Portrait – Painter Marie Theres Berger, Montmartre, Paris, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved. Local Knowledge Paris.

Local Knowledge Paris – Meet Montmartre Artist Marie Theres Berger

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For the Paris edition of Local Knowledge, we get tips from Parisian artist and art historian Marie Theres Berger from Montmartre. It’s a beautiful spring evening when Marie Theres takes us to her small studio, hidden, with a dozen other artists’ ateliers, in a dimly lit lane in the heart of Montmartre. The vibrant colours of her canvases take us back outside into the sunshine and a lovely Paris garden.

When artist Marie Theres Berger is not working from her home in the south of France, she’s busy here in her petite artist’s studio in Montmartre, which she walks to every day from the apartment she shares with her opera director-husband on the other side of Sacre Coeur.

As Marie Theres loves to meet people from around the world, she guides tours of Paris art museums and art themed walking tours around Montmartre. A graduate of the Ecole Du Louvre, Paris, and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, USA, Marie Theres has painted since she was a child and exhibited everywhere from New York to Berlin.

“I love Montmartre,” she tells us later over dinner at her home. “It’s a microcosm of Paris. It’s multicultural. It has nightlife and day-life. There are prostitutes, there are bobos, and there are artists… there is the tourist part, but there’s also the everyday life, which is very authentic.”

“The Montmartrois (the people of Montmartre) are also special,” she reveals. “They don’t feel like Parisians. There is a distance between them and Parisians. They have always felt different. In fact, it’s been a tradition here to feel different, to feel unique, to feel apart from Paris in a way. The people are what makes Montmartre really special.”

Obviously, Marie Theres was the best candidate for our Local Knowledge Paris expert and the perfect person to share tips to Montmartre, the area that’s been our home away from home in Paris for two weeks.

Local Knowledge Paris – Meet Montmartre Artist Marie Theres Berger

Q. So, what do you most love about your work?

A. The colours. I’m a colourist so it’s pretty much all about the colours. I love the way colour interacts and sings together.

Q. Why should people come to Paris?

A. There’s so much to do and see in Paris, from Notre Dame to the Louvre, and all the museums, but after that, visitors should go to Montmartre to see the real Paris. Montmartre is not just Place de Tertre*, it’s the whole area, like Rue des Abbesses, Rue Caulaincourt and Rue de Clignancourt, where you won’t find any tourists at all. (Ed: *Place de Tertre is the square where artists sketch your portrait for a price, pictured above.)

Q. 3 words to describe Paris?

A. Beautiful, cultured and accessible.

Q. 3 ways to describe Parisians?

A. Unexpectedly nice, increasingly dynamic, and more and more open.

Q. Top 3 recommendations for visitors?

A. Go to the Musée de Cluny to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry; visit the Nissim de Camondo decorative arts museum in the 17th arrondissement; and enjoy the views of Paris from the steps of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre.

Q. Best souvenir from Paris?

A. Some cooking utensils from BHV, Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville department store, or E Dehillerin, a kitchenware shop since 1820. (Ed: and our first stop in Paris on every trip!)

Q. Must-do eating experiences?

A. Dine at a big traditional Parisian brasserie such as Le Grand Colbert, Brasserie Flo, or Terminus Nord. I love the brasseries, because you know what you’re going to get – the service and food are consistent – and the surroundings are just so beautiful.

Q. An essential thing to know before coming to Paris?

A. You don’t need to order French onion soup when you come here!

Q. Most important phrase to learn in French?

A. Bonjour, Madame. Bonjour, Monsieur. If you add ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ it makes a big difference in Paris. If you use a few polite terms when you greet people, you will be treated very differently, and with greater respect.

Q. Any other advice?

A. Walk! Walk in Paris. The metro is wonderful if you need to go from A to B, but it’s better to walk. Walk and you will really discover the many different sides of Paris, when you’re on your way to where you want to go. Once you’ve explored Montmartre, visit arrondissements like the 5th and the 20th, and spend some time in Paris’ beautiful parks and gardens.

Click through to learn more about Marie Theres Berger on her website.

Planning a Paris Trip?

Read about our home away from home in Paris; a macaron making class, a Paris food tour, Montmartre art walk, multicultural Paris walking tour, and Paris architecture and urban history tour we tested; a baguette tasting and French wine tasting we did; why it’s hard to get a great meal in Paris, where to eat well in Paris right now, and why you need to dine at a French brasserie.

Also see this Paris chanson playlist by Fanfan and Marco; a Paris ethical shopping guide by a local expert, our guide to Paris’ biggest flea market; Paris souvenirs to buy, including stationery shop mementoes, kitchen kitsch and edible take-homes; Price Check: Paris; Terence’s reflections on spring in Paris, where markets lead the way; and our Paris travel tips.

Make our traditional côte de bœuf recipe courtesy of French chef Pierre Gagnaire, our classic French omelette recipes for Weekend Eggs, and our Serendipity cocktail recipe by the world’s greatest bartender.

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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

4 thoughts on “Local Knowledge Paris – Meet Montmartre Artist Marie Theres Berger”

  1. What a lovely take on Paris! I really enjoyed reading this and hope it will encourage our tourist friends to get to really know Paris – I’m a parisian (part time Montmartroise) and I didn’t know the hidden gems that Marie-Theres mentions.

    Thanks for the tips and the friendship

    Michele Vannoni

  2. Thanks, Michele! I feel so terrible that I’ve only just discovered your comment here. I’m so sorry! I’m glad that even as a Parisian and a Montmartroise you got something new from this! Merci xx

  3. Although it is possible nowadays to get day passes to museums and basically do it yourself when it comes to art tours in Paris, a private guide is so much better. Especially a Montmartroise whose tales of the not only the artworks but also the life and times of the artists adds so much to the experience.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Julie. I love wandering around museums and galleries on my own, too, but agree, going with an artist or art historian certainly brings another perspective and depth to the experience, and especially on a wander around a neighbourhood imbued with so much art history. Thanks for dropping by!

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