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artsnletters Apr 15th, 2015 09:18 PM

Paris cemeteries
I'll be in Paris for two weeks, and I thought I might visit a cemetery while there, especially since I'll need to entertain myself on May 1. Pere Lachaise, Montmartre, Montparnasse all sound interesting in their own ways, but I'm not enough of a ghoul to visit all three. I'm not overly impressed by famous people and don't need to see anyone's tomb, more looking for beautiful/interesting/atmospheric. Which would you recommend?

sparkchaser Apr 15th, 2015 09:27 PM

No interest in the catacombs? They meet at least two of your criteria.

kerouac Apr 15th, 2015 09:34 PM

Père Lachaise or the Montmartre cemetery have more atmosphere than Montparnasse.

Many people recommend entering Père Lachaise through the back entrance near Place Gambetta to avoid having to walk uphill, but I think that the uphill walk from the main entrance at rue la Roquette offers much more opportunity for exploring.

Ackislander Apr 16th, 2015 01:09 AM

We visited the Montparnasse cemetery a couple of years ago because we were staying around the corner.

It was interesting but frustrating. The two biggie graves, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were just inside the gate where they can't be missed.. We couldn't find a lot of the other graves we were looking for despite the "map" but completely accidentally found the grave of Eric Rohmer, my favorite movie director, and the founders of the Sisters of Bon Secours, who sponsor the largest hospital system in Virginia.

What we loved were the colorful tombstones [sic] by Niki de St Phalle. Must be seen to be believed. Would I cross Paris to see it? Well, I have managed thus far not to cross Paris to see Pere Lachaise or Montmartre. We will be staying closer to Pere Lachaise in June so may give it a shot then.

welltraveledbrit Apr 16th, 2015 01:38 AM

The thing to know about Pere Lachaise is that it's very big and by this time of year getting very green. Yess there are some people who are only there for Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde but it's a lovely green space and there are lots of people there for a stroll. Aesthetically, the tombs are fascinating and there are SO many of them. I think it's very atmospheric.
Here is my blog post on the cemetery to give you an idea.

Hope this helps!

kerouac Apr 16th, 2015 02:46 AM

I made a sort of video about Père Lachaise last year:

PalenQ Apr 16th, 2015 03:57 AM

From your opening statement I'd eschew those cemeteries whose delight for many are the tombs of famous people - not very scenic - just another cemetery. Plus Pere Lachaise is very hilly.

welltraveledbrit Apr 16th, 2015 04:21 AM

Love the video kerouac, perhaps we should all just stay home and travel on youtube, It would do wonders for my carbon footprint!

flpab Apr 16th, 2015 04:33 AM

Holocaust Concentration Camp Memorials at Père Lachaise was very moving, make sure to look at them. I could have spent more than several hours there. The tombs were amazing and so much history. I wanted to see Oscar Wilde and Morrison of course but you would walk around and recognize so many other famous people.

flpab Apr 16th, 2015 04:35 AM

Read this, great book about Père Lachaise but very funny.

Christina Apr 16th, 2015 08:37 AM

I've been to them all, but to be honest, would never go if I had zero interest in seeing the resting places of some famous people.

Montparnasse is pretty boring in terms of terrain, I'd say, both Montmartre and Pere Lachaise are better.

I don't think any of them are beautiful, frankly.

PalenQ Apr 16th, 2015 09:33 AM

You may find the tombs at the Dog and Cat Cemetery in suburban Asniers more entertaining?

kerouac Apr 16th, 2015 09:35 AM

Oh yes, that's a great one, too.

Geonev Apr 16th, 2015 10:21 AM

For a fascinating glimpse into revolutionary-era Paris, you must visit Picpus Cemetery, said to be the largest private cemetery in Paris (though it is quite small). Gen. Lafayette is buried there, along with numerous other nobles (members of his family and others). Lafayette actually brought soil from Bunker Hill, Boston, to Paris for his gravesite, so he is buried literally in U.S. soil.

The amazing thing about Picpus is that it is the only known site (still open to the sky) of mass graves of the victims of the Terror in post-revolutionary Paris. (Other sites are covered by buildings and streets.) Plus the adjacent chapel displays the names, ages and occupations of many of the otherwise anonymous victims of the mass beheadings. Thus you find young women whose only "crime" was being a lady's maid or even a shopgirl in a store catering to the aristocracy.

Google Picpus and you will find lots of photos, videos and info. I am not aware of any official website, so just know that the opening hours are somewhat erratic, but probably open 2-5 p.m. weekdays (small admission charge).

Picpus is in the 12th, south of Place de la Nation : Picpus Cemetery, 35 Rue de Picpus, 75012 Paris, +33 1 43 44 18 54. Highly recommended.

sandralist Apr 16th, 2015 03:04 PM

Don't know if this already on your list but the tombs in the crypt of the Basilica at St Denis are extraordinary as works of craft, and of course there is the rest of the Basilica to be admired as well.

If this is a repeat visit and you are looking for less-than-typical places to see in Paris, you might try reading David Downie's "Paris Paris" for a number of unusual slices of Parisian life that are what make Paris Paris.

letsgeaux Apr 16th, 2015 07:03 PM

Pere Lachaise. Not only is Pere Lachaise the most impressive cemetery I have ever been to, it is as beautiful as most parks I have been to. Go there if the weather is nice. Montmartre cemetery is worth a look if you are in the neighborhood, but it pales in comparison to P.L. If you want to see an indoor cemetery, I agree that St. Denis makes for an fascinating few hours. If St. Denis were in central Paris it would be mobbed with people, but it is not. It is about a half hour metro ride away on line 13 which is not one of the more pleasant rides. St. Denis is one of the first architectural examples of a major Gothic style church. It is where just about all of the French Kings and other royalty are buried. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are buried side by side under the floor. The most grotesque thing you will see there is the heart of their son which is preserved in a crystal decanter. It looks like a black rock.

IMDonehere Apr 16th, 2015 08:00 PM

I do not think Pere Lachaise is beautiful as it is interesting.

IMDonehere Apr 16th, 2015 08:37 PM

Here is a photo I took at the Montparnasse Cemetery

PalenQ Apr 17th, 2015 03:36 AM

The Pantheon is a cemetery too - with many famous writers, artists, scientists buried there.

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