A Visit to Père-Lachaise, the World’s Most Famous Cemetery:
With more than two million visitors a year, Père-Lachaise is said to be one of the most visited cemeteries in the world and this afternoon, as the rain storm cleared away, we made our way to 20th arrondissement in the east of Paris. The main entrance of Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is on the corner of Blvd de Ménilmontant and Rue du Repos (rest street) and this famous Paris cemetery is the final resting place of some of the world’s most brilliant poets, writers, playrights, composers, singers and other personalities.
Getting to Père-Lachaise
The two metro lines that will get you to Cimetiere Père-Lachaise are:
- Metro Line 2 (get off at Père-Lachaise or Philippe Auguste)
- Metro Line 3 (get off at Père-Lachaise or if you want to start near the tomb of Oscar Wilde, Gambetta is the nearest stop)
The Philippe Auguste metro stop is closer to the main entrance of the cemetery, but we got off at Père-Lachaise and there is a side entrance just across the road from this Metro stop. There was a man at the gate selling postcards and maps of the cemetery for €2.50. It is worthwhile buying this map as Père-Lachaise is spread over 44 hectares and the map shows you where the more popular graves are located, some of which are not easily found without a map. Although there is a map near the gate of each entrance, it’s impossible to remember the exact location of each of the graves.
Paying Homage to the Greats
Armed with our map, we systematically went around and located the graves of Molière, Apollinaire, Modigliani, Delacroix, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Morrison and others. Seeing the graves of these great personalities, it was sad that the cemetery as a whole isn’t more well maintained. Sarah Bernhardt’s grave, without any flowers or greenery looked rather sad. Tony was expecting Modigliani’s grave to be a bit more colourful, but it too was plain-looking, except for the few colourful pencils that visitors had left behind. Edith Piaf’s grave was very popular with French and overseas visitors.
There were many visitors at the cemetery, looking for the graves of people that they admire. Some of the younger American visitors were a bit worrying as all they seemed concerned about was taking a picture of themselves in front of the famous grave. Many flocked to the grave of Jim Morrison and one young couple was so keen on getting a higher vantage point that they climbed on top of the grave in front of Morrison’s. Many of the older visitors were shocked and Tony had to remind them that they were being disrespectful. Unfortunately, to prevent graffiti, graves such as those of Morrison and Oscar Wilde are cordoned off by railings.
Whilst many come to Père-Lachaise to look for the graves of the famous personalities, there are other eye-catching graves with tombstones like towering monuments or elaborate little chapels.
A National Monument
Considering the number of famous people interred at Père-Lachaise, including many notable French citizens, we expected that all the famous graves at Père-Lachaise would be better maintained than what we saw today, since many of these deceased are still having an impact on people’s lives today. Perhaps when the weather improves, we may see more flowers planted in the grounds.