There’s something dreamily romantic about wandering a beautiful cemetery, and Paris’s iconic Père-Lachaise is one of the world’s most memorable. The mood may be bitter-sweet, given it’s a place of memorial, but it’s also a destination to honor the dead. Nature lovers will appreciate this 110-acre sanctuary dotted with atmospheric trees and plants. Devotees of design, architecture, and crafts will adore the striking sculptures, graves, monuments, and mausoleums. And fans of history, literature, art, and music can seek out a roll call of illustrious names laid to rest here.
Established in 1864, the famous cemetery is the city’s largest, located east of the center in the 20th arrondissement. Here are top tips for visiting Père-Lachaise…
Jim Morrison (1943-1971)
If there’s one grave associated with Père-Lachaise, it’s that of US rock star Jim Morrison, lead singer-songwriter of The Doors. Known for his poetic lyrics and intense, psychedelic sound – remember ‘Light My Fire’? – Morrison died in mysterious circumstances in Paris age 27. His charismatic looks and wild, self-destructive personality, including struggles with drink and drugs, have added to the cult around him. His simple grave was originally unmarked, and a later bust of Morrison was stolen, but it remains a shrine to the frontman. Scrawled with graffiti messages and piled with flowers, it’s a hangout for devoted fans sharing a bottle with their idol. His epitaph in Greek, drafted by his father, translates loosely as ‘faithful to his own spirit’. As Jim put it so well, ‘This is the end, my only friend, the end’.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Irish poet, playwright, novelist and notorious wit Oscar Wilde is also buried at Père-Lachaise. Famous for writing play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, Wilde died in Paris. Destitute and ill, he spent his last days at Hôtel d’Alsace, now 5-star L’Hotel in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. His eye-catching tomb depicts a relief of a modernist angel, designed by American-British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. A glass screen protects it from the many admirers, who once left lipstick marks on the stone. The epitaph hails from Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’, including the lines: ‘For his mourners will be outcast men’.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
You may hear strains of Chopin’s music before finding the flower-strewn grave of the Polish classical composer and virtuoso pianist. Admirers often play his works on speakers here to honor their hero. The gravestone is topped by a sensual white statue of the Greek muse of music, Euterpe, weeping over a broken lyre. Chopin lived and died in Paris, and his body is buried here, but his heart remains in his hometown Warsaw.
The illustrious list of fabulous French talents buried here is a huge draw for locals and international visitors. Seek out the grave of singer Édith Piaf (1915-1963), beloved for songs including ‘La Vie en Rose’. Born in Paris, and nicknamed Piaf (slang for sparrow), the pint-sized powerhouse has been memorialized recently in a hit film. A popular place of pilgrimage, the tomb of French playwright Molière (1622-1673), famous for comedies, is raised on plinths. You’ll also discover writers Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac and Colette, artists Ingres and Camille Pissarro, and mime Marcel Marceau among the monuments. On a darker note, look for moving monuments to those deported to concentration camps during the Holocaust. War veterans’ memorials also line this landscaped funeral park. Don’t miss the Communards’ Wall, marking the spot where 147 rebel fighters from the Paris Commune were executed in 1871.
International names include Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, American writer Gertrude Stein, US dance pioneer Isadora Duncan and Greek-American opera singer Maria Callas. Many foreign celebrities laid to rest here spent much of their working lives in Paris, making the city their home. Now the world’s most visited cemetery is their forever home…
Download a cemetery map in advance, so you can find specific names among the 70,000-odd graves along the cobbled paths. To pick a map up on site, try the office near the main Boulevard de Ménilmontant entrance. The cemetery usually opens 8am to 5.30pm on weekdays November to March, or until 6pm March to November, from 8.30am on Saturdays and from 9am Sundays. Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, 16 Rue du Repos, 75020.
For an elegant Paris Perfect apartment rental near the area, try two-bedroom Marais stay La Musique in the 3rd (sleeps four). Contact us to learn more about our unique Paris tours – offering you all the insider information you need on your vacation.
Fancy exploring more history and architecture in the area by foot? Take our three-hour Le Marais walking tour, within strolling distance of Père-Lachaise.