It’s the City of the Dead all the world comes to visit, the resting place of many icons: Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Modigliani – the list goes on. Père-Lachaise Cemetery is also very beautiful. Opened in the early 19th century it became the place for celebrity burials as a bit of a marketing ploy; many people at the time felt the cemetery was too far from the center of Paris and did not want to be buried there, so the city literally moved a few well-respected citizen’s graves to Père-Lachaise, making it the place to be buried.
These days, of course, it’s embraced by the city and easily reached by metro. Despite already having over a million graves, the cemetery is still holding funerals, although there is now a waiting list! Covering 110 acres (44 ha) of hilly ground, with plentiful trees and flowers and a well-planned system of avenues, a walking tour of Père-Lachaise is really a stroll in the park with history thrown in. The tombs range from very simple headstones to huge sculptures and mini-chapels.
The most famous grave is that of Jim Morrison; it’s said to be the fourth most-visited tourist site in Paris. Since he was buried there in 1971 there has been a constant stream of fans who have stolen his headstone, graffitied it, left drugs and other offerings and even tried to dig up his body. The site is now well-guarded but also not easy to find as it’s tucked in behind other graves in a small plot.
A much larger monument which attracts fans is that of Oscar Wilde. Recently the scrawled messages and lipstick kisses have been cleaned off and the tomb is now protected by glass. The monument to famous lovers Abelard and Heloise is also an homage site, where romantics leave letters outlining their hopes and dreams.