Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 9, 2010 2:01PM

Montmartre in the Snow

Rate: 47 Flag



Like many big cities, Paris gets cold in the winter, but it’s rare that it snows here.  This December has been an unusually snowy month, and I love it! Well, I love the snow on the rooftops and tree branches…not so much the ice on the sidewalks. 

Yesterday afternoon, a sudden blizzard hit the City of Light, leaving behind about half a foot of snow.  As usual, Paris and its surroundings shut down, strangely more like something that would happen in my teenage home, Atlanta, instead of in a city that does have winter every year.  Cars were blocked on the highways, with some drivers stuck in their vehicles all night. 

 The ice and snow persisted into today.  One of the reasons for the former is that the French don’t liberally salt their sidewalks.  As you walk, staring down warily, you’ll see little grains of salt or dirt, but rarely, if ever, anything more...besides sheets of ice or piles of snow.

Last night, I was a near-casualty of my street’s sloping, ice-covered hill.  My knees still hurt.  Worse still, as I got back up from my fall, an old man slipped just behind me.  They really need to get into salt here.

But before all this, early yesterday afternoon, the first thought I had when I saw the snow coming down, besides “Hey – look at all that snow!” – was, "I have to get to Montmartre." One of the prettiest parts of Paris, this village-like neighborhood, which only became incorporated into the city in 1860, was home to some of the greatest artists and writers of the 19th and early 20th century.  Here, they lived la vie bohème. Looking at the snow studding Montmartre’s famous sites like diamonds, it’s easy to see why they were so inspired.

When I first came to live in Paris, one snowy day I decided to go see the flakes coming down in Montmartre.  I didn’t know yet about the no-salt policy, and my memories of that day are of me slowly and inevitably sliding down the sloping streets.

I feel like this snowfall was a little holiday treat from Mother Nature.  I wanted to pass it along, so, wearing the most traction-providing boots I could find, I went up the icy Butte (“Hill”) at my lunch break today, to take some pictures.




On the way up, I noticed the Moulin Rouge’s roof had gone white with snow.





The Moulin de la Galette, site of many famous 19th century paintings, is the home of one of the only two real windmills left on the formerly mill-strewn Butte.




I guess there probably won’t be anyone enjoying a drink at the café terrace today…..



One of my favorite views in Paris, looking down the rue Saint Rustique towards the Sacre Coeur.





The rue Cortot was so covered in ice, I didn’t dare go any farther.



The Lapin Agile, where Picasso, Modigliani, Utrillo, and their cronies hung out and sang songs with le Père Frédé and his donkey, who painted masterpieces with his tail.  The cabaret’s famous sign can be seen today in the nearby Musée de Montmartre.




In ancient times, Montmartre was covered in vineyards.  Today, only this very small, snow-covered one remains.  Every year, the wine is celebrated and tasted.  It’s prized by certain people, but most Parisians will tell you under their breath that it tastes like piss.




I used to like to come read in this little park across from the Lapin Agile.  Today, it was miraculously undisturbed, despite Montmartre’s usual flocks of tourists.  I took this picture to show how deep the snow got. 







Back up the street and around the corner, I was surprised to see that the Place du Tertre was nearly empty.  Usually, it’s bursting with artists and tourists. Today, just a few of each stood milling around a small, snowy plain empty of easels. 




 Montmartre rooftops.  I like the angel (on the top of the building on the right) who seems to be looking reverentially at the domes of the Sacre Coeur.



 Saint Pierre de Montmartre, one of Paris’ oldest churches, behind some beautiful splay-branched, snow-covered trees.




 An imposing view of the Sacre Coeur, one of my favorite Parisian landmarks. 





A bronze soldier and another gargoyle, both on the Sacre Coeur, and both lightly covered in snow.




The back of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre.




Because of the weather, lots of trains and buses weren’t running today.  Here, we see even the little Montmartre tourist train is unmoving under a snowy blanket.



The view from in front of the Sacre Coeur shows endless rows of snow-covered Parisian rooftops.








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I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago. The predicted snow finally came! Thanks for these photos. :)
Ahhh, I simply must go to Paris during this, my 40th year. I do so love your reports. We are lucky to have our girl in Paris!
Around here it's city law, you have to clear your sidewalk of snow and ice. But we are use to it. Now if only it would snow this year, maybe January.
Lovely. But what's not to like?
Pretty yes, but I'm just as happy to have missed it.

We have less snow here (west of Ottawa) at the moment (under an inch)...but Alex, back in Montreal, has a foot of the stuff. We may get ours on the weekend.
Ahhhh. I love just reading the names. This is so beautiful. Ienjoyed this so much in my sterile medical building on my lunch break. Ilove the internet, just for this alone... thank you.
Wow. Thanks for posting these pictures.
They are good and this way we can get an idea of how Paris looks with snow.
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, and etched on vacant places are half-forgotten faces of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know. -  Ella Wheeler Wilcox
That last picture reminds me of the wonderful dinner my travel companions and I enjoyed on the terrace of a Montemarte restaurant. I had to pinch myself to believe I was really there.

Beautiful. Not hard to understand why you love the place -- in any weather. But it must be tough to deal with when the city's not used to it.

About 70 miles northeast of here in Southwestern Ontario, some places got up to 177 cm of snow a couple of days ago. More expected. I don't want to even think about it. So far, we've been lucky.
Very nice pictures!
Alysa this is lovely thank you ! It snowed here too. As far as depth and volume, Paris ain't got nothing over Montreal. Two lovely cities under snow. Keep safe and warm.
I'd heard of Montmartre
and now i have seen it!
(You saved me plenty in airfare...
now i can use that money to go to Stonehenge,
unless you and your camera wanna go for me?)

They say once upon a time Montmartre was a hot
Druidic spot.

Good heavens, think of all the human psychic energy
that little hill has soaked up!
It has been unusually cold here in Florida for the past few days and today it has drizzled lightly, like an autumn day in Paris. I'll take what you've got over this. Paris me manque beaucoup. Merci pour la chaleur avec les photos!
Oh, Alysa, now I'm suddenly overwhelmed by a romantic feeling. Snow or no snow, I wish I was there.
Great pictures. I'm not a fan of snow, at all, but still the pictures were nice to see.
Wonderful, Alysa! Stay warm and let me know if you ever need ski lessons...
Fantastique! What a lovely winter travelogue. /r/
Lovely! Wish I was there!
Ohhhh, I would so love to be there! Just gorgeous!
Delightful! And I will check out your lit mag. Thanks!
Oh my Lord, you just made my day. Montmartre and snow together is more joy than I remember existing. All of your shots are familiar and the view down the rue Saint Rustique is one of my very favorites as well.

Thank you for this!
Ah, snow in Pariiis. How do you say, zhank you?
Perhaps you could look up my relatives. But most of them are dead, I am afraid, mon cheri...
Just a dusting compared to what we get here in New England, but I'm sure quite special there.

After coming to Paris for many years I finally went to Montmartre this fall. I want to return.
what is it about that place?
I'll come back to this when there is silence and I can enjoy this at leisure, thank you for posting
Great shots. Nothing like the old world here.

Be better if they were bigger! PM me if you want to bypass the OS default size.
Alysa, thanks for this beautiful photo essay! It's great to have some attractive winter landscapes from Europe to add to the many that have been posted showing winter in the USA here on OS.
Paris even makes snow look good. Beautiful, Alysa.~r
Beautiful place, beautiful pictures. Enjoy the snow - thanks for sharing.
Beautiful pictures, Alysa. I remember all of these pictures from last Oct. but without the snow. -R-
thanks for this... someday I hope to see the live version.
what cartouche said. i love paris and gargoyles and le rue cortot and cafes, even covered in snow, and pictures of all of them. thanks so much for reminding me.
First, those were a lot of steep, slick stairs you climbed. I love Paris. The paintings from Montmartre that Ms. Stim and I purchased during our first trip to the city still hang in our hallway.
Very lovely, thank you for taking us on this tour!
Cool pictures. Its in the 20s in DC tonight. I cant say I miss the snow.
Lovely. Thanks for this wonderful travelogue.
I've always loved that neighborhood, touristy though it is. Sacre Coeur just looks "right" surrounded by snow. Thanks for sharing this!
What beauty. Such attentiveness and intricacy to detail. God, did I love Paris. I usually build things up in my head and am dissapointed but with Paris- it was even better than I'd dreamt it to be. Highly unusual.

With snow- even greater. Great work again, Alysa.
Hi everyone,

I posted this quickly last night and then had to go and was busy until now. I'm so thrilled that you guys enjoyed Montmartre in the snow as much as I did, and thanks for reading! I'd respond to each of you as I usually do, but I realize I have A LOT of OS reading to catch up on.
This is so charming!! I am longing to go back to Paris. I was there over 20 years ago as a traveling student and loved it--especially Montmartre.
Tres bien. Thanks for taking us on this journey.
Moulin Rouge covered in snow is a highly symbolic image
as sensuality and joy hibernate for the Northern Winter...
Winter comes every year, our muscles contract into themselves,
especially our hearts.
Good strategy: take visual evidence of the beauty of this

Picasso, all them geniuses, et al,
have one disadvantage. It's a big one. They are dead,
and you are not.

Soldiers and gargoyles covered in snow too...
we are all blanketed by ice
in God's cryogenetic experiment to see how much internal heat
we can these mind-numbing days of protest and reaction...

Over reaction is what He wants: not across town,
but here in the domicile.
Negativity hangs from the roofs dripping and eventually falling
on our unsuspecting skidding souls...
Sounds like Butte works in both languages - for different reasons!
Wonderful pictures! The snow makes a beautiful place that much prettier -- even if being in the midst of an unexpected snow doesn't feel so "pretty."
So beautiful! And so... jealous!! The City of Light Snow!! My fave is Lapin Agile. The world be be a bleaker place without Pablo.
Thanks for the photos!! No snow here in warm and cuddly NYC. Too cold yet.
As a retired photographer, I'd go bananas if ever in Paris again. I was last there in 1972.
Beautifully captured and artfully described.