Discovering Eternal Beauty: A Guide to Père Lachaise Cemetery
Possibly the world's most famous cenetery
· 3 min read
Visiting a cemetery might not be the first thing you think about when going on a vacation - and for some, visiting cemeteries might even be a taboo. But, nestled in the heart of Paris, Père Lachaise Cemetery stands as one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. Away from the busy tourist sites, this sprawling necropolis is a serene and captivating resting place for some of the world's most illustrious figures, and offers visitors a unique blend of history, art, and contemplation.
History and Origins
Founded in 1804 and named after Father François de la Chaise, Louis XIV's confessor, Père Lachaise Cemetery is renowned for its rich history and architectural marvels.
The cemetery was initially met with skepticism due to its location on the outskirts of the city. During its first year, the cemetery had only 13 graves. However, the cemetery's popularity soared when the remains of Paris' two most famous artists, Jean de La Fontaine and Molière, were transferred there.
Today, it stands as the largest cemetery in Paris, spanning over 110 acres.
What to See and Expect
Père Lachaise Cemetery is a serene resting ground with over 70,000 burial plots. Soak in the peace and calm as you walk through the tree-lined winding paths.
Many visitors to the cemetery are there to visit the graves of the famous and iconic figures in literature, art, and politics. Some of the most notable figures include:
- Oscar Wilde, an Irish poet and writer
- Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors
- Frédéric Chopin, renowned composer and pianist
- Colette, French novelist and Nobel Prize in Literature nominee
- Edith Piaf, French singer, songwriter, and actress
Art and Architecture
Beyond its famous inhabitants, Père Lachaise Cemetery is a treasure trove of architectural wonders and artistic expressions. Ornate sculptures, grand mausoleums, and intricately designed headstones showcase the craftsmanship of various periods. The cemetery's diverse architectural styles range from Gothic and Neoclassical to Art Deco, providing a visual feast for history and art enthusiasts alike.
Seek out the quiet corners and less-traveled paths to stumble upon lesser-known but equally captivating graves, each with its own unique story to tell. Take your time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere and appreciate the beauty of nature reclaiming some of the older tombstones.
Practical Tips for Visitors
- Dress comfortably, and prepare for a lot of walking. The cemetery's hilly terrain and cobblestone paths make comfortable shoes a must. The cemetery is big, and you will be walking quite a bit. So, make sure you are dressed appropriately and comfortably!
- Entrance to the cemetery is free! But, if you are interested to learn more about the lives of those buried there, there are guided walking tours available that can help you better explore the cemetery. Alternatively, if you prefer going at your own pace, there are also audio guides that can help you learn more about some of the most notable graves.
- Grab a map. Grab a map at the entrance to navigate the expansive grounds and learn about the cemetery's notable residents. If you were planning to join a tour, keep in mind that the tours might not necessarily include everything you wanted to see. If there is a specific grave that you wanted to visit and is not included in the tour, feel free to explore the cemetery after the tour. Having a map in hand can be helpful.
- Be mindful and respectful. Père Lachaise is a place of reflection, so be mindful of your surroundings. The cemetery is also where the dead are put to rest, so remember to be respectful.
- The cemetery looks different every season. Visit during different seasons to witness the changing colors of foliage and experience the cemetery's diverse atmosphere.
- Visit on All Saints' Day for a different experience. On 1 November every year, the French families will visit the graves of their loved ones. The cemetery on 1 November gives off a very different atmosphere overall.
There are a few entrances to the cemetery. But the easiest way to get there is to take the metro.
You can alight at either Père Lachaise (on lines 2 and 3) or Gambetta (on line 3).
From November to mid-March the cemetery is open on weekdays from 8 am to 5:30 pm; Saturdays from 8:30 to 5:30 pm; Sundays from 9 am to 5:30 pm. From mid-March to October, opening hours are extended to 6pm.