The Père-Lachaise Cemetery is said to be the most visited cemetery anywhere in the world: it is gorgeous, inspiring, full of history and creepy all at once. It is the only place in the world where you can pay respects to Frédéric Chopin, Edith Piaf, Jim Morisson, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust, Jean-François Champolion, Maria Calas, Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Bizet, Honoré de Balzac, Jean de Lafontaine, Colette, and many more that are just as famous and inspiring.
One problem with Père-Lachaise is that there are more or less 70,000 graves there, and there are no signs taking you to the place where famous people are buried. Why aren’t there any signs? Because, as seen by the French cemetery administrators, signs would be crass. And yes, they have a point. This is a public cemetery, not a tourist attraction. Although, some days in high season it probably feels more like a tourist attraction than a cemetery! But I can’t complain about that because on my last visit (late April 2015) it wasn’t “mobbed” at all. I saw one tour guide with a group at a distance, and visitors sprinkled here and there, but for the most part we were alone with our thoughts.
The best advice I can give you is to print and take with you this Père-Lachaise Map. It’s in English and it shows you where the famous graves are. You can get a similar map at Père-Lachaise, BUT it’s only available at one office at the bottom of the hill, and that office closes over lunch while the cemetery is open. No need for you to wander around aimlessly for 2 hours, print the map at home!
And, if you’d like to visit the grave of someone who is not listed on this map, use the Virtual Tour, where you can type any name and see where that grave is on the map as well.
Père-Lachaise is the kind of place that makes people think. It’s a great way to introduce children to some of the great musicians, authors, and intellectuals, French or not. I was inspired to find out more about some of the people whose grave I saw because I wondered why they inspire so much devotion to this day. I also questioned what I’d like done with my body when my time comes. Whatever the case may be for you, this is a place that makes you consider the human condition while at the same time paying respects to the greats who chose it as their final resting place.
It’s also a great place for photography, which in my book is a great plus! Some of the photos I took at Père Lachaise are below the fold.