors created the greatest art of the time and rose to fame.  Ernest Hemingway and other groundbreaking writers joined the scene and their stories, novels and news reports brought world attention.  Montparnasse was positioned to play this role because earlier in time it had been just outside the last city wall, the 1790s Wall of the Farmers General, and so evolved as a tax-free haven of taverns, cabarets and bawdy houses that drew Parisians through the 1800s.  But, it was also a place of burial grounds.  Just before the Revolution, the bones of the deceased that were overflowing the old cemetery in central Paris were transferred to a network of catacombs dug here in old quarry sites.   And shortly after the Revolution, during the Napoleonic era, Montparnasse was designated as a site for one of four large new cemeteries.  Digging from early quarries and then the catacombs created mounds of earth and rubble and earned the area the name Montparnasse, referring to Mount Parnassus, home of the Muses in Greek mythology.  But the hills were soon leveled to make way for the Boulevard, and a new era.  Today, the bohemian vibe of the 1920s and 1930s may be gone, but the energy remains on the boulevard, and its famous cafes are still thriving.  And there are also many other attractions for tourists, including the Catacombs, the Montparnasse cemetery, the Montparnasse Tower with panoramic views of the city, three important art museums, a free WWII museum, lively food markets and a street full of authentic Breton creperies.            

Attractions Part A (in order):

  • Cimitiere Montparnasse#3 Blvd Edgar Quinet, one long block east of Metro station Edgar Quinet, an optional detour.  One of the four main cemeteries of Paris, covering a large area and holding the tombs of many famous individuals.  Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 8:30am-6pm, Sun 9am-5:30pm, free.  
  • Rue de la Gaite:  Blvd Edgar Quinet to Avenue du Maine (route leaves it two-thirds of the way along at Avenue Vandamme): “Good Humor Street” has been a theater and cabaret district since the 1800s, and experienced its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.  Several vintage theaters still present evening shows.  The street also has many restaurants and bars.  
  • Tour Montparnasse Observation Floors: #33 Avenue du Maine.  Panoramic view of Paris in all directions from its tallest building, at Observation Floor 56 or Rooftop Observation Deck 59, accessed via high-speed elevator.  Sun-Thurs 9:30am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat and eve of public holidays 9:30am-11pm.   One time ticket, pre-purchased online €17 (adult), €12.50 (12-17 and students with ID), €8 (4-11), €7.50 (handicapped), on site €18 (Adult), €13.50 (12-17 and students with ID), €8 (4-11), €7.50 (handicapped), under 4 free.  48 Hour Night and Day ticket good for 2 visits at hours of your choice: €22.50 (adult), €17 (12-17 and student with ID), €12 (4-11), under 4 free.  Most crowded in the hours around sunset and least crowded in the mornings.  
  • Musee Antoine Bourdelle: #18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle.  An optional detour.  Museum displaying the work of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929), Rodin’s chief student, as well works of others from his personal collection, in a building where he lived and worked.  Check website for access and hours as this venue has been undergoing renovations.  
  • Marche Edgar Quinet: On the median of Blvd Edgar Quinet, between Rue du Depart (bordering the Tour Montparnasse) and Rue du Montparnasse / Rue de la Gaite (at the Edgar Quinet Metro station).  Large public food market, featuring fresh produce, cheese, fish and meat vendors, as well as stalls selling prepared foods, flowers and flea market items.  Wed and Sat 7am-1:30pm (sometimes ending later).    If you are here on a Sunday you will find, instead, the Marche de la Creation, a market of artists stalls, open 10am-7pm.  The artwork ranges from paintings to photographs,  engravings, ceramics and more. 
  • Rue du Montparnasse: Running north from Blvd Edgar Quinet to Blvd Montparnasse and beyond (the route leaves it at the boulevard).   Many Breton creperies opened in this block in the 19th century after the railroad connected Brittany with Paris’s Gare Montparnasse.  There are around a dozen here today (see “Dining Suggestions”).
  • Church of Notre Dame des Champs:  #91 Blvd Montparnasse.  Catholic church built in 1875-1876, in the Romanesque style, replacing an earlier church.  The name reflects that this was once an area of fields and vineyards (“des Champs” means “of the fields”).  The interior features a number of murals. Mon-Sat 8am-7:15pm, Sun 8:30am-1pm, 3-10:30pm free.  
  • Blvd du Montparnasse and the Famous Cafes:  Blvd du Montparnasse was the center of the area’s very lively social scene from 1910 through the 1930s, and its focal point was the big intersection of the boulevard with Blvd Raspail and several other roads, where the Vavin Metro stop was located.  Here, there were several large, stylish cafes where artists, writers, performers, intellectuals and socialites hobnobbed and partied.  The cafes were modeled on Alsatian beer halls (“brasseries”), a style popular from the late 1800s until WWII.  Today, the most famous four are still here and thriving, as the boulevard continues to be a draw for locals and visitors  (see “Dining Suggestions”).
  • Monument a Balzac: Median of Blvd Raspail, just north of Blvd Montparnasse.  Statue of author Honore de Balzac (1799-1850), by sculptor August Rodin (1840-1917).  

Attractions Part B (in order):

  • Les Catacombs de Paris:  #1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Roi-Tanguy (Place Denfert-Rochereau).  Tues-Sun 9:45am-8:30pm (last admission 7:30pm).  Underground crypt where bones of the deceased buried at the ancient Cimetiere des Innocents near Les Halles were transferred in the late 18th century.  45-minute walking tour, substantial stairs, the equivalent of 2.5 stories each way, crypt temperature 14 Celsius, 58 Fahrenheit.  Children 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult.  See website for other restrictions and warnings.  Tickets are available only online.  They are not sold at the site.  Tickets must be purchased 7 days in advance of visit.  These ticket guarantee admission. Alternatively, tickets may be purchased, online, on the day of visit, if available.  Advance purchase price: €29 (adult, includes audio guide), €27 (18-26, students with ID, handicapped and aide), free (under 18). Day of visit price: €15 (adult), €13 (18-26, students with ID, handicapped and aide), free (under 18).  Audio guide in several languages €5.  Combination ticket with Archeological Crypt of Ile de la Cite (see Stroll 1) €17 (adult), €15 (18-26, students with ID, handicapped and aide), good for four days.   
  • Musee de la Liberation de Paris:   #4 Avenue Colonel Henri Roi-Tanguy (Place Denfert-Rochereau).   Museum detailing and explaining the events and persons involved in the liberation of Paris from Nazi control in 1944 during WWII.  Exhibits include artifacts, photographs, documents, Colonel Tanguy’s underground command center, and virtual reality presentations. Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, free, no reservation required. 
  • Rue Daguerre:  The street runs from Avenue du General Leclerc all the way to Avenue du Maine, but the stroll route covers just the two pedestrianized blocks to Rue Boulard.  Lively neighborhood food market street in existence for well over a century, with permanent vendors and cafes, named for photography pioneer Louis Daguerre.
  • Institut Giacometti:  #5 Rue Victor Schloecher.  On the optional extension to the stroll route. Museum in a townhouse that exhibits the work of renowned Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), who spent much of his life in Paris and Montparnasse.  Permanent exhibits include a reconstruction of his studio.  There are also regular special exhibits.    Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, €8.50 (adult) €3 (students, handicapped), under 18 free.  Tickets can be purchased online.  
  • Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain: #261 Blvd Raspail.  On the optional extension to the stroll route.  Museum of contemporary art in a modern building with a garden, displaying permanent collection and changing shows. Tues 11am-10pm, Wed-Sun 11am-8pm, €11 (adult), €7.50 (reduced rate categories), €5 (13-25), free under 13.

Dining Suggestions Part A (in order):

  • Le Plomb du Cantal: #3 Rue de la Gaite.  French cuisine with emphasis on meat and hearty Auvergne specialties (e.g., “aligot,” whipped potatoes with garlic and Cantal cheese).  Modern room, plentiful outdoor seating.  Mon 7am-Midnight, Tues-Sat 7am-1am.  Average cost @€25-35.
  • Flams: Place Bienvenue, #32 Avenue du Maine.  On the optional detour to Musee Antoine Bourdelle.  Flammekueche (Alsatian thin crust pizza with various toppings), salads, burgers, desserts.  Mon-Sat, 11:30am-3pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm (Fri to 11pm) Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun Noon-9pm.  Average cost @€10-20.    
  • Creperie Le Petit Josselin: #59 Rue du Montparnasse, between Blvd Edgar Quinet and Blvd du Montparnasse.  Breton buckwheat galettes and sweet crepes, salads, cider. Country style room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Fr 11:30am-2:30pm, 6:30-11pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-11pm.  Moderate prices.
  • Creperie Plougastel: #47 Rue du Montparnasse between Blvd Edgar Quinet and Blvd du Montparnasse.  Breton buckwheat galettes and sweet crepes, salads, cider.   Country style room, outdoor seating.   Daily Noon-Midnight.  Moderate prices.
  • Le Select: #99 Blvd du Montparnasse, north side of boulevard, at Rue Vavin, just west of the big intersection.  Famous café/brasserie opened in 1925. French cuisine, salads, sandwiches, breakfast foods.  Modern room, large outdoor seating area, American bar.  Daily 7am-2am.  Average cost @€40-70.  Prix fixe meal €24.50 (main, beverage, coffee).  
  • La Coupole:  #102 Blvd du Montparnasse, south side of boulevard, just west of the big intersection and opposite Le Select.  Famous café/brasserie opened in 1927.  French cuisine, oysters and seafood platters, Alsatian choucroute, breakfast foods.  Large, airy and stylish Art Deco room.  Daily 8am-Midnight.  Average cost @€40-70, grand seafood towers higher.  Prix fixe lunch €19.50 2 courses (Noon-4pm).   
  • La Rotonde:  #105 Blvd du Montparnasse, north side of boulevard, at the big intersection with Blvd Raspail.  Famous café/brasserie opened in 1911.  French cuisine, oysters and seafood platters.  Traditional room with tables and banquettes in a eye-catching red palette evoking the Belle Epoque, large outdoor seating area on the corner.  Daily 7:30am-Midnight. Average cost @€40-70, grand seafood towers higher. 
  • Le Dome: #108 Blvd du Montparnasse, south side of boulevard, at Rue Delambre, adjacent to the big intersection with Blvd Raspail.  Famous café/brasserie opened in 1898.  Specializes in seafood dishes, oysters, towers.  Elegant traditional room and glass-enclosed terrace evoking the Belle Epoque.  Daily Noon-2:45pm, 7-10:30pm.  Average cost @€90, grand seafood towers higher.  Reservations suggested.

Dining Suggestions Part B (in order):

  • Asian Food: #7 Avenue du General Leclerc, near Rue Daguerre.  Pan Asian food selection (e.g,, Pho, Bao Bun, noodle, meat and fish dishes, small plates).  Bright storefront room with display counter and table seating, outdoor seating.   Mon-Sat 11am-9pm.  Appetizers under €3, Mains €3-11.
  • Maison Peret: #6 Rue Daguerre.  French cuisine, some regional specialties.  Traditional room with simple décor, outdoor seating under awning along the pedestrian way.  Daily 8:30am-10:45pm   Appetizers  €8.50-15, Mains €12-21, Salad Mains €17.5-20.Metro 

Ready to stroll?
Open this page vertically on your mobile phone and click VIEW DIRECTIONS.


Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
Open this page vertically on your mobile phone and click VIEW DIRECTIONS.