Montparnasse City Orientation
Top Reasons to Go
Catacombs. History buffs, lovers of the macabre, and the just plain curious can make an unforgettable descent into Paris’s underground bastion of bones. Claustrophobic folks, however, need not apply.
Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain. Connoisseurs of cutting-edge art will appreciate what's on view here. The building itself was designed by Jean Nouvel, the avant-garde darling of Paris architecture.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. Photography fans shouldn’t miss the chance to see Cartier-Bresson's restored atelier, featuring a small collection of his work plus photographs from young artists.
The Tour Montparnasse. Even though this 680-foot black behemoth of a skyscraper is considered one of the biggest eyesores in Paris, its open-air roof terrace is still one of the best spots to see the City of Light.
La Rotonde Brasserie. A second home to foreign artists and political exiles in the '20s and '30s, La Rotonde has a less exotic but faithful clientele today. It's still a very pleasant place to have coffee or a quick bite on the sunny terrace. If you want a heartier meal, head inside for a traditional French dining experience. 105 bd. Montparnasse, Montparnasse, Paris, 75014. 01–43–26–48–26; www.rotondemontparnasse.com.
Le Lithographe. With its Art Nouveau decor, friendly waitstaff, and menu of fresh bistro food, this is the perfect place for a drink or meal after visiting the nearby Montparnasse Cemetery or Fondation Cartier. Homemade tapenade and toasted baguettes are served with drinks. 234 bd. Raspail , Montparnasse, Paris, 75014. 01–77-13-26-08; www.lelithographe.fr.
Le Sélect Café and Brasserie. Isadora Duncan and Hart Crane used to hang out here, and now it's a popular place for a beer, glass of wine, or well-made cocktail. Emmentaler cheese lovers should try the croque madame with a bowl of French onion soup. 99 bd. Montparnasse, Montparnasse, Paris, 75014. 01–45–48–38–24.
Montparnasse includes the 14e and 15e arrondissements. Take Line 4, 6, 12, or 13 to Montparnasse–Bienvenue for the Tour Montparnasse; walk along Boulevard du Montparnasse to reach the cafés. Take Line 4 or 6 to the Raspail métro stop for the Cimetière du Montparnasse or the Fondation Cartier. To visit the Catacombs, take the 4 or 6 lines to Denfert-Rochereau. Other nearby métro stops include the Edgar Quinet stop on the 6 line and the Gaîté stop on the 13 line for the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Making the Most of Your Time
If you can get to the top of the Tour Montparnasse on a clear day, you'll be rewarded with a vista unmatched in all of Paris. The viewing deck is open until 10:30 pm (11:30 on Friday and Saturday), so you can watch the lights sparkle on the Eiffel Tower at the top of the hour. The Catacombs and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson are closed Monday. The Cimetière du Montparnasse is open daily.
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