One doesn't usually associate a cemetery with a romantic stroll but a visit to Père-Lachaise begs exactly that. Tucked away in a corner of northeastern Paris known to locals as Menilmontant, the cemetery is affectionately called la cite des morts - the city of the dead - by Parisians.
With its rolling, gentle hills, thousands of trees in dozens of varieties, winding paths with carefully plotted, elaborately named avenues, and elaborate sepulchers and tombs, it's easy to see why Père-Lachaise is considered Paris' most hauntingly beautiful place of rest.
If that weren't a convincing enough reason to go for a stroll there, great figures have their resting place here, including Chopin, Proust, Colette, or Jim Morrison. No wonder, then, that a cemetery makes our list of the top 10 Paris sights and attractions.
Location and Main Entrances
- Principal entry: Rue de Repos, "Porte du Répos". Metro Philippe Auguste
- Secondary entry: "Porte des Amandiers". Metro Père-Lachaise
- Secondary entry: Rue des Rondeaux, "Porte Gambetta". Metro Gambetta
- By bus: Lines 26 or 76.
- Located in the 20th arrondissement, nearby Belleville, and Oberkampf
Guided Tours and Maps
- Guided tours are available by advance telephone reservations.
- Free maps are available at the principal entries (Porte des Amandiers and Porte Gambetta.) You can also take a fascinating virtual tour of the cemetery ahead of your visit.
Key Facts and History
- The cemetery was named after Père de la Chaise, who was King Louis IV's confessor. The priest resided in a Jesuit residence that stood at the site of the present-day chapel.
- Emperor Napoleon I inaugurated the cemetery in 1804. In order to mark the new cemetery as a place of prestige, the remains of French playwright Molière and famous lovers Abelard and Heloise were transferred to Pere Lachaise in the early 19th century.
- Housing some 300,000 graves, Pere-Lachaise is Paris' largest cemetery and one of the globe's most-visited cemeteries, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Tips for Visiting
- Try to go on a sunny day. Pere-Lachaise can be a remarkably wonderful place to amble in the sun. In the spring and summer, the greenery and blooms make for a picturesque visit. Enjoy the play of light and shadow on the tombs.
- Familiarize yourself with the cemetery ahead of time and choose a few sites you'd like to visit. You'll get more out of your stroll that way.
- Make sure to walk up the hill to the cemetery's summit. Beautiful views of Père-Lachaise and parts of Paris can be had from the hilltop.
Highlights of Your Visit
Ahead of your visit, get a sense of how the cemetery is laid out - it can be confusing for even regular strollers there. Make sure to consult the maps at the entrances to the cemetery, and use the following as a general way to stay oriented.
War Monuments: Southeast Corner
One of Pere-Lachaise's more moving features is its memorial to World War II Deportees and Resistants. The five monuments are located in the cemetery's southeast corner, near the "Porte de la Reunion" entrance.
Another historic war site is the Communard's Wall (Mur des Fédérés, where nearly 150 people were massacred during the last week of the Paris Commune in 1871.
A Few Famous Graves
- Mideastern Section/Principal Entry:
- Colette (writer)
- Alfred de Musset (poet)
- Baron Haussmann (19th-century architect who designed modern Paris
- Frédéric Chopin (classical musician)
- South-Central Section:
- Molière, La Fontaine (playwrights)
- Victor Hugo (writer)
- Jim Morrison (American rock musician)
- Sarah Bernhardt (actress)
- Northern Section:
- Richard Wright (American writer)
- Isadora Duncan (American dancer)
- Marcel Proust (writer)
- Delacroix (painter)
- Guillaume Apollinaire (poet)
- Balzac (writer)
- Far-east and Southeast Corner:
- Oscar Wilde (Irish writer)
- Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (American writers)
- Edith Piaf (musician)
- Modigliani (Italian painter)
- Paul Eluard (poet)