One of the city's odder tourist attractions, the Musée des Egouts (Paris Sewer Museum) affords visitors an intriguing glimpse into the historic sewer system, first developed around 1370 and extended very slowly in the centuries that followed.
Made up of a labyrinthine network of over 2400 km/ 1491 miles of tunnels and "galleries", the gouts (sewers) were not fully developed until the late 19th century. During that period, Baron Eugène Haussmann ( the guy best known for radically reshaping the Parisian cityscape into the guise that is mostly visible today) collaborated with another Eugène, the engineer Belgrade, to create a modern and efficient system for managing waste and water runoff.
Part of that then-groundbreaking network can today be visited, offering a genuinely unique perspective of what the city looks like from below ground.
The Parisian "égouts" have long captured imaginations. They've been referenced in great works of literature, such as Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, which inspired the eponymous (and more popular) musical. Think about reserving some time for this offbeat and under-appreciated attraction.
Is It As Disgusting As It All Sounds?
In a few words: the "ick" factor is not exactly a small one on this tour: during the visit, you traipse across raised walkways and are able to see the sewage running below. If you're sensitive to unpleasant smells, this may not be the museum of choice for you.
Read related feature: Weird and Eclectic Museums in Paris
Location and Contact Information:
The Sewer Museum is located in Paris' stately and elegant 7th arrondissement (district), not far from the Eiffel Tower and, eastward, the Musee d'Orsay and its world-famous collections of impressionist and expressionist art.
The museum can be accessed via the Pont de l'Alma, left bank, facing 93 quai d'Orsay.
Metro/RER: Alma-Marceau (Metro line 9); cross bridge to reach the museum; Pont de L'Alma (RER Line C)
Tel : +33(0)1 53 68 27 81
E-mail/for information: Visiteemail@example.com
Visit the official website (in French only)
Opening Hours, Tickets, and Other Practical Details:
Between October 1st and April 30th, The Musee des Egouts is open from Saturday through Wednesday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Between May 1st and September 30th, the museum is open Saturday through Wednesday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on Thursdays and Fridays.
Tickets: Tickets for individuals can be purchased without reservations. The current full-price ticket costs €4.30; discount admission (€3.50) for students, groups with a minimum of ten people, and for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Admission is free for small children under the age of six. Please note that ticket prices, while accurate at the time this article was published, may change without notice.
Group Tours: Groups comprising a minimum of ten people can reserve guided tours of the sewers in advance by sending an e-mail to Visitefirstname.lastname@example.org. Individual visitors do not need to reserve ahead to book a guided tour.
Sights and Attractions Nearby:
- Eiffel Tower
- Musee d'Orsay
- Launch points for Paris boat tours: simple sightseeing, lunch or dinner cruise packages can be purchased with companies like Bateaux-Mouches and Bateaux Parisiens
- Quai Branly Museum (Dedicated to indigenous arts from Asia, Oceania and Africa)
- Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum) and Les Invalides (site of Napoleon I's tomb)
- American Church in Paris
History and Visit Highlights:
The Sewage Museum traces the fascinating history and development of the Parisian water and sewage systems. During your visit, which lasts around an hour, you'll learn not only about the history of the sewers from the middle ages onward, but also about water treatment methods and the evolution of purifying and sterilizing techniques from the Gallo-Roman period to the present day.
As you wind through the sewer tunnels, which lead you through an actual water treatment area, you'll see water purifying engines-- some models and some the real thing-- and other tools and materials used to treat sewage and water. These will have you feeling grateful that you live in an era in which sewage is properly treated-- and pity those poor Parisians who had to endure raw wastewater running through the streets.
Filming and photography is permitted throughout the tour, so get your cameras ready.
Read More About the Museum:
We can recommend this review of the museum from Manning Krull over at Cool Stuff in Paris for a fascinating and more in-depth look at the weird and wonderful underground world of the Parisian egouts.