Did you know that Pere Lachaise cemetery, where Jim Morrison is buried, is one of the top tourist attractions in Paris? Over 3.5 million people make the pilgrimage every year to visit the legendary rock star’s tombstone at the world’s most visited cemetery. Encompassing 108 acres resembling an English garden in the 20th arrondissement, Morrison is surrounded by other luminaries such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Yves Montand and Simone Signoret buried nearby.
Cemeteries not only offer great historic value, they also serve as parks and picnic grounds for locals and tourists. They are also of interest architecturally, with unique tombstones, mausoleums, and chapels.
Pere Lachaise is just one of a handful of historic cemeteries in Paris. Below are some others of interest.
One of the greenest cemeteries is Montparnasse, with over 750 trees and bushes spread out over 47 acres, making it the second largest in Paris. A calming oasis, just minutes away from the busy Montparnasse train station, the cemetery is best known for its wealth of literary figures and artists. Many migrated to Montparnasse in the early 20th century, deserting Montmartre and its escalating rents. Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir (buried together), Charles Baudelaire, Marguerite Duras, Guy du Maupassant, Samuel Beckett, Serge Gainsbourg, Brancusi, Jacques Demy, and Philippe Noiret plus American writer Susan Sontag and actress Jean Seberg are buried in Montparnasse.
Picpus Cemetery is in a quiet, residential area of the city. It is one of two private cemeteries in Paris. The cemetery is unique in the sense that it contains 1,306 victims of the guillotine who were killed in The Reign of Terror in 1794, which was part of the French Revolution. The only other people who are allowed to be buried there are descendants. Next to the cemetery is Notre Dame de la Paix Church (Our Lady of Peace), run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. It contains a rare gem, a 15th century Vierge de la Paix, and is said to have cured King Louis XIV of a serious illness.
Right below the steep hill of Montmartre, lies the Montmartre Cemetery.
In the late 1700s, the cemeteries of Paris were becoming dangerously overcrowded, creating unsanitary living conditions for the local population. New cemeteries were forbidden to be constructed in the city, so they were now built in the outskirts of the city. Montmartre was technically not part of Paris until the 1860s, so a new cemetery was built in 1825, on top of an abandoned gypsum mine. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Montmartre was a haven for artists, musicians, composers, dancers, writers and architects. Among those buried in the cemetery are Emile Zola, Sacha Guitry, Maurice Jaubert, Gustave Moreau, Nijinksy, Stendahl, and Francois Truffaut. Its most famous resident is Dalida, the mega pop singer, entertainer and icon who sold more than 150 million records.
16 Rue du Repos, 75020
Closes at 6PM
3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 75014
Closes at 6PM
35 Rue de Picpus, 75012
Cemetery hours are scattered, usually Tuesday to Sunday, 2PM-6PM (April to August), 2pm-4PM, October to mid-April, closed in September
20 Avenue Rachel, 75018
Open till 6PM