Perfect tour in Paris for Spring & Summer 2023
Pere Lachaise Cemetry Tour
On a hill in Paris, you find a grand park that serves as the resting place of hundreds of thousands of souls, including many of the world’s brightest luminaries.
It is the Père Lachaise Cemetery — an expansive necropolis filled with legendary people honored with exquisite tombs and housed eternally in serene sarcophagi.
In a city with so much history, the art of the cemetery has risen to its height at the Père Lachaise.
Nature in the City
A trip to the Père Lachaise makes for a wonderful outing during the bright, colorful days of Spring and the warm, sunny days of Summer. You can admire the trees and flowers as well as the stone monuments carved by expert sculptors.
It is here that you can also find peace amid the hustle and bustle of the city. It is meant to be a resting place, and so the designers have done everything they can to create a sense of calm and contemplation.
Private tour of Pere Lachaise
Our guides love giving this tour because of the deep connection these walks allow. It is virtually a private tour, especially during the week when the cemetery is almost empty.
Known as perhaps the most beautiful cemetery in the world, the Père Lachaise is an unforgettable way to explore the past.
Below, we’ll cover our walking tour of Père Lachaise, a brief history of the cemetery, cover the Gothic romance of Héloïse and Abélard, and answer the most common questions readers have.
Discover the Paris of the Past
This is a unique way to discover the past of the City of Lights. On your guided tour, you will relive the amazing stories and interesting anecdotes from dozens of artists, composers, writers, and more.
You will also learn about the impressive collection of monuments, sarcophagi, memorials, and mausoleums. These incredible works turn the cemetery into an outdoor art museum that inspires and allows us to reflect. These are such an important part of the cemetery that the Père Lachaise even has a curator and conservator on staff.
Not only a final resting place, the Père Lachaise serves as one of the city’s biggest green spaces. That makes this walking tour a quiet and relaxing time, filled with wonderful stories and the eerie romance of a cemetery. The cobblestone pathways wind between great monuments that strike visitors with awe and wonder, and sometimes a breeze passes through that brings a hush over the group as we listen to the way it whispers through the trees.
If you are interested in going on this one-of-a-kind journey through the past, be sure to book your guided tour ahead of time.
Brief History of Père Lachaise Cemetery
The cemetery opened in 1804 on the command of Napoleon. It was designed by famous French architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart — also known for his work on the Hôtel de Bourbon-Condé and the Paris Stock Exchange. It was named for the confessor to King Louis XIV: Père François de la Chaise.
The idea behind the cemetery was to create a public burial ground where everyone, no matter their race or religion, could be buried. And it introduced Paris to the garden cemetery, a cemetery built many miles outside of the city and given plenty of space (the dead were seen as a potential health hazard). This design also allowed for much larger mausoleums and memorials than in cramped urban settings.
But being far from the center of Paris at the time, burials were few and far between. To fix this, it was decided to conduct several publicity stunts — including moving the remains of several famous people to the Père Lachaise. Among the celebrity reburials were the French writer Molière and the medieval lovers Héloïse and Abélard (see section below).
Several buildings have also cropped up since it first opened, like the stunning crematorium and columbarium that came at the end of the 19th century.
Eventually, the city grew to include the Père Lachaise within its borders. Today, it is estimated that anywhere from 300,000 to 1 million people are buried here.
Héloïse & Abélard
The Love Story of Père Lachaise
The love between Héloïse and Abélard is one the most romantic of all the many romances in Parisian history.
It took place in the Middle Ages, when the philosopher Peter Abélard discovered the extremely intelligent and well-educated Héloïse. Eager to know her better, Abélard convinced the young woman’s caretaker (her uncle) to allow him to tutor her.
Of course, they fell in love. When Héloïse’s uncle discovered their affair, he forced Abélard to leave. But Héloïse was pregnant, and one day she snuck out of the house to live with Abélard. They named their son Astrolabe.
The couple was forced to marry in secret (philosophers like Abélard had to be celibate, given their status in the church at the time), but Héloïse’s uncle revealed their union, threatening Abélard’s career. Héloïse had to do something to show people her uncle was lying, so she went to live with nuns.
This convinced her uncle that Abélard had broken things off. In a rage, he sent men to storm the philosopher’s home and castrate him.
Héloïse and Abélard never lived together again, with Abélard taking up the life of a monk. But they wrote many letters to each other which survive. Héloïse’s views on the role of women and the realities of marriage are feminist ideas many centuries ahead of their time, and Abélard’s sense of tragedy makes his writing heartbreakingly human.
The admittedly complicated love between the two ended with Abélard’s death. His remains were secreted away to Héloïse, and the two were finally buried together at her death in 1163.
In 1817, their remains were moved to rest at the Père Lachaise, and they were given an elegant crypt where they now spend eternity together at last.
Père Lachaise Cemetery FAQ
Curious to know more about the Père Lachaise?
Read on to see the answers to some of the most common questions about this cemetery.
What are the most famous graves in Père Lachaise?
Among the most famous people buried in Père Lachaise are:
1. Frédéric Chopin (1810 to 1849): Polish composer famous for his Romantic music and his extraordinary abilities as a pianist. His many compositions explore the full potential of the piano, and his études are still a critical part of music education.
2. Oscar Wilde (1854 to 1900): Irish writer with many well known publications including the play The Importance of Being Earnest and his only novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray. He is well remembered for his witticisms.
3. Marcel Proust (1871 to 1922): French writer who revolutionized fiction with In Search of Lost Time (also known as Remembrance of Things Past), a seven volume novel that dives into the mental landscape and intrusive memories of its protagonist.
4. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873 to 1954): French writer mostly known by her mononym Colette. She wrote popular novels critical of the role of women in society, becoming a leading feminist voice through the first half of the 20th century.
5. Gertude Stein (1874 to 1946): American writer and art collector whose Paris salon helped forge the rise of modernism in a wide range of creative fields. Her own literary output is studied for its radical exploration of language.
6. Édith Piaf (1915 to 1963): French singer and actress who reached international fame during her career. Her voice became an icon of France, and she is still remembered today as one of the 20th century’s great stars.
7. Jim Morrison (1943 to 1971): American rockstar and frontman for the Doors. His charisma and popularity at the height of the hippie counterculture made him one of the most important pop stars of all time.
Alongside these famous deceased, there are also three World War I memorials that commemorate the enormous losses France suffered during the conflict.
Is Père Lachaise Cemetery free to visit?
Yes! As a municipal cemetery, the Père Lachaise does not charge an entry fee.
Is Père Lachaise Cemetery safe to visit?
The area is very safe. You can walk around with ease of mind. Just remember to be respectful, as this is an active cemetery and many visitors are there to honor loved ones who have passed.
Where is the Père Lachaise Cemetery?
The Père Lachaise is located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, near the Ménilmontant neighborhood and Belleville. That places it on the eastern edge of the city.
The Père Lachaise address is: 16 Rue du Repos.
How do you get to the Père Lachaise Cemetery on the Paris Métro?
You can reach the main entrance at the Philippe Auguste Station on Line 2. You can also reach a side entrance by getting off at the Père Lachaise Station on either Line 2 or 3, though it is a short walk from here. Gambetta Station on Line 3 is also a good place to stop.
How big is Père Lachaise Cemetery?
The cemetery is enormous: 110 acres or 44 hectares. That makes it the largest cemetery by area in the city of Paris and one of its biggest parks.
The roads are curvy and sometimes invisible on the plan of the cemetery, which is not interactive: either printable of paper or PDF.
That's why we recommend a live guide to go there to appreciate the cemetery site better.
How many people visit Père Lachaise Cemetery every year?
The cemetery welcomes 3.5 million people every year. That makes it the most visited non-secular cemetery in the entire world.
When can you visit Père Lachaise Cemetery?
The Père Lachaise has differing hours depending on the time of year.
November 6 to March 15
Monday – Saturday | 8 am to 5:20 pm
Sunday and Holidays | 9 am to 5:30 pm
March 16 to November 5
Monday – Saturday | 8 am to 6 pm
Sunday and Holidays | 9 am to 6 pm
How can I get a guided tour of the Père Lachaise Cemetery?
If you are interested in a guided walking tour through the Père Lachaise Cemetery, reach out to me and book your guided tour.
Make sure to do it well in advance of your trip to Paris as spots fill up quickly.