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09/03/2014 12:23 EDT | Updated 11/03/2014 05:59 EST

A Guide to Montmartre: Paris' Most Fascinating Neighbourhood

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Coffee and ice cream, Paris

Just as you'd expect Paris is a beautiful place where the wine is cheap and the men are suave, but there is much more to this city than the Mona Lisa and picnics on the left bank. There is Montmartre: a magical neighborhood tucked away in the city's 18th arrondissement that makes you feel as if you're walking to the sounds of Charles Aznavour's La Bohème each time you make eyes with a bohemian bourgeois.

1. Moulin Rouge

If you've heard of Montmartre before, it's probably because it is home to the Moulin Rouge. This is where brothels began popping up in the late 1880s and is arguably Europe's very first red light district. Today, attending the world-famous cabaret show will cost you about $170 depending on the day and where you book. If you can't justify dishing out the cash to watch long-legged French women do the Can-Can, you should still visit the square to catch a glimpse of the iconic red windmill atop the building.

2. Van Gogh's Apartment

A number of love-scorned artists have at one point called Montmartre home, including one of the most famous painters in the world. Vincent Van Gogh spent his time in the city living on the third floor 54 Rue Lepic. It is at this apartment that the artist is said to have written a letter to the French prostitute he was in love with. The only problem was, to his surprise, she was seeing other men. When Van Gogh caught wind of this, he decided to cut off a piece of his ear and attach it to the letter, which he delivered in person.

I don't need to tell you that it didn't end well -- you can just imagine that poor woman's horror upon his arrival. There is no doubt though that she, among other aspects of Paris, was inspiration behind the more than 200 works that Van Gogh produced in the two years he spent in the city. Today, you will find a small sunflower placed outside the window of that Rue Lepic apartment.

3. Au Lapin Agile

We also know that Pablo Picasso spent much of his time in the art capital of Europe, using his charm to get out of paying his dinner bills at cabarets like Au Lapin, where he would famously make a quick sketch of the waitress, hoping they would accept it instead of money. Picasso later ended up striking a deal with the owner of Au Lapin where he crafted a painting in exchange for a few free meals. Au Lapin Agile is now a café and that Picasso painting still hangs on its walls.

4. Le Clos Montmartre

Across from Au Lapin, you will find Paris' only surviving vineyard. It produces about 1,500 bottles of wine each year. While many locals say it's overpriced and poor in taste, the vineyard does prove that it's possible to create Parisian wine in a polluted urban centre. The best time to plan a visit is the second weekend of October when Le Clos hosts its annual Wine Harvest Festival on the streets of Montmartre.

5. Graffiti by Miss.Tic

You may never have heard of an artist by the name of Miss.Tic, but if you walk the cobblestone paths of Montmartre there is no doubt you will see some of her work. Miss.Tic's claim to fame is her quirky street art that was inspired by an ex-boyfriend who once said to her "I never want to see you again." She took revenge by plastering her face just about everywhere he'd come across it by way of graffiti. Before long, many began to take notice of her work (including her old boyfriend, who later left the city after being tormented by her images). Miss.Tic is now very well known in France and has her work featured in a number of local galleries like Galarie W Landau.

6. Sacré Coeur

This enormous and glowing cathedral is a Parisian landmark that takes you to the highest point in the city. In my opinion it's worth the climb up, but you can also take a tram. Pictures aren't allowed inside the nearly 140-year-old structure, but you'll be so enamored by the vast beauty in its interior that you'll forget all about that.

This church is aesthetically quite unique since it was built using a stone that releases calcite when it's hit by water, so the exterior remains white no matter the weather. You will, however, want to whip out the camera for when you get to the very top -- there's a breathtaking view of the city's skyline from there.

7. Café des 2 Moulins

Before Jean-Pierre Jeunet was the Jean-Pierre Jeunet behind Amélie, Café des 2 Moulins was not more than a local hotspot. Now you will find movie buffs and travellers alike, snapping photos outside this famed restaurant. As it turns out, Jeunet pleaded with the owner numerous times before getting the OK to shoot there. Amélie ended up being one of the highest grossing French flicks ever made, so I suppose it was worth his while.