It took me a long time to get to know the 20th arrondissement. One of the largest districts in Paris, the 20th hides all kinds of sights, but most of them aren’t very well-known. There are barely any museums, the streets are less polished and the shops are less fancy. Rent is cheaper (though the bobos have well and truly moved in on the Gambetta region) and the guide books don’t tend to send many people there. But that’s much of its charm.
The 20th is residential, less commercial than most areas, and less touristy. But right in the middle of it is one of Paris’ most unique spots: the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Far larger than any other cemetery in the city limits, rambling and sad and beautiful and creepy all at once, Père-Lachaise is one of my favourite places in Paris to go and just wander.
Many visitors come to pay homage to their favourite painters, musicians or writers. (Most know about Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison’s graves, but it’s worth consulting the full list of famous people buried there before visiting, because you probably won’t just stumble upon them.) Others come to lay flowers at the graves of family and friends, and it’s important to be respectful of this when visiting. But still others are drawn to the place to catch a moment of peace and contemplation in the middle of the city.
Of course, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise isn’t really a museum. But history, art, architecture, music and literature lovers will all find something to appreciate in this serene place. Whether you wish to make a pilgrimage to Frédéric Chopin’s grave, behold the tragic WWII memorials or simply admire the sculptures and mausoleums dotted between the trees, Père-Lachaise will enchant you. It may even make you fall in love with the 20th arrondissement, as it did me.