We decided to try to locate the Père Lachaise Cemetery on foot – without technology. Armed with a map and our bellies filled with fresh cider and galettes from Crêperie Suzette near Place des Vosges. It was about a 2 kilometre walk at a slight incline. The walk involved a closer look at a lot of Asian clothing shops. When we eventually arrived at the graveyard we found it to be as beautiful as it was confusing. And no wonder; apparently over 1 million bodies have been buried in the cemetery which has been expanded over five times in the 1800’s.
The graveyard is interesting in that, apart from it being an attraction for the fans of many famous people, including Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, there is now a lease system in place. If you have lived or died in Paris, and are on the waiting list to be buried in the cemetery, your family has to take out a 10-year lease. Other options are the 30-year or 50-year lease. If not renewed, your remains may be removed and a space is made for a new body or grave. Abandoned remains are tagged and boxed before being relocated to the Aux Morts ossuary. Possibly as surprising is the fact that there are often way more than one or two bodies buried in the family graves.
With limited time on our hands, we tried to find a few famous graves in Père Lachaise Cemetery and were successful in locating Georges Méliès, the French illusionist and filmmaker, and Eugène Delacroix, the French Romantic painter. We also happened upon the sobering memorial for the victims of the Rio to Paris Air France Flight 447.
I’ve plotted a map for you to Père Lachaise Cemetery from Crêperie Suzette passing Place des Vosges, Maison Victor Hugo and Place de la Bastille. It’s a 40 minute walk so be prepared. If you’re wondering who exactly is buried at the cemetery, here’s a list to inspire you.