Montmartre Cemetery (Le cimetière du Montmartre) is a little haven of peace from the bustling streets of Pigalle and Montmartre that overshadow it. Visiting the final resting places of the famous is quite fulfilling for some. And, there are indeed quite a few famous men and women who lie under the decorated and undecorated gravestones of this cemetery. But it perhaps feels more surreal and rewarding to observe life and nature take its course around its more obscure occupants. So many stories can be imagined between the two dates that earmark their lifetime on earth. Reminders of love and loss, some recent and some faded, lie engraved in these stones. Crumbling graves of those forgotten are claimed by the wilderness, moss and ivy draping them in lovely shades of green.
Take a long, unhurried walk through the narrow alleys and listen to the slow rustling of fallen leaves. Isn’t it a luxury to spend some time and appreciate the small joys and sorrows of our life? We take so much for granted in the rush of getting somewhere and doing something. It is a humbling experience to spend a few moments slowing down, getting lost, ambling along these small pathways that welcome death and new life alike.
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Where: Montmartre Cemetery, 20 Avenue Rachel, 75018 Paris
Good to know, trivia and other details about the Montmartre Cemetery
Montmartre Cemetery opened on January 1, 1885, and is the third largest necropolis in Paris after Père-Lachaise and Montparnasse cemeteries. The Montmartre cemetery was built over an abandoned quarry the site of which had previously been used as a mass grave during the French Revolution. A beautiful blue wrought iron bridge, the Pont du Coulaincourt, passes over the 11-hectare span of the cemetery.
For those looking to visit the famous graves, a map is available at the entrance. Among others, the cemetery is the final resting place for Dalida (singer), Alexandre Dumas (playwright and novelist), Adolphe Sax (inventor of saxophone), Charles Henri Sanson (executioner of Louis XVI), Louise Weber (La Goulue, can-can dancer), Edgar Degas and Gustave Moreau (painters).
Sidenotes and recommendations
Bring a book, notebook or a scribble pad. Ignore the cellphone for a while. During my time here, I ached to re-read Neil Gaiman’s outrageously fantastic The Graveyard Book. Also, don’t hesitate to get lost and take the small alleys.