Today Montparnasse is embodied by its tower, the central station and its many theaters. However, the district was from 1900, and especially during the interwar years, the heart of the artistic and intellectual Parisian life, after the heyday of Montmartre and just before the Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ one.
After Apollinaire, Gauguin, Matisse, le Douanier Rousseau, many foreign artists, mostly Jews, went into exile in Paris to find favorable conditions to the development of their art. Modigliani, Zadkine, Soutine, Chagall and many others formed then the “School of Paris”, a name that rather refers to a group of artists than a real artistic movement.
This walk will bring you at the time of this old Montparnasse! Artists’ studios, unsuspected green paths and other curiosities, (re)discover the charms of Montparnasse neighborhood.
See also : Montparnasse Tower
- Start the walk metro Raspail (L 6).
- Many beautiful sights at this crossroads. First the sculpture of Ossip Zadkine (the Birth of Forms) allée georges Besse (au bout du Boulevard Edgar Quinet), the most recent public masterpiece in Paris, placed here in 2012. The other is the Passage d’Enfer, on rue Campagne-Première’s left, elegant passage where the photographer Man Ray lived from 1922 to 1940. Finally, the beautiful house, 242 Boulevard Raspail where Picasso lived in 1911.
- Take the rue Campagne-Première.
- Note the building at n°31, beautifully adorned by the sandstone of Alexandre Bigot, same ceramist who decorated the Lavirotte building. At number 17, you will see a pretty dead-end bordered by workshops.
- Boulevard du Montparnasse, turn right and go as far as the Closerie des Lilas, one of the mythical brasserie of the neighborhood, where met each other artists and intellectuals as Gide, Jarry or Apollinaire.
- After the Closerie Lilas, turn left and take the Avenue de l’Observatoire.
- Notice the beautiful “Four Parts of the World” Fountain, also called Fountain of the Observatory, designed by Carpeaux, Davioud and Frémiet. Completed in 1874, it offers a great perspective on the Luxembourg Gardens. All through the avenue is the pretty and unknown Jardin des Grands Explorateurs (Great Explorers Garden).
- Go straight to the Luxembourg Gardens and turn left, walk along rue Auguste Comte from inside the garden. Take « Porte Assas » and take rue Vavin.
- At n° 26 of rue Vavin is a beautiful white ceramic building designed by the architect Henri Sauvage. Take then rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs as far as rue de la Grande Chaumiere.
- Rue de la Grande Chaumiere is a symbol of Montparnasse heyday. N°8, a sign said that Gauguin and Modigliani had their studios in this building. No. 10 was the Académie Colarossi, where among others taught Rodin. Finally, the n° 14 is a painting academy founded by Antoine Bourdelle
- At the end of the street, you arrive at the Carrefour Vavin, today named Place Pablo Picasso. Here was the intellectual center of the area, thanks to its four major brasseries (Le Dome, La Coupole, La Rotonde and Select), where all the artists, at this time penniless, spent more time putting the world to tights than consume…
- Cross the square, take rue Huygens and go straight to the Montparnasse Cemetery. Go for a stroll through this beautiful cemetery in which are buried many personalities such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg, Samuel Beckett, Antoine Bourdelle, Ossip Zadkine, Constantin Brancusi…
- After visiting the cemetery, take Boulevard Edgar Quinet on your left as far as rue de la Gaite. Cross over this street lined with pubs and theaters, hence its name “Gaite” (« Cheerfulness »). The most famous are the théâtre Bobino, Théâtre Montparnasse or la Comédie Italienne.
- At the end of the Rue de la Gaite, turn left avenue du Maine and go straight ahead to rue Raymond Losserand. Turn right on rue Raymond Losserand.
- This street is one of the nicest shopping streets of the 14th arrondissement. Walk about 500 meters toward the small rue des Thermopyles. A wonderful hidden street !
- Finish the tour by walking this pretty cobbled street full of plants and flowers. A magnificent secret street to be discovered!
End of the ride.
You can take the metro Pernety (L 13) or visit the rue des Thermopyles surroundings, where you will find a pleasant village atmosphere. You can also visit, not far away, the unusual Église Notre-Dame-du-Travail.