Mont what?
June 8, 2006 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Montparnasse or Montmarte?

I have to choose between two potential house swaps in Paris, both apartments are lovely, one is in Montmarte, one is in Montparnasse. Which should I take? I've never been there, and I'm staying a month. What are these neighborhoods like?
posted by jennyjenny to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you know the streets? Both areas vary quite a bit from one end to the next. Personally I would choose Montparnasse but it depends where exactly.
posted by fire&wings at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2006

I'd say Montparnasse. Montmartre is nice to visit, but unless you're into North African food (in which case you'd be conveniently located), you want to be on the Left Bank for most things. Anything you want to see on the Right Bank (like the Louvre) is pretty much right across the river and you can walk to it, and walking is one of the very best things to do in Paris.
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2006

Response by poster: Montparnasse is 99 rue de vaugirard, and Montmartre is Rue Labat.
posted by jennyjenny at 1:47 PM on June 8, 2006

Response by poster: I should add -- which neighborhood would you enjoy more to actually live in? I'm going to be there for a month.
posted by jennyjenny at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2006

Well, what do you like to do? Me, I'd kill to spend a month on the Left Bank, but I like walks, bookstores, good cheap food, old buildings, that kind of thing. If you're at 99 r. de Vaugirard, you're within a few blocks of Notre Dame des Champs (one of my favorite churches), the overpriced but historic cafes just east of it (La Coupole, Le Select, Le Dome, La Rotonde), Gertrude Stein's old digs on r. de Fleurus, the clothing stores on Saint-Placide, the Jardin du Luxembourg... well, it's a great location, is what I'm trying to say. I don't know anything about r. Labat, I'm afraid.
posted by languagehat at 2:01 PM on June 8, 2006

Google Maps satellite view gives pretty good definition shots of the two streets which at least will give you an idea of the physical appearance of these locations. They seem quite similar.

I have stayed in the Montparnasse area twice. Montmartre is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there, as the saying goes
posted by Neiltupper at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2006

Languagehat has covered it all really. The left bank has more going for it and Rue Vaugirard is right in the action near Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard Montparnasse - there are the cafes of Carrefour Vavin and St Germain as well as modern shopping right on Rue Vaugirard (FNAC I think and other major department stores) and a wealth of cinemas near by. The river is quite far from both locations, but shorter from Montparnasse and it is an infinitely more attractive walk.

Rue Labat is quite far north in Montmartre, almost on the outskirts of Paris, and although I've never been that far north I can see there being anywhere near the "buzz" and amenities that the centre of Montparnasse provides. Not feasible to walk to the centre of Paris from there either. There are some stunning places to stay in Montmartre, but unless you can get one of those locations I would say Montparnasse every time.

As well as google earth you can explore the streets here -
posted by fire&wings at 2:26 PM on June 8, 2006

Another vote for Montparnasse. There's plenty to do/see/eat and plenty of directions to wander from there. Montmartre is a charming, lovely place to visit, but unless you're the type to find a few favorite haunts and then stop exploring, I suspect that after a few days you may find yourself leaving the area in search of new stimuli. That said, either option is delightful, and I'm totally jealous.
posted by hsoltz at 3:02 PM on June 8, 2006

Montparnasse. I was right around the corner a year and a half ago for a few weeks. Loved it. A great "home base" neighborhood for Paris. (And plenty of crepe stands open very very late, for the post-drink noshing.)

Plus the open-air market is just a few blocks away, since you'll have a kitchen.
posted by desuetude at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2006

Last time I was in Montmartre at night, years ago, there was a lot of heavy outdoor drinking and broken glass all over.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2006

Montparnasse. Left bank is much more fun to be on. I walked from Montmartre to Notre Dame in about 2 1/2 hours, not going particularly fast, so I wouldn't worry where ever you are. I found Montmartre to either be really touristy or really seedy. YMMV.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:18 PM on June 8, 2006

I vote Montparnasse as well. Paris north east of Montmartre is kind of crappy but the left bank is all great.
posted by fondle at 7:59 PM on June 8, 2006

Definitely Montparnasse. Be sure to visit Cimetière Montparnasse while you're there -- not as famous as Père Lachaise, but worth seeing.

I lived in Paris for three months in 1996, and although technically I was just outside the boundaries, I always told people I lived in Montparnasse. They were suitably jealous.
posted by Acetylene at 10:36 PM on June 8, 2006

I lived in an apartment swap in Montparnasse two summers ago. If the world is small enough, you might even get the apartment I got. I would put in high priase for Montparnasse because it is the restaurant district - there are a lot of brasseries there and all sorts of cheap and expensive food.

I don't know anything about the other places to comment though.
posted by alex3005 at 11:00 PM on June 8, 2006

I lived in Rue Labat, although on the other side of the Boulevard Barbès. It is relatively insalubrious, although extremely interesting. I couldn't say I'd recommend it as highly as all that.
posted by Wolof at 11:30 PM on June 8, 2006

There are also a lot of fun little hole-in-the-wall jazz places in Montparnasse. Montmartre right near Sacre Coeur is beautiful but very touristy, the rest of Montmartre has little going for it, and the whole area is not good transportation-wise for getting elsewhere.
posted by hazyjane at 4:14 AM on June 9, 2006

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