Rue de Repos, 75020. Métro: Philippe Auguste (line 2). Entrance: free.
Crumbling porticos, broken stained glass and the ferocious encroachment of greenery are all part of the unique charm of Père Lachaise cemetery, the most visited graveyard in the world and the final resting place of some of the most important figures throughout Parisian and international culture. Situated in the bohemian neighbourhood of Belleville, Père Lachaise is known as the ‘city of the dead’ amongst locals. This is a moniker that is immediately justified when you step through the iron gates and wander through the meandering ‘streets’, all of which are divided, signposted and lined with imposing crypts and tombs that do evoke an eerie sense of an abandoned city. The contrast between the grandest of the crypts, with their elaborate designs and formidable size, and the jagged edges of forgotten gravestones that have been pushed aside by the roots of the trees, all adds to the strange beauty of the place, making it an unlikely candidate for a romantic stroll and a must see for avid photographers.
Père Lachaise houses a plethora of famous names from the arts and sciences, both native Parisians and foreign nationals. A number of literary figureheads including Balzac, Molière, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde are all buried here, with Wilde’s Egyptian-style tomb eternally thronged by curious tourists. The divisions also contain noted artists such as Pissarro, Modigliani, Lalique and Max Ernst, and musicians from Chopin and Rossini to Maria Callas and Edith Piaf are buried here as well. One of the most popular graves is that of legendary Doors singer Jim Morrison, and is never free of tributes and fans who have come to pay their respects to his genius.
Celebrity graves aside, the cemetery is a stunning collection of architecture from many different eras and is an oddly relaxing place to while away an hour or two away from the cosmopolitan buzz of the rest of the city.