Europe travel photos and information at Travel Signposts You too can be Jean Valjean! The fascinating underground world of the Paris Sewer Museum
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Unusual Paris Museums and Galleries

Musee des EgoutsMusée des Egouts de Paris (Museum of the Sewers of Paris)

Pont de l'Alma (Place de la Resistance);
facing 93 Quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris;
Tel: 47 05 10 29, Tél. : 01 53 68 27 81
Website: Musée des Egouts de Paris (in French)

Métro: Pont de l'Alma Alma Marceau, Iena
RER: Pont de l'Alma
Bus: 42, 63, 80, 92
Open: May-Sep: 11am-5pm Sat-Wed; Oct-Mar: 11am-4pm Sat-Wed
Closed: Thursday, Friday, 3 last weeks in January.
Entry: adults €3.81; concessions €3.04; 5-12yrs €2.28.

What with the Catacombes, the Metro and the sewer system the ground beneath Paris must resemble a Swiss cheese! More than 2,000 kilometres of sewer tunnels honeycomb this subterranean world, and besides the system's normal uses, it has also proved useful to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, the French Resistance in WWII, and even has its own museum, conveniently located underground near the Quai d'Orsay. The entrance is near the Pont de l'Alma on the left bank, all that's visible from the street is a little blue kiosk, situated next to a hole in the ground (41 steps down).

Musee des EgoutsToday’s sewer tour covers approximately five hundred metres of tunnels that have been turned into a museum dedicated to the murky depths of Paris. You can learn about Bruneseau, the city's municipal works inspector in Napoleon's time, who spent seven years mapping and charting the sewer system for the first time; Aubriot, 14th century designer of the first vaulted sewer and Belgrand, the 19th century engineer put in charge of the sewers in 1854 who designed and built the current sewer network.

Eugene BelgrandBelgrand literally saved Paris from drowning in its own filth - even in 1802 there had been an infamous backup resulting in sewage waste reaching a statue of Louis XIV before stopping just short of the house of Racine, enabling wits to remark that the sewers respected the poet more than the king.

The underground galleries present the water cycle and the job of the Paris sewer workers. The exhibits are well presented, and the history of the sewer's construction detailed via story boards written in French and English. However, to read these signs, you have to stand on a metal grating over an active sewer channel; this arrangement is not conducive to dawdling.

Musee des EgoutsExhibits also show models and machinery used in the past and currently, techniques employed to dredge the sand and solid waste from the channels and the computerized monitoring system. There is also an Audio-visual show and exhibition room on the techniques of the future! And toilets are conveniently provided at the end so you can try out the system for yourself...

Sewer links:

My Trudge Through the Sewers of Paris : a good review of a visit (Oct 2002 but updated in 2006)

Paris Sewers Exploring the dark underbelly of the City of Light : interesting background from Joe Kissell (Jan 2005)

The Remarkable Sewer of Paris - 1997 article by Françoise Giovannangeli but still interesting

Next page : Musée Fragonard

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