Leave it to the French to make even sewers seem romantic. Part exhibit but mostly, well, sewer, the 1,650-foot stretch of tunnels provides a fascinating—and not too smelly—look at the underbelly of Paris. Visitors can stroll the so-called galleries of this city beneath the city, which comes complete with street signs mirroring those aboveground. Walkways flank tunnels of whooshing wastewater wide enough to allow narrow barges to dredge sand and sediment. Lighted panels, photos, and explanations in English detail the workings of the system. Immortalized as the escape routes of the Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, the 19th-century sewers have a florid real-life history. Since Napoléon ordered the underground network built to clean up the squalid streets, they have played a role in every war, secreting revolutionaries and spies and their stockpiles of weapons. Grenades from World War II were recovered not far from where the gift shop now sits. The display
cases of stuffed toy rats and "Eau de Paris" glass carafes fold into the walls when the water rises after heavy rains. Buy your ticket at the kiosk on the Left Bank side of the Pont de l'Alma. Guided one-hour tours by friendly égoutiers (sewer workers) are available in French only; call or email ahead for details.