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Any cemetery fans out there?

We visited the monumental cemeteries in Milan and Genoa this past October and were stunned by the beauty of the hundreds of family-plot sculptures. (Genoa's not a recommended city in the RS guidebooks, but I think it's worth checking out for the cemetery alone.)

Now we're planning for a trip to Paris, and I was curious if anyone has any opinions on how the Pere-Lachaise cemetery compares. Or, come to think of it, if there are any other such cemeteries in France worth considering.

Edit to add: Thanks, everyone, for all of the great replies. They really helped to open my eyes!

Posted by
875 posts

Don't know that I'd classify myself as a cemetery fan, but Pere Lachaise is definitely worth several hours of your time. I could have spent the whole day there. It is astonishingly beautiful; amazingly sad; so full of historical figures; etc. It was an incredible experience. Hope I get a chance to return.

Posted by
397 posts

Glad to see that I am not alone as my friends always tease me about my cemetery pictures. I have to agree with Janis that Pere-Lachaise is not to be missed. The sculptures there are one of a kind, to say the least. In response to your question about other Paris cemeteries, here is a link to from a report on Trip Advisor about the Cimetiere Parisien de Thiais. I have never been but it looks interesting. http://tinyurl.com/yjbgbua

Posted by
4627 posts

In October, I took one of the Paris Walks (www.paris-walks.com) tours of Pere Lechaise cemetery and it was definitely worthwhile. This was one of their special walks, so I don't think it is always on offer. The cemetery is definitely interesting, particularly because of all the famous people buried there ... the shrine to Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde's memorial which is covered in lipstick kisses, etc. I am not a big cemetery fan, so I would not have particularly enjoyed this without a guide telling me the stories of the cemetery and the individuals who are buried there. However, the nearby vendors do sell maps of the cemetery which might be useful.

Posted by
661 posts

Père Lachaise cemetery is definetely worth a visit. We spent a few hours, and could have spent more. We did regret not buying a map when you enter, it is quite big!

Posted by
12739 posts

Are you also considering military/war cemeteries in France or only those like Pere-Lachaise?

Posted by
16 posts

Hi, Fred. I suppose you could say that I'm interested in cemeteries that double as outdoor art galleries.

Thanks to everyone for all the feedback so far.

Posted by
711 posts

Warren..... Before visiting Pere-Lachaise try to find the book Permanent Parisians. It tells about all the people in the cemetery. Facinating.The cemetery in Montparnasse is incredible also.. and the small one in Passy. I do not know if it is still there, but years ago.. across from the Montparnasse cemetery was a funiery store. I do not think I spelled that correctly. It is a store ... rather large... that carries things people leave on the grave stones like beautiful ceramic wreaths, frames for pictures, and other memorabilia.

Posted by
8064 posts

Oh I love walking through cemeterys. The artwork in them is incredible. For people who enjoy photography as a hobby, the cemeteries of the world are perfect places for photos.

Not sure which cemetery we went to near Mont Marte, but we just liked looking at everything. Didn't find any famous people that I can remember, but it all looked so different from cemeterys in Ohio.

Actually, any city in Europe will have cemeteries to visit that will absolutely wow you. I know Frankfurts is huge and simply filled with beauty, and I wish I could take people there and show them around. Have spent a few hours wandering around and can't wait to go back. (hope that doesn't sound weird) Most people don't ever think about going to them though, as a tourist activity, except in Paris. I bet the ones in Munich or London or Rome or Prague or Salzburg are fascinating too.

Thanks Warren, for bringing up this theme.

Posted by
4674 posts

Pere Lachaise is really worth visiting but don't buy a map from the newsagent who has a kiosk right at the Metro exit: he charges a massive mark-up compared to other newsagents in the area that sell them.

Posted by
12739 posts

Hi Warren,

If you are looking for cemeteries like Pere-Lachaise, see the one in Vienna, the Zentral Friedhof, I was there once, it's huge, bigger than Pere-Lachaise. Like Pere-Lachaise, you will recognise the famous personalities buried there.

As for the military/war cemeteries, beside those in Normandie, the big one in northern France for the British in WW I is in Arras. Go to the tourist office in the central square in Arras where you can find out exactly where another large British cemetery from WW I, like the one in Arras, called Baumont-Hamel is located. It's near Arras. If you have a car, drive from Amiens on the Somme to Arras and you see along roads in green signs British and Commonwealth war cemetery. They dot the landscape.

East of Paris, about an hour from Gare de l'Est is Chateau Thierry, where there is a joint British-French military cemetery from WW I. If you are interested in seeing the Canadian role, again near Arras is Vimy, where the big Canadian monument is.

Luckily I was driven to see these sites outside of Arras; if you're going to pursue this in northern France, north of Amiens, you'll need a car, especially on the outskirts of towns like Albert, Cambrai, Perrone.

Happy Travels!!

Posted by
1357 posts

I think old cemeteries are a great way to get to know a bit of history on the city. Even here in the US, going to old southern cities like Savannah or Charleston, we always stop by a cemetery. It's also a nice place to slow down and be quiet for a bit.

I loved visiting Pere-Lachaise. As a classical musician, it was a real treat to see where Chopin and Bizet are buried. One of the best parts, though, was right after my friend and I got there. We're standing just inside the entrance with a map, when a short, rotund, bald French man came running up, saying "Piaf! Piaf! Piaf!" With my severely limited French, I was basically able to point at the map and say "we here, Piaf there." He found his way eventually, we saw him at here grave when we went by there.

Posted by
3580 posts

Of course, the military cemeteries for the fallen from all countries and all wars. I also have spent some thoughtful time in an Italian cemetery, Menaggio (Lake Como). There is a cemetery at the French town destroyed by Nazis and left that way---

Posted by
2023 posts

We visit Pere Lachaise each time we are in Paris. Yes, Montparnasse is interesting but the gorgeous hilly terrain makes PL exceptional. There is a florist and crematorium on the premises also. A very good hint from Rick's guidebook is take the metro to the Gambetta stop and the walk will be all downhill.

Posted by
1385 posts

I too love visiting cemeteries.

This summer we visited the Lychakivsky Cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine. Definitely a not-to-miss place with amazing sculptures. This cemetery too requires at least a couple of hours to wander around.

One other interesting one is the one in La Recoleta in Buenos Aires which includes the grave of Evita Peron.

Posted by
363 posts

I love cemeteries too. I don't know anyone else who has been to Staglieno cemetery in Genoa! We went there because my husband has an uncle buried there. Enormous and fascinating place. Loved Pere LaChaise this past May. Took the Paris Walks tour and really enjoyed it.

Posted by
5766 posts

While I do not recall making it a priority or destination, I find that I have hit many cemeteries in my travels. I recall Irish cemeteries with Celtic Crosses, a wonderful old cemetery in Edinburgh. Cemeteries in germany, Italy, and many more. I find them an interesting take on the culture of an area, certainly history, a relaxing walk in a hectic city, or sobering, like the Muslim cemetery in Mostar, with so many graves of young men in the same couple years.

Posted by
811 posts

This is a bit off topic for the OP (sorry!), but I recently saw an Anthony Bourdain episode where he was in Romania. He visited a cemetery where the headstones depicted an elaborate painting of how each person died. Car crashes, alcoholism, etc. I couldn't help but giggle and vowed right then I want to go see it with my own eyes.

Posted by
478 posts

I realize that this topic was about cemeteries in Milan and Genoa, but I wanted to comment that I also enjoy visiting cemeteries in Europe. I've only been to those in Germany but in my opinion, they are so different from cemeteries in the US. The cemeteries in Germany are very park-like and so beautiful.

There also seems to be a fixation with cemeteries and the 'dearly departed' in Europe. Whenever we visit relatives that we haven't seen in a long while, the question always comes up if we'd like to visit 'so-and-so's grave' while we're here. I would never think to ask that of someone visiting California. I have several relatives who still have standing appointments to visit their loved ones' grave sites on Sunday afternoons to plant flowers, pull weeds, etc... In one way I like it, in another way it's odd and dark.

Posted by
850 posts

Since this has moved somewhat away from the op's question about cemeteries in France I will continue the trend with apologies to Warren. In 2002, my wife and I stopped in Telfs, Austria for the night. The next morning as we were leaving town we stopped at the beautiful little church there and after looking around inside we came outside. We enjoy walking around the church cemeteries which are usually well maintained and adorned with beautiful flowers. My wife spotted a cross and headstone that just caught her eye. Beautiful flowers placed on the grave must have been the reason she was particularly drawn to it. After a minute or so an elderly lady came up to us as I was taking a photo of the headstone and cross and she pointed to them and said "meine mama und mein papa". Quite a conincidence that my wife was drawn to the grave of this lady's mother and father at that particular moment. She spoke no english but I got a photo of her and my wife holding hands over her papa and mama's grave. I often wonder about that lady and whether she is still living. It is the seemingly insignificant things that we encounter during our travels that sometimes stick with us the most. That one did for us.

Posted by
2023 posts

We were in Salzburg on All Soul's Day and the cemeteries were beautifully "decorated." Graves had lovely floral arrangements and candles--many of these candles were in red glass which was a stunning sight in the evening.

Posted by
23 posts

Cemeteries have been one of my favorite places to visit in my travels. They are indeed outdoor art museums. The Pere-Lachaise in Paris ranks up there as one of my favorites, who can top Jim Morrison or Edith Piaf? I have visited cemeteries in Italy which had beautiful headstones complete with pictures of the deceased. The very best cemeteries are in Mexico, though. If you ever visit don't miss the opportunity to see how they honor their deceased.

Posted by
2349 posts

There's an interesting cemetery in Norway. That's Norway, Michigan, in the UP. I bring it up on this board about Europe because Norway was a mining town that was settled by immigrants. There are sections with Swedish, Norwegian, Cornish, Italian, etc. You move from the Andersons and Petersons to the Trelawneys.

Posted by
1357 posts

Just an interesting thing about cemeteries in Germany is that families buy a plot together and stack people on top of each other. And the families take a lot of pride in taking care of the gravesites. We've been to family cemeteries when visiting over there, and my husband's aunt has a beautiful flower garden that she maintains on his grandmother's grave, and several other gravesites are just as lovely.

Posted by
8064 posts

Another interesting thing in Germany is that you buy a plot for usually just 25 years. After that, you can buy another 25 years, and so on.

In Frankfurt (don't know about other cities) the most fascinating thing is that with the really beautiful gravestones, that are either from someone famous or are just works of art that have not got anyone paying for them anymore are up for "adoption". You pick one out that you like (there are stickers on them!) The cemetery tells you how much it will cost to take care of the stone, the plot, the renovation or restoration of the sculpture, etc. and then when you pass on, you get to be buried there. They put a little plaque with your name on it either on the side of the stone, or with a tiny grave marker. When I found this out, it blew me away, but the longer I think about it, the more interesting it becomes.

Excuse me now while I go shopping.

Posted by
12739 posts

Lane--Thank you for telling that moving and poignant story. Let's hope that elderly lady still had family when you met her in 2002. That story would definitely stick with me too.

Posted by
207 posts

I love to go to cemeteries, my husband doesn't get it. Glad to know I'm not the only one. We are going to Paris in April I hope to convince him to go to the cemetery with me. Sorry I don't have any to add to your list, but am really enjoying taking notes on everyone elses replies.