Known as the city of lights and certainly the city of love, Paris is visited by millions each year. For those interested in a different Paris, away from love and lights, here are some creepy things you can do while on your visit.
La Pere Lachaise
Home to many famous deceased artists, La Pere Lachaise is the biggest cemetery in all of Paris. Free to enter and found in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, at 16 Rue du Repos, La Pere Lachaise offers rows upon rows of ornate graves with statues ranging from peaceful angels to the bizarre and obscure. This “cemetiere” is strangely quiet even with other visitors nearby. It’s as if a mask of silence has fallen over the site and all you can hear is the local cemetery cats making their rounds. While visiting La Pere Lachaise you can visit the graves of Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison just to name a few celebrities. You won’t miss these, just look for the graves with the most flowers and gifts left upon them and you’ll surely run into one of them.
The Pantheon Crypt
Just past the Sorbonne University in the 5th arrondissement overlooking Latin Quarter, you will find Paris’ Pantheon. It has a fee of 7€ for adults and 4.50€ for 18-25. You will know you’re there when you see the big dome atop the greek-like structure. The first thing you see when you walk in is a grotesque painting on the left wall depicting St Denis picking up his recently decapitated head. After a walk through the main chamber of the Pantheon, you can make your way to the Crypts at the back of the building. This will lead you to the tombs of several notable deceased French persons with the inscription above the entrance reading “Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante” (to the great men, the grateful homeland). After a long dark hall you reach the crypt, home to Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Louis Braille and Marie Curie among others; all notable french men and woman having contributed to philosophy, science and literature.
Gargoyles and Quasimodo at Notre Dame
Although the gothic church of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris isn’t necessarily creepy in itself (although it is pretty dark even in broad daylight), the 387 step staircase up the tower and the gargoyles overlooking Paris make the list. Situated on the “ile de la cite” in the 4th arrondissement, Notre Dame is a beautiful landmark with a long history and Victor Hugo’s fabled Quasimodo in its bell tower. The ascend to the bell tower is 8.50€ for adults, and a student reduced rate of 5.50€, but if you are an EU citizen between 18-26 it is free. Once atop the cardio inducing and dizzying spiral staircase, you step out onto the wrap balcony of Notre Dame and meet the many gargoyles perched up there. With snarling and grotesque features, it makes you wonder why they are on the façade of a church. The bell tower is also open to view where you can imagine the life of the hunchback of Notre Dame in the dark wooden room above Paris. Some say ghosts of the 1700’s period of religious desecration at the cathedral haunts the place and tower. It surely does look ominous in the evening with no tourists around and just the gleam of the gargoyles above.
The Catacombs of Paris
The most creepy place by far in Paris is the catacomb tunnels beneath Paris. The entrance is found in the 14th arrondissement at 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy; you will know you are there when you see a line wrapping around a square courtyard in the middle of the intersection. If you go on a slow day, you will easily miss the black door entrance if you are not carefully looking for it. The admission into the catacombs is 8€ for adults and 4€ for people between 14-26 years old. After entering the gallery and descending 130 steps you walk through a series of long dark and damp halls and then a few gallery rooms depicting cities of the past. It is then that you reach the doorway warning you, “Arrete! C’est ici l’empire de la mort” (Stop! This is the empire of death). No flash photography is permitted within the Empire of the Dead and I would advise bringing a flashlight just in case. You wouldn’t want to get caught in the dark with millions of bones surrounding you and no notion of how to get out! What follows is halls and galleries of centuries worth of bones stacked on the walls and columns of the dark dripping tunnels. The tunnels span over 185 miles underground although they are not all filled with the remains of excavated cemeteries. However, as you make your way underground, there are gates closing off the paths to the other halls ensuring you stay on the required path. Navigating the catacombs will undoubtedly begin to give you chills after a while which leads to wonder whether it’s the dampness or the hollow feel of all the lost souls clinging to their bones.
Pigalle at Night
You wouldn’t think of Pigalle, between the 9th and 18th arrondissements as a traditionally creepy place. Especially near the Moulin Rouge where you see floods of tourists heading over to catch the show. However, stepping away from the Moulin Rouge towards where the sex shops and porn stores line the streets, things start to get a little creepy. There isn’t a lot of tourist action here and people walking by seem to stare at you with a gleam in their eyes. There is also a high likelihood of getting mugged or at least being the victim of an attempted mugging as I was. Lucky for me Jason was there to intercept the perpetrator that was after my bag. Jason even caught it on video. Check it out below. We later saw the same guy lingering outside the Moulin Rouge apparently looking for his next target.
Montmartre at the Break of Dawn
Whereas Pigalle is scary at night, Montmartre is eerily scary at dawn. Known for the hustle and bustle of artists, bohemians and tourists throughout the day and into the night in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre looks like a post-apocalyptic abandoned town in the morning. After a lonely ride on the first subway ride (which was creepy onto itself), I arrived to a desolate and somber Montmartre. Although the Basilica Sacre Coeur and the singing nuns inside at that time are beautiful and peaceful, everything else gets down right creepy.
While walking around the area, you will usually only find street cleaners if anyone; one of whom wiggled his penis at me as I was taking photos in the area. As if that isn’t creepy enough, there is literally no one else around and the eerie silence of an area usually bustling with people is unnerving. Having gone alone as a woman, I would recommend checking it out with at least one other person as you never know who might pop out of the shadows.
Paris is a wonderful city to visit and if you look carefully you will find hidden oddities and creepy experiences sprinkled around the city of lights and love. Take your time and get off the beaten path and you will surely find places worth mentioning and stories worth retelling.
Know of other creepy places in Paris? Leave a comment below!