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Montparnasse District in Paris Where Gauguin and Other Artists Lived. Where to Stay and to Eat. Hotels, and Restaurants

Updated on January 23, 2011

Montparnasse

The Montparnasse quarter of Paris, not to be confused with the Montmartre quarter much to the north) is my favorite area of the city. It is in the Left Bank but to the south of what is usually considered the Left Bank. Still, it's within walking distance of the quais and bridges of the Seine River. The northern border of the Montparnasse quarter is defined by the Luxembourg Gardens, which are wonderful for parents with children (playground with lots of equipment) and for adults without children (boules courts, chairs and benches to sit, concerts, and leafy walkways).

Montparnasse has two major features in one place. The Montparnasse Tower-a high office building built before high buildings were forbidden in central Paris-and the Gare (Statin) Montparnasse below that tower. The Montparnasse station serves trains going west and southwest, so if you want to go to Orleans, Rennes, Tours, Nantes, etc., this is that station to catch those trains. Also, and very important, it is the station to catch trains for Brittany and Normandy. Normandy, with such well known destinations as Bayeux (home of the marvelous, awesome, amazing, grandioise and original Bayeux tapestry from around the time of the invasion of Britain by the William the Conquerer in 1066); Cherbourg, which is the main city close to the WWII landing beaches; and the beautiful port city of Honfleur, home to great artists of the 19th century.

The brasseries on the boulevards offer many kinds of meals, from southern duck dishes to great salads and cheeses from all parts of France, but especially Normandy. Don't forget to try the hard cider of Normandy, it's very dry but after a few tries, you'll find its delicious. And then there are the many Brittany crepe restaurants (especially on rue Montparnasse, which intersects Boulevard Montparnasse). Try the flaming crepes with Grand Marnier.

A short video of one leafy square (place in French, pronounced plaaaase) in Montparnasse.

And here's the hotel I stayed in for more than a week and felt very comfortable. It was renovated a couple of years ago and everything works perfectly! And the desk people all speak Engllish very well.

3. Hotel Lenox MontparnasseAs I said above, this is one of my favorite hotels in Paris. Before saying anything else, let me suggest you make your reservation through the hotel's own website, which you go to by clicking it's name above. The website allows you to make reservations in any one of 12 languages. If you have a question or a problem you can email them in English (all of their desk clerks speak English, some of them have spent a year or more in the U.S.) There website has some excellent tips on touring in Englsh (and the 11 other languages). When you go to tripadviiser.com you can look at many, many reports from people who stayed at this hotel. (I'm not paid by the hotel).

Two Famous Restaurants (frequented by Hemingway) near the Hotel Lenox Montparnasse

Map of area around the Hotel Lenox Montparnasse

A Bed & Breakfast in the countryside 45 minutes from Paris near Giverny and Monet's home. Click on the website to the left for this and other country B&Bs

Bed and Breakfasts in and near Paris

1. Bed and Breakfast A site with numerous choices in Paris. Not terribly cheap but cheaper than a lot of hotels; in great locations all over the city; and a way to get to know someone who lives in the city. Of course, all B&Bs (in this case essentially a room in someone's private apartment) have an element of risk whether you hit it off with the proprietor or not. I haven't done this in Paris, though I'm thinking of it, but I've done it in a number of other places in France (even before my French wasn't good) and in Switzerland and it worked out fine. It's an adventure.

tripadviser.com has recommendations by real travelers in Paris, in France and many other countries. Highly recommended.

2. tripadviser.com I love this site because it has recommendations for hotels, restaurants and tours in Paris and anywhere in the world (including the U.S.) by many, many actual travelers from many nations. And you can e-mail the recommenders. You can find my recommendation from 2006 under Hotel Lenox Montparnasse, which is just about my favorite for rooms, service and location (no, I'm not paid by the hotel).

Recommended book on the Montparnasse and Montmartre Bohemias of the 1920s

Bohemian Paris: Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, and the Birth of Modern Art (Paperback) by Dan Franck (Author) "As the century began, Montmartre and Montparnasse faced each other from afar: two hills which would be the birthplaces of the worlds of yesterday and today."

From The Library Journal review of Bohemian Paris by Dan Franck:

The rich mixture of international cultures, ideas, personalities, and passions in early 20th-century Paris resulted in an explosive blend of creativity. Writers and artists experimented with bold new concepts, such as Cubism and Dadaism, but they also found time to pursue turbulent love affairs, frequent cafes, challenge each other to duels, and more usually on little or no money. Their stories make for good reading, and French screenwriter/novelist Franck (My Russian Love) spins lavish historical, biographical, artistic, and even scandalous details into a narrative that will captivate both serious and casual readers. He illuminates Picasso's complexities as both friend and lover, introduces us to the mannerly poet Max Jacob, and revisits Apollinaire, Jarry, Modigliani, Cocteau, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, among countless others all set against the marvelously depicted backdrop of bohemian Paris. Though this era has been often treated, Franck's presentation is especially good; he is able to show how all these artists interacted while allowing them to remain individuals. This marvelous and informative volume will inspire readers to become better acquainted with the works produced by these individuals.

6. Restaurants in Paris: Begin with these books and then check out traveladviser.com for reviews

5. Hotels in Paris: Begin with these books then check out traveladviser.com

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    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      I loved this. It's amazing to find out people's favorite arrondissements and why they like them. I hope you don't mind that I shared it on my Facebook page Paris Made Simple!

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 

      10 years ago from DC Area

      Ah, Paris... Ah, memories :) Great hub, Harlan!

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