The gloriously sleazy Boulevard de Clichy and Boulevard de Rochechouart neatly divide Montmartre from the 9th arrondissement, the upper part of which is often referred to as SOPI (South of Pigalle). These boulevards come to life in the evening when the neon lights of the sex shops light up, and tourists flock to the Moulin rouge, crossing the revelers, prostitutes and cosmopolitan locals who frequent the bars and clubs around Pigalle. This area is the melting pot of Paris and with good reason - a large Arab population lives near the station Barbès Rochechouart. Leaving the boulevard and entering SOPI will introduce you to the rarefied and lofty streets of the Nouvelle Athens quarter and the gastronomic hotspots in and around rue des Martyrs. This guide to SOPI will give you an up-to-date look at where to shop, eat, and what to see in this niche and refined and party-vibe neighborhood.
Walking around SOPI is the best way to soak up the atmosphere of its streets and admire the stunning architecture. The area is home to a handful of small museums, which can be a breath of fresh air after a week of gargantuan museums like the Louvre. Beginning at metro Trinity, take a stroll past the impressive Eglise de la Trinity, which dominates this busy intersection. Because the area sits on a slight gradient, the walk is uphill, which becomes more pronounced the closer one gets to Montmartre. It’s a bit of work but the advantage of walking uphill means you can see the majestic streets up ahead and there are wonderful views of the Sacre Coeur as it peeks out over the rooftops from time to time. Take a right along rue Saint-Lazare and the first left turn onto rue de la Rochefoucauld. At number 14 you will find the fascinating Musée Gustave Moreau (Closed for renovations until December 2013).
After a wander though this perfectly preserved 19th century artist’s home and studio, it will be time to sit down for a refreshment in the hidden garden of another exquisite museum: the Musée de la Vie Romanitque. Finding this museum is part of the fun because you get to really explore the quiet residential streets that abound with architectural treasures. Continue up rue de la Rochefoucauld and turn left onto rue la Bruyere, on the second floor of the building on the corner a plaque is clearly visible, which commemorates the fact that the painter Auguste Renoir lived there from 1897 to 1902. Continue on down rue la Bruyère and take the second right onto rue Henner. From here you will have a view to the end of the street where the verdant entrance to the Musée de la Vie Romanitque sits. If it’s midday you can stop off in the garden of this enchanted museum for a sandwich or a coffee. The self-service café is found housed in the Victorian-style greenhouse. Take a seat on the patio and enjoy a moment of peace in among the flowers.
After you have explored this tiny museum take a left as you step onto rue Chaptal, at the end of the street take another left and ascend rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, take a right onto rue Victor Massé and continue on till you reach a square called Place Gabriel Kaspereit, a building fronts this square with a large panoramic stained glass window of a wave. It’s particularly spectacular at night when it is all lit up so try and pass here again to see the effect.
It will now be time to hit some of the restaurants and food shops along rue des Martyrs, which is found at the end of rue Victor Massé. This is one of the few real specialty food shopping streets in the area and its residents flock to its charcuteries, restaurants, boulangeries, epiceries, and fruit & veg shops. Taking a walk along this street is a feast for the eyes. This will be the perfect moment to do some grocery shopping, if you are renting an apartment in the area. Stop off at one of the specialty shops the buy a pot of artisan jam to bring home to friends. Continue down rue des Martyrs till you reach the church at the end of the street. From here you can take the nearby metro Notre-Dame-de-Lorette or continue on exploring the streets of this elegant neighbourhood.
Step back in time to circa 1830 and enter the world of the Musée de la Vie Romantique and the Musée Gustave Moreau. Both houses are found in the Nouvelle Athens part of SOPI and both were once the home of painters. Preserved much in the state that they would have been during the 19th century, these homes represent a fascinating insight into theses privileged lives. The Musée de la Vie Romantique was home to the painter Ary Scheffer who entertained the intellectual and political elite of the time. George Sand, Chopin, Eugène Delacroix, Gioachino Rossini, Charles Dickens, Liszt and Berlioz all passed through this beautiful home at one time or another.
Musée Gustave Moreau (Closed exceptionally for restoration until December 2013)
14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 75009 Paris.
Musée de la Vie Romantique
16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
If dining out is your thing, there is no shortage of great places to dine out in SOPI.
La Table des Anges, 66 rue des Martyrs, recently got a rave review from the Financial Times and it doesn’t disappoint. This chic eatery won’t break the bank either, at 30€ for an entré, main dish, and desert.
If it’s summer, why not hit one of the terraces along rue des Martyrs? Terra Corsa, 42 rue des Martyrs is a fine Corsican epicerie, which offers up wonderful charcuterie and cheese plates, small salads and Corsican wine served on tables that line the pavement outside.
If you’re looking to rub shoulders with the hip crowd, Hotel Amour, 8 rue de Navarin is a great place to start the night rolling.
Rose Bakery, 46 rue des Martyrs is a must for fans of English fare − the carrot cake is legendary.
Serious clothes shoppers should head further up the hill to Montmartre where they will find an amazing selection of boutiques − both vintage and young designer.
Rue des Martyrs keeps the quarter’s epicureans busy. The fact that Arnuad Delmontel, Landemaine, and Sébastien Gaudard (three prize-winning Boulangeries) line this long street is a testament to its gourmet credentials. The window displays of patisseries in all manner of cream, almond and chocolate are distracting enough to be hazardous for pedestrians.
Popelini, 44 rue des Martyrs, is a delicious and fun take on the classic crème à la chou. English speakers would usually refer to these little round pastries as profiteroles. There are about 10 flavours to choose from: rose, lemon, salted caramel, etc. Find out what the flavour of the day is in-store.
La Chambre Aux Confitures, 9 rue des Martyrs is a light and airy emporium selling one of the largest selection of jams one can hope to find in Paris. The neat packaging and creative flavours make these a great holiday gift. The friendly shop assistant will let you try before you buy.
Les Papilles Gourmandes 26 rue des Martyrs offers up a seletion of artisan “produits du terroir” such as cured meats, foie gras, and pâté from around France.
There’s no shortage of venues to dance the night away in Pigalle. The favourite watering holes for the young and fashionable are found dotted all around this area.
Le Carmen, 34 rue Duperré, formerly a lavish 19th century home, this nightclub takes its name from an opera written by the composer Bizet who once resided here.
Chez Moune, 54 rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, this was a famous lesbian cabaret, which reputedly welcomed Hollywood stares like Greta Garbo. It’s not what it used to be, but it can be a unpretentious place to end up in on a Saturday night.
Le Rouge, 77 rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle is where young Parisians come to dance to the late hours to electro, techno, and minimal. Be prepared for a young, hip crowd in an authentic Parisian setting.
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