20th arrondissement, Life, Paris
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Père Lachaise Cemetery

Gambetta Entrance

Gambetta Entrance

As part of my ‘do two different things’ this week, I ventured to Père Lachaise Cemetery to have a wander around. For those who have never heard of it, Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris. However, it’s not only known for it’s vastness, but for the many burials it contains, especially of many famous people including writers, authors, composers, musicians and many more. Père Lachaise Cemetery is in the 20th arr, and there are two close metro stations near either end of the Cemetery. I decided to go here because this was something that my family and I did not have a chance to explore when we were here in Paris last year.

I was not too sure what to expect. I definitely didn’t know that it was going to be as big as it was, so if you’re going to go there, make sure you wear comfortable shoes! I also did the grave mistake (pardon the pun) of going without a map. Many people believe a map in Père Lachaise Cemetery to be a vital necessity, as it helps point you into the right direction of seeing many of the famous celebrities that are laid to rest here. However, I did not let this minor disadvantage stop me, and just wondered at my own leisure. Tuesday, when I went to Père Lachaise Cemetery, was the first day of Autumn, and you could definitely see this all around. Although a site of burial, the Cemetery looked stunning. It was tranquil, quiet and peaceful. It really is a beautiful place, even though somewhat haunting.

Père Lachaise CemeteryIMG_5872


Père Lachaise Cemetery

 As I wondered the many different divisions of the cemetery, it was hard to comprehend the sheer amount of memorials and burials in the Cemetery. Each memorial was also very different to the previous. Some were mini-shrines, wherein the families of the members could enter into and pray to the souls of their deceased. One thing that I did find somewhat dispiriting was the type of tourists that too had ventured to this place. Upon stumbling on the many ‘celebrity tombs’ (even without a map of the Cemetery it is very easy to do – just follow the hoards of people crowding around in one place), there were tourists taking selfies with the different memorials etc. I almost felt as if I were in the Louvre with the Mona Lisa, people all pushing and queueing to catch a glimpse through a camera screen only to depart once the perfect selfie was captured. When I finally managed to find Jim Morrison’s grave, it was absolutely packed with people. You could barely get near to catch a glimpse of the tomb and people’s remembrances to him. It’s regrettable that this has happened, but I guess I was also taking part in the ‘tourist pilgrimages’ that flow throughout the Cemetery every year. What do the families of the unknown deceased think of those piling up over the tombs of the ‘celebrities’ that lets face it, many tourists may know little of. Maybe I’m thinking too much about it, or perhaps I’m being hypocritical.

Despite my complaints regarding the tourist etiquette, I had a wonderful time wandering and weaving through the different paths of the Cemetery. Of course, following as the sheep I am, I did also see the infamous memorials.

Oscar Wilde's Grave

Oscar Wilde’s Grave

Kisses on Oscar Wilde's burial place

Kisses on Oscar Wilde’s burial place

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Jim Morrison's grave

Jim Morrison’s grave

A tree with messages from visitors to Jim Morrison's grave



All alone, with no tourists in sight, Camille Pissarro and family's grave

All alone, with no tourists in sight, Camille Pissarro and family’s grave

Frédéric Chopin's grave

Frédéric Chopin’s grave

A statue of a thinking man on one of the memorial graves

If you’re thinking of heading to Père Lachaise Cemetery, I would recommend entering the Gambetta entrance as this allows for a downhill walk throughout the cemetery. However, the main entrance on the other side of the Cemetery offers you the free maps, so it’s up to you whether you’re up to paying a couple of euro for a map from a near by shop or perhaps print one out before hand.

This entry was posted in: 20th arrondissement, Life, Paris


Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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