renoir cafe montmartre museum garden

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum Gardens

There’s no denying it: Montmartre is always pretty crowded with tourists and tour groups – and that’s just on weekdays! But it still never fails to amaze me that when you head towards the back of the hill (the “butte”) and follow signs to the Montmartre Museum, you’ll discover a surprisingly much quieter haven in Rue Cortot.
Now opened to the public, for just 4 euros entry into the Museum’s Renoir gardens, you can enjoy the welcome tranquility and relax with a drink or snack in the timeless Café Renoir.

Rue Cortot Montmartre Paris

This week I did just that, avoiding the summer crowds around Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre during a swelteringly hot afternoon. Thanks to the Montmartre Museum, I was invited for a spot of light lunch at the Café Renoir, which has recently been refurbished.

Café Renoir, Montmartre Museum

café renoir montmartre museumThe sun room has been given a make-over with antiques from La Petite Brocante de Montmartre and touches of dried flowers and plants.  Apparently it was here that Auguste Renoir was inspired to paint Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 when he lived here.

café renoir montmartre museum

I could have sat indoors to imagine Renoir painting, but a pretty table in the shade was beckoning with a most beautiful view of the gardens dedicated to the painter, with a view on the famous swing …

cafe renoir montmartre museum garden

By 1pm, I’d already missed the quinoa salad, which was obviously popular in such a heat but when a Moroccan-style chilled carrot salad arrived to accompany a vegetarian quiche (made by Rachel’s Cakes), then that made up for it (part of the €16 menu).

If you know me well, I love good wines and so couldn’t resist a taste of their chilled white (also choice of rosé and red) – I’m looking out for this again and thoroughly recommend their organic Apremont from Savoie by l’Envin – not too dry, bags of fruit and full on the palate.

Café Renoir montmartre museum

All their drinks are supplied by quality brands, with fruit juices by renowned Alain Milliat or Sassy Cidre but as slices of lemon & poppy-seed cake arrived (made by Ryotaro Sato), their own house iced tea with mint was the perfect accompaniment on ice to help bring down the 36°C!

The view from the Café Renoir looks on to my favourite part of the garden: the famous swing, La Balançoire, painted by Renoir in 1876 while he lived here for a year.

Renoir Gardens swing

The painting was presented at the Impressionists’ exhibition in 1877 but hard to believe that it was badly received by the art critics.  The work was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir’s artist friend and patron – jolly good chap! Incidentally, I need to visit his home near Orly, outside Paris and take a boat ride à la Caillebotte.

The gardens are so inviting to linger and enjoy the familiar views that would have been seen by Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo from their painting atelier, which has recently been restored to resemble what it was back in 1912.

Suzanne Valadon artist studio Montmartre Museum

Number 12 Rue Cortot is the oldest house in Montmartre, constructed in the middle of the 17th century.  It was home to a number of artists such as Auguste Renoir, Emile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon and her son, Maurice Utrillo.

It wasn’t until 1959 that it was restored to house the Montmartre Museum, which houses a unique collection of paintings, posters (notably by Toulouse-Lautrec) and drawings that recount the history of Montmartre, including its infamously animated cabarets.

oldest house in Montmartre Paris

Making your way to the back of the museum, you’ll appreciate the views.

Cafe Renoir Gardens

I’ve already visited the museum many times and one of my favourite exhibits are the slide shows showing how life was through photography and film at the time of these various painters.  They also show a memorable photo of the area where the vines were replanted in 1933 for the Clos de Montmatre vineyard.

Around 50,000 visitors celebrate the Fête de Vendanges or Montmartre Wine Festival each year in October. Here’s the unique view up close to the vineyard from the Renoir Gardens of the Museum.

café renoir vineyard montmartre

This year, the museum has also organised gardening workshops. Learn how to plant, seed and take cuttings for your Parisian balcony; or how to cultivate your own vegetables; and how to add edible flowers to your savoury and sweet dishes. This is also great for children, accompanied by an adult.  For more information, consult the Renoir Garden Workshop information site.

Renoir Cafe Gardens Beehives Montmartre Museum

The Café Renoir, Musée Montmartre
12 rue Cortot
75018 Paris

Open every day, 12pm-6pm (May-October) & from Wednesday to Sunday (October-April)

Snack lunch menu: €16

Night opening, 7pm-10pm every Thursday in July & August, and last Thursday of every month (€15 entrance fee, glass of wine included).

Metros: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12); Anvers (line 2)

14 replies
  1. Christina | Christina's Cucina
    Christina | Christina's Cucina says:

    What a lovely hidden treasure, Jill! Thanks for letting us in on this gem. That vegetarian quiche looks delightful and I could go for one just like it right now (I’m starving- only had a salad for lunch)! 😉 I’m definitely putting Cafe Renoir and the Montmartre Museum Gardens on my list for my next visit to Paris (hopefully sooner than later)! I love that the swing is still in place!

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      Haste ye back to Paris, Christina. Yes, that swing is the best! Adore places that have interesting and arty history attached too.

      Reply
  2. Thomasina
    Thomasina says:

    Museum’s Renoir gardens would be an oasis for me with its cafe. A glass of wine there with lunch sounds great. Last time I visited Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre I wish I had known about this place because the crowds were overwhelming and the eating establishments around there were very expensive. I would like to visit at night time – great to have this opportunity so thank you so much for this blog Jill.

    Reply
    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      totally agree on the expensive tourist traps around here, Thomasina. I love this tranquility and can imagine you will too!

      Reply
  3. Bea
    Bea says:

    Hold that thought Jill, I am so in need of a trip over there so I can just kick back and relax with good food and wine. I love somewhere that’s quiet, beautiful and peaceful. Sounds so lovely. We are having the exact same 36°C

    Reply
  4. Betty
    Betty says:

    What a beautiful place, Jill and the luncheon there sounds very nice! Could definitely make the hustle and bustle of Montmartre worth it! Wish I was there to attend the gardening classes! Great blog post!

    Reply
  5. Jill Colonna
    Jill Colonna says:

    It’s a great place for a quiet drink and as I said, Jean, look at the surroundings. Totally cool!

    Reply
  6. Jean
    Jean says:

    I love Montmartre but each time been overwhelmed by the crowds. This sounds great to be able to dodge them and it looks so lovely. Thanks Jill!

    Reply

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