The Perfect Date Place in Paris…For a Rat- The Sewer Museum

May 10, 2010 MuseumChick

The “Sewers of Paris Museum” sounds much nicer when you say it in French…”Musée Des Egouts de Paris”, but that can’t detract from the fact that this museum is in the actual sewer!

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After reading about it in an article about the world’s weirdest museums and realizing it’s just a five minute walk from my apartment, I had to see what this museum was all about. Haven’t you ever wanted to pay to go into a sewer (sarcasm insert)?! Well, at only 4.50€ it was actually worth checking out. This is proof that the French can make anything a museum, and a good one!

26,000 manholes in Paris’ sewage system lead to this museum, which is built around the sewer and its rushing water. The museum’s display goes through the history of the Paris sewage system, beginning with the medieval ages when the untreated sewage water would circle through the city creating an unbearable smell. When sanitation become a problem, developments began under Francois I to create a system where the dirty water was directed out of the city, treated, then brought back.

This unassuming building (below) off the Quai d’Orsay at the Pont de l’Alma is the ticket booth and entrance to the museum.

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Paris


This display in the entrance explains the current sewer system and with colorful posters and easy reading it makes a good display for kids as well as adults. But non-French speakers beware, this part is mostly in French. The rest of the museum is displayed in French and English.

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This model shows the current water path of the system with lights and is an easy way to explain the sewer system to kids.

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Mr. MuseumChick planning the route through the sewers…is this really necessary?!

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Meet the local residents. Don’t worry, they’re stuffed!

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Poster and box displays over the sewer grates of rushing water tells visitors about the Paris sewer system over many centuries.

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The museum explains about how Victor Hugo got inspiration to write parts of Les Misérables from visiting these exact sewers. Hugo knew sewer inspector Emmanuel Bruneseau, who was inspiration for Hugo to create the character Jean Valjean.

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Much credit for the modern system goes to engineer Eugene Belgrand (1810-1878), who developed many of the machines still used today.

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Visiting the sewers of Paris is not a new concept. Visitors have been cruising through the system in carts since 1892! These vintage pictures show visitors to the sewers.

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Paris


A dark and dirty underground view of the tunnels and piping gives visitors a whole new look at the city of lights.

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Paris


These machines are used to clean out the sewers but have seen better days.

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Paris


These huge, black balls are called Boules de Nettoyage. They are sent through the system to push grit and debris through the pipes to avoid water blockage.

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And the most important question that I know you are dying to ask me…“does it smell?” and the answer is…YES, it does (but it was tolerable for the hour that I was in there).

This next picture has nothing to do with my post…I just thought you would want to see a pretty spring day in Paris after all that dirty sewer talk!

Paris

©2010 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved

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Comments

  1. Monica 03.28.2013

    Were they used by the resistance during WWII ?

    • Larry Scalf 03.14.2014

      Yes, the sewers were used by the Resistance. Along with the underground limestone quarries below the sewer system.

  2. jayesjay 01.31.2011

    I heard that there was a sewer network exactly following every road above, and I got the impression that all of these sewers were traversable. With corresponding street names and street junction signs.

  3. Diego 01.28.2011

    Oh Paris… Sounds lovely… Even the sewers… Hey I have a Question… Does the sewer houses light cables and heating systems???

    • MuseumChick 01.29.2011

      Hi Diego- the sewers were really nice…for sewers :) yes, there was lights hooked up to the ceiling but no heating or cooling system that I noticed.

  4. Doug 07.30.2010

    I did the tour just a few days ago, and I can still remember the smell. It was very cool. Hard to believe but there are parts of the tour where you actually stand over a river of poo!

  5. Sara J. 05.16.2010

    I can't believe you went down there! I haven't heard of this museum but love that it is so weird!