Paris’ South Pigalle District: Exploring Rue des Martyrs & Beyond

Last Updated on May 17, 2024

While many people are familiar with the Pigalle of the Moulin Rouge and its surrounding red-light district, the southern stretch of the area has an entirely different vibe—and identity. Nestled downhill from the illustrious shadow of Montmartre and the iconic Sacré Cœur, Paris’ South Pigalle district is what you might consider a re-imagined neighborhood, shaped by gentrification and evolving cultural tastes. 

Rue de Martyrs is at the heart of the South Pigalle district of Paris. Pic by Courtney Traub/All rights reserved
Rue des Martyrs, with its many gourmet shops and bakeries, forms the artery of the South Pigalle district in Paris. (Image by Courtney Traub/All rights reserved)

Once synonymous with Parisians of “ill repute” and illuminated by the glow of cabaret and sex-shop signs, the area affectionately known by Parisians as “SoPi” is now best-known for its collection of avant-garde bakeries, specialty coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and quirky museums, with the bustling Rue des Martyrs at its core. 

This slightly gritty (sometimes even a bit seedy) yet undeniably fun area blends classic Parisian charm with modern flair, in a constantly evolving tableau. Here are our recommendations for what to see and do in South Pigalle, from pastry-tasting to museum-going. 

Orientation and Transport 

Flower shop on Rue des Martyrs in Paris (photo by Buvette via Flickr/Some rights reserved under Creative Commons 2.0)
Flower shop on Rue des Martyrs (photo by Buvette via Flickr/Some rights reserved under Creative Commons 2.0 license)

South Pigalle occupies the northern reaches of Paris’ 9th arrondissement and dips into  the southern edge of the 18th (Montmartre). The neighborhood, shaped somewhat like a rectangle, stretches from the Blanche and Anvers metro stations to Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and Trinité–d’Estienne d’Orves stations. 

The area is separated from North Pigalle by the busy Boulevard de Clichy (home to the Moulin Rouge) and Boulevard Marguerite de Rochechouart.

Main Streets: The quartier’s main thoroughfare is Rue des Martyrs, flanked by several significant streets: Rue Henri Monnier, Rue de Douai, Rue Condorcet, Rue Victor Massée, Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Rue Pierre Fontaine, Rue Chaptal, Rue Notre-Dame de Lorette, and Rue Rodier.

Getting there: This area is well connected and easy to navigate. South Pigalle is accessible via the Pigalle metro station, which intersects Line 2 and Line 12. Additional nearby metro stations include Saint-Georges, Anvers, Blanche, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and Trinité–d’Estienne d’Orves. Gare du Nord, a major railway station with services including the RER B to the airport and Eurostar connections to the UK, is roughly a 20-minute walk away. 

A Bit of Neighborhood History 

Place Pigalle at Night (1905–1908) by Pierre Bonnard. Original from Yale University Art Gallery. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.
Place Pigalle at Night (1905–1908) by Pierre Bonnard. Original from Yale University Art Gallery. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

In the early 19th century, South Pigalle was known as La Nouvelle Athènes, or New Athens, when tax collector Lapeyrière and architect Constantin designed the area with neoclassical villas and townhouses inspired by Italian and Greek architectural styles. 

This architectural revival transformed the neighborhood into a hub for key figures of the Romantic movement, such as Claude Monet, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo, who were drawn by its intellectual and cultural vibrancy. 

{Best Places in Paris to See Claude Monet’s Art}

As the 20th century progressed, South Pigalle evolved into a thronging hub after dark. The district, especially known for its cabarets and bars, became a magnet for bohemian artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso. 

The main boulevards and Place Pigalle pulsated with a mix of theaters, adult shows, and sex shops. Following the Liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944, Allied troops colloquially dubbed the area “Pig Alley” due to its notorious nightlife.

In recent years, South Pigalle has seen quite a change, with gentrification polishing many of its rough edges– yet it hasn’t lost its bohemian spirit. It’s this combination of old and new that continues to attract hipsters, families, foodies and tourists in equal measure, making it a unique and lively part of the city. 

Culture, Museums & Other Attractions in South Pigalle

South Pigalle may not boast a large number of museums, but those it houses are small, intriguing collections that reflect the area’s rich artistic heritage. More broadly, the area offers a variety of activities that appeal to all ages and interests.

Musée de La Vie Romantique 

Musée de la Vie Romantique is nestled in a quiet street in "SoPI"/South Pigalle in Paris. Photo by JLPC (via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by JLPC (via Wikimedia Commons)

Set in the 1830 home of painter Ary Scheffer, this intimate museum (16 Rue Chaptal) offers a window into the French Romantic period in literature. The ground floor is devoted to the gender-defying novelist George Sand, displaying her portraits alongside 18th and 19th-century furniture and jewelry. 

{Related: Small Museums in Paris That Deserve a Visit}

Upstairs, the first floor contrasts these historical artifacts with temporary contemporary art exhibitions, distributed among Scheffer’s original paintings. Despite its compact size, the museum’s charm invites visitors to linger, particularly at the adjoining cafe and tearoom.

Tucked away in a secluded, leafy courtyard and managed by Rose Bakery (more on this neighborhood institution further down), it offers a peaceful retreat where you can relax with tea and a slice of homemade cake.

Musee National Gustave Moreau 

Musée Gustave Moreau (photo by Ducatipierre via Wikimedia Commons)

Celebrating the central figure of the Symbolist movement in art, the Musée National Gustave Moreau (14 Rue Catherine de la Rochefoucauld) was designed entirely by Moreau himself. Based in his former residence, this museum showcases a vast array of over 14,000 works, kept exactly as he arranged them prior to his death and including paintings, drawings and other media.

The collection ranges from intimate sketches shown in his personal quarters to large-scale paintings displayed in the two-story studio. The studio features a dramatic, Instagrammable staircase and is a visual feast. With its countless paintings densely hung from floor to ceiling, it offers an immersive glimpse into Moreau’s richly imaginative world.

Église Notre-Dame-de-Lorette 

Église Notre-Dame de Lorette (Photo by Pline via Wikimedia Commons)

Located next to the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette metro station, the Église Notre-Dame-de-Lorette’s construction began in 1823 during the reign of Louis XVIII and was completed in 1836 under Louis-Philippe.

Designated as a historical monument in 1984, the church is known for its extravagant interior decor, contrasting starkly with its neo-classical exterior– making for a worthwhile visit at no cost. And if it was good enough for Monet (he was baptized here in 1841), it’s surely good enough for a quick peek!

Marché d’Anvers at Place d’Anvers 

Organic produce at the Anvers market (photo by Rachel Naismith)

Experience local life in South Pigalle at Marché d’Anvers, a food market established in 2004 on Place d’Anvers. The market is small, hosting about 20 vendors who offer everything from fresh (predominantly organic) produce to ready-to-eat delights, such as fresh pasta, cakes, and rotisserie chicken. 

{Related: Our Favorite Paris Food Markets, Both Open & Covered}

It operates only on Friday afternoons and early evenings, when well-heeled locals gather around small tables to enjoy oysters and white wine. A highlight is the stand offering pommes de terre de Bretagne—potatoes sautéed with generous amounts of salted butter and cracked black pepper.

Duperré Playground 

Tucked between classical Haussmann buildings, the Duperré playground is an idea port of call spot for children and families. Originally at risk of closure in 2007, it was revitalized in 2009 through a collaboration between Ill-Studio, Stephane Ashpool of the Pigalle streetwear label, and Nike. 

{How to Visit Paris With a Baby or Toddler?}

The playground saw further enhancements in 2015 and 2017, introducing a fabulous palette of bright colors – yellow, blue, indigo, and fuchsia pink. The most recent update in 2020 has ensured it remains a lively community fixture. 

Le Louxor – Palais du Cinéma 

Le Louxor Cinema (photo by Monceau Via flickr)

The Louxor cinema, though strictly speaking situated in the 10th arrondissement, is just a short ten-minute stroll from the heart of South Pigalle. Its history dates back to 1920 when architect Henry Zipcy constructed it, drawing inspiration from the 1917 film ‘Cleopatra’, starring Theda Bara, to create its striking Egyptian Revival style.

Over the years, Le Louxor has undergone various transformations, from screening exclusively Bollywood and North African films to becoming a lively nightclub in the 1980s. 

Despite a period of neglect in the 1990s, Le Louxor was salvaged from demolition by a local association, meticulously restored under the guidance of the City of Paris and reopened in 2013. Today, the theater remains a favorite among cinephiles, offering a diverse selection of films, including many in English. 

{Best Cinemas in Paris}

Its rooftop café provides a lovely escape with a great wine selection and impressive views of the Sacré-Cœur basilica. While the nearby Barbès metro station, perpetually overcrowded and hectic, may feel less romantic, this unusual cinema merits a visit. 

HOY Spa 

After a busy day exploring South Pigalle, Hôtel HoY on Rue des Martyrs is a serene escape, decorated in calming earth tones and scented with gorgeous candles. The ground-floor flower shop offers locally sourced dried bouquets and handmade ceramics. 

A spacious yoga studio awaits beyond the reception area and, upstairs, guests can enjoy various treatments, from massages to facials, easily booked online. 

Shopping and Wandering in South Pigalle

Fromagerie Quatrehomme / Rue des Martyrs (photo by Rachel Naismith)

South Pigalle is a neighborhood teeming with culinary delights and specialty shops. While it’s not particularly lush with greenery, Square d’Anvers offers a pleasant respite where locals often gather with their children at the small playground, especially after school and during the market days.

Rue des Martyrs 

Rue des Martyrs by Buvette/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license
Terraces and a fountain on Rue des Martyrs by Buvette/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

Towards the upper end of the street, you’ll find The Cool Republic (#70) with its selection of attractive home decor items. Nearby, Librairie L’Atelier (#59) sells pretty stationery and notebooks.

The street is also lined with shops offering fashionable apparel and accessories. Chiffon et Basile (#86) stands out for its elegant range of garments, curated by a notably welcoming owner, while Le 54 (#54) offers a fun selection of jewellery. 

For those in search of footwear and menswear, the street houses respected French brands such as Jonak (#54), Anthology (#41), and Balibaris (#31). 

Rue des Martyrs is also unusually well-stocked with diverse, high-quality gourmet and culinary offerings. Berrie (#21) offers locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables, alongside artisanal snacks and cheeses. 

La Cave Lambert (photo by Rachel Naismith)
La Cave Lambert (photo by Rachel Naismith)

A short walk away, Fromagerie Quatrehomme (#26) caters to cheese aficionados with an extensive selection of regional cheeses and convenient vacuum-packing services. It’s among those listed in our guide to the best cheese shops in the capital, too.

La Cave Lambert (#34) has quickly become a favorite for its quality wines at reasonable prices, complemented by English-speaking staff eager to assist. 

La Chambre aux Confitures (#9) dazzles with an extensive variety of both sweet and savory jams, jelliesd marmelades, while the Fédération Française de l’Apéritif (#18) celebrates French apéro culture with a selection of local tapenades, foie gras, and other traditional treats.

Chambre aux Confitures/Image by Courtney Traub
Jams fill the shelves floor-to-ceiling at La Chambre aux Confitures/Image by Courtney Traub

At the intersection with Rue Fléchier, RAP (#4) is an Italian épicerie that might make Italians’ eyes water with its high-end prices. Yet, it continues to attract with its enticing selection of panettone at Christmas, and its vast array of olive oils, vinegars, and pasta varieties.

Other streets to explore 

The streets surrounding and branching off from Rue des Martyrs offer plenty of options for shopping and dining. Rue Condorcet features vintage shops like Retro Chic (#57), which sells luxury second-hand goods—great for browsing or occasional splurging. 

Love & Dress (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Love & Dress (photo by Rachel Naismith)

Love & Dress (#51) provides more affordable choices with a wide selection, supported by friendly, non-pushy staff. The chic French minimalist clothing store APC operates a men’s outlet (#61) and a women’s shop (#64), both offering a small, intimate setting with a regularly updated selection. 

For more menswear, L’Officine Générale (#72) and LaFaurie (#69) provide timeless (and good value) apparel.

A.P.C Paris (photo by Rachel Naismith)
A.P.C Paris (photo by Rachel Naismith)

On Rue Pierre Fontaine, notable stops include Mi Tiendita (#19), a small but charming Mexican épicerie that sells authentic fresh tortillas, condiments and spices. 

La Maison Pigalle (#22) showcases a stylish selection of homeware (candles, soft furnishings, and bed linen) in a neutral, bohemian atmosphere.

Where to Eat and Drink in South Pigalle?

Pastries from Le Pain Retrouvé (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Pastries from Le Pain Retrouvé (photo by Rachel Naismith)

In South Pigalle, the sheer variety of dining and drinking options is staggering. Every corner reveals another alluring space, from trendy, Instagram-worthy spots that have just opened their doors to stalwart bistros and bars that have been serving locals for years.

This blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary, creates a lively and rich culinary landscape. It’s a prime spot to witness Parisians  broadening their culinary horizons with a rich mix of multicultural influences.

Breakfast and Brunch 

Brunch at Jim’s Corner (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Brunch at Jim’s Corner (photo by Rachel Naismith)

Good coffee is readily available in South Pigalle. KB Coffee Shop (53 Avenue Trudaine), a fixture since 2010, is consistently lively. If you manage to snag a terrace seat, it’s an excellent spot for people-watching along Rue des Martyrs. 

Just a short stroll away, Yorgaki (45 Rue des Martyrs) serves strong Greek coffee in a traditional pot called a briki and offers a veggie-friendly array of brunch dishes in its compact, elegantly tiled café. Think Greek yogurt with honey and fruit, baked feta with tomatoes and pita, and sticky orange cake.

Further down, Cafe Pigalle (7 Rue Frochot) with its dark wooden interiors and alluring assortment of pastries, is a great spot for some quiet work time, thanks to its calm atmosphere and reliable wifi.

Dimanche Pigalle (60 Rue de Dunkerque) offers a trendy setting (doubling as a design and clothing store) and is known for its excellent matcha green tea drinks, if that’s your thing.

Norma (34 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette), with its inviting yellow awning, is one of my favorite spots to head for pastries in the area. Opened by Franco-British Abigail Munier, it serves a range of baked goods from scones and iced buns to Swedish Selma buns and savory items like sausage rolls and pesto ‘swirl bread’. 

Cafe Pigalle (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Cafe Pigalle (photo by Rachel Naismith)

Mamiche (5 Rue Condorcet) has become a staple of the “nouvelle boulangerie” (new bakery) scene, offering slick branding and inventive bakes such as chantilly-filled chouquettes (crunchy, sugar-encrusted chou pastry balls) and cherry-studded rye bread. 

Their new venture, Mamiche Traiteur (19 Rue Bouchardon), provides savory options such as salads and generously filled sandwiches to go.

Le Pain Retrouvé (18 Rue des Martyrs), meanwhile, is the place to go for savory breads, featuring specialties such as their black-olive ficelle, a long, narrow loaf.

For a more indulgent brunch, Hôtel Amour (8 Rue de Navarin) has a beautiful, leafy terrace where you can enjoy a luxurious brunch spread on weekends or simpler fare during the week. They also offer a solid selection for vegetarians and vegans, and a small menu for kids. 

Lastly, Jim’s Corner (127 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière), owned by a New Zealand couple, is known for its vibrant brunch plates and excellent coffee in a bright, welcoming space. Outdoor seating is available in the spring and summer, and their BLT is especially good.

Bars and Terraces 

Bistrot Smiley in South Pigalle (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Bistrot Smiley is a SoPi favorite for a quick, cheap drink (photo by Rachel Naismith)

South Pigalle is filled with places to drink, whether you’re craving a laid-back spot for cheap beer and people-watching, a cool cocktail at a watering hole where hipsters flock, or an elegant glass of sparkling wine at an upscale hotel bar. 

On Rue des Martyrs, I have a soft spot for Bistrot Smiley (#37), which offers cheap drinks in a simple setting with friendly staff, and a good lunch menu of homemade dishes during weekdays (avoid the extensive main menu).

La Fourmi (#74) is a bit of an institution. Beloved for its lively atmosphere, it is always filled with a mix of young tourists and local regulars, in an atmosphere of upbeat music and buzzing energy. It’s a perfect spot for a casual drink without the frills, but with an authentic Parisian feel.

Rue Frochot houses several SoPi institutions, like Dirty Dick (#10), a former sex club from the 1930s when it was managed by the Corsican mafia. Now transformed into a tiki bar, the staff excel at mixing drinks with freshly squeezed juices and homemade syrups. Le Pigalle (#9), a stylish hotel, draws a trendy crowd to its bar with a selection of natural wines and creative cocktails.

More natural wine and equally fashionable clientele can be found at Pompette (15 Rue Hippolyte Lebas), enjoying drinks alongside Mediterranean-inspired plates. Classique (1bis Rue Lallier) is my favorite cocktail spot in the neighborhood, housed in a converted pharmacy adorned with pretty period tiles and a beautiful marble counter. 

Renowned for its creative mixology, the bar showcases standout cocktails like the ‘Milk Punch’ (a delicious blend of rum, lemon juice, coconut milk), Shochu (a Japanese spirit distilled from rice, sweet potatoes, and brown sugar), and a merlot float. This venue provides the perfect ambiance for enjoying a sophisticated evening cocktail accompanied by tasty morsels, such as thinly sliced lomo iberico and octopus ceviche.

Finally, the cocktail bar at the elegant Grand Pigalle Hotel (29 Rue Victor Massé, 75009 Paris; see our full review here) is an ideal spot to perch before dinner in the area. Drinks here, in equal parts beautiful and creative, are brainchildren of the world-famous Experimental Cocktail group. 

For a splurge you can stay in the hotel—and even book a table at Frenchie Pigalle, part of the culinary empire headed by chef Grégory Marchand and mentioned recently in the Michelin Guide

Lunch

Cafe Yorgaki on Rue des Martyrs (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Cafe Yorgaki on Rue des Martyrs (photo by Rachel Naismith)

SoPi offers an array of quick, affordable lunch spots as well as venues that are perfect for a leisurely meal. Many restaurants in the area feature attractively-priced formules (set-price lunch menus) that are a bargain compared to their evening offerings. This area is also a haven for vegetarians and vegans looking for something decent to eat.

{Related: Fantastic Vegetarian & Vegan Dining Options in Paris}

At Rose Bakery (46 Rue des Martyrs) you can choose between the takeaway spot for beautifully crafted square-shaped quiches, or the adjoining seated café, which serves up seasonal salads and robust coffee in a cozy, if slightly dim, setting.

Lunch at Mitao (photo by Rachel Naismith)

SO NAT (5 Rue Bourdaloue) offers satisfying, flavor-packed salads, while Evi Evane (10 Rue Guisarde), a Greek traiteur, dishes up homemade salads, grilled veggies, and crispy pastries.

For those craving Asian-inspired fare, Mitao (73 Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle) boasts an unbeatable lunch deal featuring dishes like salmon rice bowls and green curries, paired with a side of mixed gyoza, all in the low double digits in Euros (at the time of writing)

Shinjuku (52 Rue Condorcet) provides a chic backdrop for enjoying Japanese Izakaya-style plates, while Tsubame (40 Rue de Douai) specializes in vegetable-packed bento boxes.

{Related: Where to Eat & Shop in Little Tokyo, Paris}

For a heartier meal, Dumbo (64 Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle) is a popular local spot for burgers, including an exceptional veggie smash burger topped with a garlicky house sauce and crispy, salty fries. 

Lastly, Le Pantruche (3 Rue Victor Massé) offers a great value two-course lunch for 23 euros, popular with locals for its modern bistro fare.

Dinner

Pizza from Faggio ‘Comme à Marseille’ (photo by Rachel Naismith)
Pizza from Faggio ‘Comme à Marseille’ (photo by Rachel Naismith)

I love Faggio (72 Rue Marguerite de Rochechouart) for its light, delicious pizzas. The restaurant is nestled among plenty of vibrant bars, making it the perfect spot for a drink before or after your meal.

Just a short walk away, Abri Soba (10 Rue Saulnier) specializes in Japanese buckwheat noodles, served in traditional hot and cold styles. The minimalist wooden decor adds to the restaurant’s stylish atmosphere. 

They don’t take reservations, but the food—including evening izakaya dishes and buckwheat crème brûlée—is definitely worth the wait.

Not far from there (and technically in the 10th arrondissement) Les Arlots (136 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière) is a cozy neighborhood joint, offering bistro classics at reasonable prices. 

Nearby, Pristine (8 Rue de Maubeuge) captures a modern, neighborhood bistro vibe with a focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, seasonal produce, and natural wines. Don’t miss their epic ice-cream sandwich made with hazelnut butter, honey, and buckwheat!

Pétrelle (34 Rue Pétrelle) provides a sophisticated dining experience, set against a backdrop of mahogany furniture and velvet chairs. 

The menu features fresh, light options like Brittany sole with herby chermoula and rhubarb tartelette with pistachios and orange blossom. Although the setting is opulent, Pétrelle offers reasonably priced set menus for both lunch and dinner, and it’s also open on Sundays.

Sweet Stuff

delicious French pastries in Paris, Fou de Patisserie
Several pastry chefs are spotlighted at Fou de Patisserie/Image by Courtney Traub

If you’re in need of a mid-morning pick-me-up or a post-lunch treat, several spots in the area stand out. Fou de Pâtisserie (36 Rue des Martyrs) offers a selection of French pastries crafted by renowned chefs, such as Jacques Genin, Pierre Hermé and Claire Damon. 

They also feature a range of outrageously tasty jams, including a pear and dark chocolate flavored Poire Belle Hélène confiture.

Just steps away, La Meringaie (#35) is known for its light, fruit-topped meringues that are perfect for a sweet, airy snack. 

Down the street, Sébastien Gaudard’s Pâtisserie (#22) retains a charming, old-fashioned vibe, ideal for picking up unique sweet gifts, such as beautifully packaged butter biscuits. They also offer an exceptional tarte au citron!

Sébastien Gaudard (Photo by Rachel Naismith)
Sébastien Gaudard (Photo by Rachel Naismith)

Another excellent place for treats to take home is Le Comptoir de Madeleine (17 Rue Victor Massé). The shop specializes in madeleines, offering the traditional shell-shaped cakes in flavors such as hazelnut, chocolate and salted caramel.

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