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Everyone dreams of Paris. There really isn’t any question as to why people place a visit to the City of Lights at the top of their bucket lists. Monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Arch de Triomphe, the city’s beautiful architecture and world-class museums, and the romantic atmosphere plus its food make the siren call of Paris irresistible. I’ve visited the city at least a dozen times and I go to France quite often. Anyone who has followed along with me during my travel adventures knows France holds a very special place in my heart. So when I visit Paris, the typical tourists attractions no longer do it for me. When I get in the mood to explore, I look for something a little off the beaten path. Père Lachaise Cemetery hits the target right on the bullseye.
About Père Lachaise
You might be thinking why anyone would want to visit Père Lachaise. It’s a cemetery…isn’t it creepy? Well, strangely enough, as humans, many of us have a fascination with death and decay. I mean, the fact cemeteries even exist is a testament to that statement. But I would go as far as saying a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery is a must when you visit Paris. Opened in 1804, Père Lachaise gets its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise who lived in a house near the cemetery. At the beginning people thought the cemetery was too far to have funerals but after a few famous people’s graves were transferred to the site, everyone clamored to be buried in Père Lachaise in Paris. Today their are more than 1 million bodies buried in Père Lachaise but the cemetery feels more like a giant park then it does a creepy old cemetery. It’s a great way to spend the better part of a sunny day.
Famous People of Pere Lachaise
Walking through the cemetery, you will notice hundreds and hundred of grave markers but the real reason people go to Père Lachaise is to visit the final resting place of quite a few famous people. That’s right, death is not the end for the residents of Père Lachaise in Paris. In fact more than 3 million people visit each year to gawk at the tombs and hunt for their favorite dearly departed idols. Here are a few of my favorite famous tombs at Père Lachaise cemetery.
Oscar Wilde- The famous gay, Irish poet and writer. He wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Edith Piaf- French singer and songwriter. Famous songs include La Vie En Rose and Non Je Ne Regrette Rien.
Jim Morrison- Lead singer of The Doors.
Molière- One of France’s greatest authors and playwrights.
Frédéric Chopin- Famous pianist and composer.
Honoré de Balzac- Playwright and author. He wrote The Human Comedy.
Other Tombs of Père Lachaise
Aside from the more famous tombs of Père Lachaise, you’ll see plenty of interesting, unique, or downright odd tombs throughout the cemetery. I found one in the shape of a camera! There are also massive tombs that are multiple stories tall serving as monuments for those buried. It’s pretty clear some of the people buried in Père Lachaise in Paris did not want to be forgotten. Speaking of monuments, there are three monuments dedicated to World War 1 and a number of monuments dedicated to the Holocaust carried out by Germany during World War II. These are touching tributes well worth exploring.
Getting to Père Lachaise
Located on the eastern edge of Paris in the 20th arrondissement, Père Lachaise is easily accessed via Metro. There are two entrances to Père Lachaise; the main entrance is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant and the pedestrian-only entrance is located on Porte du Repos. The Philippe-Auguste metro station on Paris’ Metro Line 2 will put you conveniently close to the pedestrian entrance. The Gambetta metro stop on Line 3 will place you near the back entrance of Père Lachaise. If you tire easily, I suggest getting off at the Gambetta stop since the entrance here is at the top of the hill and you will walk downhill toward the main entrance as a result.
Public bus lines 60, 69, and 102 will also drop you off near the cemetery. It’s impossible to miss Père Lachaise once you are there because it is massive and surrounded by very tall walls.
Things to Know About Père Lachaise
Get A Map! You’ll want a map as you wander around because you most certainly will get lost. As I’ve already said, Père Lachaise is massive! You can pick up a free map at the Père Lachaise administration building that includes numbered locations of famous residents’ graves. If you don’t want to bother with picking up a map then just take photo of the giant map at the cemetery’s entrance. Just be sure to note the numbers of the graves you wish to visit.
Numbered Lots: Père Lachaise is split up into numbered lots which can make it easier to find a specific grave. In theory it should the numbered lots should help visitors get around. In reality, there is no real rhyme or reason to the numbered lots and it’s easy to get lost. In fact, you will get lost and that’s OK. Just enjoy your walk through cemetery looking at all the amazing artwork. Eventually you’ll find the graves you’re looking for.
Flowers: You might consider purchasing some flowers to lay at the graves of your favorite tombs. I mean, it is a cemetery afterall and Père Lachaise is home to quite a few famous people many consider idols. Thank them for their influence on your life by leaving a flower or two. I left flowers at the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Chopin. You can find flower shops just outside the cemetery.
Be Respectful: Remember, Père Lachaise is a cemetery and people are still actively buried or cremated there today. While it may feel like a park, it is not a place for horse play. Keep your voice to a minimum level, don’t pick up flowers off of graves, don’t walk on the lawns or flower beds and, generally, just be respectful. You should also on picnic or drink alcohol according Père Lachaise cemetery rules.
Toilets: The administration building has toilets but they are not always open to the public. Your only real options is to use a public toilet just to the left of the main entrance.
Check out my Paris Gay Guide for ideas on how to spend the rest of your time in Paris!
So what do you think? Would you go and explore Père Lachaise
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