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Cimetière du Père-Lachaise


  - 2 opinions

Touristic attraction and place to relax

Published by Nadine Schlehofer — 3 years ago

It might sound strange, when I say that one of my favourite places to relax in Paris as a cemetery. No, I am not a weird person, who enjoys being with the dead. It is just a really nice and calm place to be.

How to get there?

You find the cemetery, when you go with the metro line number 2 or 3 and get off at the station Père-Lachaise. You have two different entries; the main entry is normally open until 19 o’clock in the summer and 17 in winter.

What to do there?

It is actually a touristic attraction. Did you know that La Fontaine, Molière, James Morrison, Edith Piaff, Oscar Wilde and other famous people have their graves there? You can just go and see them. La Fontaine and Molière have their graves next to each other and they don’t look special. Just simple graves. The grave of James Morrison is also really simple, but the people adore him and like to leave things at his grave. Many leave used chewing-gums, I don’t know why. This is also, why a nearby tree got a protection from all the things the people leave at his grave. Oscar Wilde’s grave is also really loved. People kiss the grave with lipstick, to leave a grave of their love for him and his work. Just recently, a glass wall was built around the grave as a protection, because some people also demolish the grave and big statue of an angel on his grave. The glass gets cleaned regularly to get rid of all the lipstick. It is a touristic attraction that you shouldn’t miss, especially as the cemetery is also beautiful.

Touristic attraction and place to relax

Touristic attraction and place to relax

Why is it a special place?

I love going there, because it is an old cemetery. Not boring like our modern German cemeteries, but with old graves, many statues, crypts and mausoleums. With the ravens and many broken graves and windows it has a really special atmosphere. It is calm as you almost don’t hear any traffic and has a lot of green spaces, which I miss some times in the Parisian parks. In my opinion, it is a nice place to just relax a bit, maybe read a book or go for a stroll. It is something different.

Touristic attraction and place to relax

Touristic attraction and place to relax

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A "scary" visit to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery

Translated by Lottie Davies — 2 years ago

Original text by Paola Villegas

Why should I go to Père Lachaise Cemetery? Or better still, why shouldn't I go there?

How deranged of an idea can it be to visit a cemetery as a tourist attraction? Well, if you are someone who is not scared easily, don't hesitate in visiting the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, and, if you are someone who does scare easily, you should still visit it because there is really nothing to be scared about.

It was our first day in Paris, we were tired from having travelled all night from London by bus and only having arrived at 10am, and we just wanted to rest up and visit somewhere close to the apartment that we were staying in. We were staying in the 20th arrondissement, which are the "districts" that Paris is divided into. The arrondissements are numbered: starting in the centre with number 1 and moving outwards, each is assigned with a number, almost as if they were part of a clock face. So, given that we were staying in the twentieth, we were quite far out from the very centre of the city and, consequently, many of the famous tourist attractions. Therefore, we decided that it would be best to leave them for the next day.

Whilst looking on Google Maps, it caught our attention that the Père Lachaise Cemetery was located only three blocks away from the apartment that we were staying in, so we decided to visit in during our first day in the city.

Once we entered the cemetery, we felt like we were moving deeper and deeper into a completely different world: not in one that is scary and terrifying, but an interesting one; one that makes you feel like you are part of it (except my cousin, who wanted to leave from the very moment that we arrived).

This cemetery receives more than two million visitors a year coming from all corners of the world. Some of the tombs here have an original and incredible style about them, although it's somewhat expected when you consider that we are talking about a place that houses the bodies of famous people from around the world.

How do I get there? How do we start this adventure?

There are several entrances that you can go through to enter this enormous cemetery. The main entrance is located on Boulevard de Ménilmontant, which is located a short walk from the metro station, Philippe Auguste. Although, if you would prefer to go directly to Oscar Wilde's tomb, the most likely situation is that you would prefer to enter through the second entrance located on Avenue Gambetta. Many tourists only come to see a couple of tombs of the famous people that interest them the most, like Oscar Wilde or Jim Morrison. If you are one of these people, I recommend that you search for a map of the cemetery online before coming, so that you can find tombs that you are interested in seeing and you can avoid both wasting time and getting lost.

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(The main entrance on Boulevard de Ménilmontant. What better way to be welcomed to the cemetery than with this spectacular facade, wouldn't you agree? The place is very much one on its own... )

This cemetery is enormous: the site spreads over more or less 44. 5 hectares of land. So, I am not saying this for the good of my health, but rather as a friendly piece of advice: don't forget to download or print a map! Given that it is a public place and that they don't charge an admission fee, they also don't provide maps... it's not easy to find the tombs that interest you when there are more than 300, 000 bodies buried there (can you imagine? Even after having visited the cemetery, I still struggle to wrap my head around the idea).

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(This is one of the first tombs that you will find. It really is impossible to know who is buried in many of them because, as you can see in the photo, they are very old and their maintenance is almost non-existent; the mould has covered the vast majority of them. But, what's certain is that they wouldn't look as old or as cool if the tombs did not have old worm-eaten holes. )

A date in the past

Walking through the cemetery feels anything but morbid. You will be able to find some mausoleums and stone statues, and the cool thing about this is that many of them have unique designs like: grieving widows, angels, Gothic tombs, obelisks, and, my favourite of all, two tombs that had a stone hand coming out from each one that were held together tenderly (I assume that it was a couple that had been buried there together).

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(This tomb doesn't house the corpse of anyone famous, but I just loved the design of the man on top. This is a classic example of what you can find when you go down the cemetery's little pathways. )

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(This grieving widow is another example: it looks really cool, but I personally find it a little bit scary! How does it make you feel? I definitely wouldn't visit the museum alone! )

You are going to be able to find several very famous French personalities, some of which you will know, and others perhaps not. Amongst them is the incredibly famous singer, Edith Piaf, Moliere and Jean de la Fontaine, Georges Bizet, Marcel Proust, and several others.

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(There are some tombs housing famous people that are not so easy to identify when visiting the cemetery, and an example of this would be the tomb housing Moliere and Jean de la Fontaine, who are buried together but without any kind of sign that could help you identify them. So, it's for this reason that I will keep reminding you not to forget your map! )

However, you will also find the tombs of some well-known figures from all over the world (not just from France) that you will definitely know, like the famous American singer, Jim Morrison, and the Irish writer, Oscar Wilde.

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(One of the most visited tombs is that of Jim Morrison. In theory, you cannot enter it because it is protected with bars, however this not has not stopped hundreds of admirers climbing over them and leaving flowers there every day or having a drink by it in his memory. For those of you who want to maintain an ounce of respect and decorum, what you can do is leave a bracelet tied around the bars like many other tourists choose to do. )

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(This is Oscar Wilde's tomb - i. e. the most visited tomb in the cemetery. Tourists used to kiss it and write things on it, but due to the vandalism this led to, his family decided to invest in protective glass to surround the tomb in its entirety. However, this has not stopped fans from leaving flowers there as a sign of their admiration for his work. )

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(Another photo of Oscar Wilde's tomb. Tourists have scaled one side of the tomb to leave kisses on the part that is not protected by glass. This had led to his family putting a sign up that politely asks that the public respect the tomb, as it ultimately falls on them to sort out and pay for its cleaning. It's absolutely mind-blowing what true fans are willing to do! )

Plan your visit to other cemeteries too!

Père Lachaise is not the only cemetery in Paris: you can also visit those of Montmartre, Montparnasse, and Passy. However, Père Lachaise was the first public cemetery in Paris, which opened due to the terribly unhygienic conditions that bodies were buried in way back when. It first began with a couple dozen bodies, but the demand grew to up to 300, 000 tombs that house a few million bodies.

A cemetery and wall were also built in memory of the Federalists, with the latter being a monument dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. The most likely thing is that, after walking around for a little bit, it will make you want to be buried there too. However, over the years, this has become increasingly more difficult, due to the high prices and the extremely strict regulations; you can only be buried there if you lived for almost all of your life in Paris or if you died in the city.

(Interesting fact: you can find tombs that date back to the 1800s. On many of them, the date is no longer visible, but I did find a tomb of a victim of the recent Paris terror attack that took place on November 13th, 2015. )

If you are interested in taking a tour around the cemetery, I recommend that you go there in the morning on either a Saturday or a Sunday because they only offer them on these days and many of them are free.

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(The cemetery isn't completely on flat ground: it has different slopes and steps. In this photo, you can appreciate the sheer number of tombs that the cemetery is home to. I am sure that you will understand how truly difficult it is to find the exact tomb that you are looking for, and it's for this reason that it takes such a long time to see them all. However, you can find other tourists who may be able to help you, or the simple fact of seeing lots of people crowding around one might just give you a clue. )

How much does it cost to visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery?

Unlike many of the other tourist attractions in Paris, a visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery is free! That gives you at least one good reason to visit!

How do you get there?

The cemetery is located just a short distance away from the metro stations, Philippe Auguste and Metropolitan.

Recommendations:

  • Wear comfortable clothing to walk around this old cemetery, where there are slopes, mould and stones.
  • An optimal visit can last for two hours more or less if you visit half of the suggested tombs (it's very difficult to find them, if I am honest). If you are only interested in a few of them, maybe you can make your way around the site in half the time.
  • The taking of photographs is permitted: take your camera with you to capture the resting ground of one or more souls.
  • The cemetery normally opens at 8am and closes at 6pm, so I recommend that you enter the site at 4pm at the very latest, so that you can enjoy this experience without feeling too rushed.
  • Respect the tombs because the sheer admiration of Oscar Wilde's fans has led to people abusing the site for their own personal gain.
  • There are not usually a lot of people in and around Paris in January, so if you would prefer to visit the cemetery without being completely surrounded by tourists, I would recommend going in the winter. However, if you are not particularly used to the cold weather, this may be quite an uncomfortable experience for you.
  • If you decide to visit in January, take an umbrella with you because it rained on the day that we went (giving the cemetery that authentic "creepy" vibe).
  • On the road situated to one side of the cemetery (close to the metro station, Metropolitan), there are lots of delicious crêperies.
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    (I am being serious about the whole crepes thing! Above, I have left you a photo so that you start craving them too. You can order a regular crepe or one with strawberries and Nutella, but you can also be a bit more daring and try new, exotic flavours that you can only find in Paris. )

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