Paris might be considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, but all of that romance has to be flushed somewhere, right? Underneath the streets of this beautiful city is an extensive line of sewers, which is memorialized forever by the Musée des égouts de Paris (Paris Sewer Museum).
The Paris Sewers Museum is one of the most unusual and unique museums for anyone visiting the City of Lights.
Visitors will get an up-close and personal look at one of the most important parts of urban life in Paris: its sewers. The sewer system was first built by Napoleon Bonaparte, who installed it as part of his grand plan to modernize the city.
The museum is located in the same building as the Paris Sewerage Company, which still operates today. Visitors can go on one of the many guided tours of the sewers, each guide will share interesting facts and stories about this hidden world beneath the city.
The guided tours last about an hour and visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes and clothing that can get wet. The Paris Sewer Museum is a unique and fascinating look at the hidden side of one of the world’s most famous cities.
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History and Visit Highlights
First built in the late 14th century, the people of Paris have often gotten their drinking water from the River Seine. Before the sewers were built, the sewage would just be thrown out into the street, which would then filter back to the river and cause Parisians to be drinking what they had thrown out.
Those days, along with other critical events of the development of the sewer system, are all chronicled at Le Musée des Égouts de Paris. The Sewage Museum documents and explains Paris’s unique development, sewer workers, and the evolution of water and wastewater.
In this hour-long tour, you will learn about the sewerage history of the Middle Ages, including how Parisians got their drinking water from the River Seine. You will also learn about the evolution of purification and sterilization technology from the Gallipoli period onward.
As you travel through the tunnel of sewer that takes you through a water treatment area, you may see a water purifying motor – one modeled after those used by the Allies during WWII.
You’ll also see how the water is pumped out of the tunnels and into the Canal de l’Ourcq, a tributary of the Seine that helps to cleanse the water before it is returned to the river.
This visit offers an educational and unforgettable experience for anyone interested in how Paris has dealt with its waste and sewage over the centuries.
Museum Location and Contact Information
The Paris Sewer Museum (Musée des égouts de Paris) was established in the prestigious and elegant seventh-arrondissement of the Paris region. The museum is accessible at the Pont de l’Alma station, on the right bank, on 93 Quai d’Orsay. Metro/ RER: Alma – Marceau. Metro line 9; cross bridges to reach Museum, Pont de L’Alma. Tel. : 013 668 2780.
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How About A Loving Kiss… In a Smelly Sewer?
The Paris Sewer Museum lets you really step into it and explore actual sewer lines. Guides will talk about the construction of the sewers and there are exhibits in both French and English that will help you learn more about the sewer and how it works.
Be prepared: the museum itself can be a bit dark and because it is an actual, working sewer, it’s going to be filled with actual, working sewer smells. Les Misérables may have made these sewers famous and even romantic, but realize this: you’re walking over a see-through grate with live sewage flotsam passing underneath.
Is that the perfect place to have a romantic kiss in Paris?
Ok, Ok… The Smell Isn’t That Bad
If you’ve ever visited Yellowstone National Park or other outdoor environments that have geysers or hot mud pits, then you’ll know what the sewers of Paris smell like. It’s a very sulfuric smell, reminiscent of rotting eggs, but slightly more profound because you’re in an enclosed environment.
Some visitors say that they can smell a little extra ammonia in there with the sulfurous odors, so beware if you have a sensitive nose or you’ve just eaten a good meal.
You may just find that you’ll want to add your own donation to the sewer systems… but that’s ok because there’s a bathroom right there in the sewer for you to use!
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Don’t Miss the Giant Iron Ball at the Museum
Do you know that famous scene from Indiana Jones where Harrison Ford is escaping from a giant stone ball that threatens to turn him into a human lasagna noodle?
That’s what I think of every time I see the giant iron ball that is on display in the Paris Sewer Museum. They use this as a tool to clean the sewers!
Because these balls, which are sometimes wooden, are just smaller than the tunnel or tube, the water pressure behind it pushes the ball along, scraping that wonderfully built-up dark and odiferous sludge through the system for processing downstream.
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Paris Sewer Museum (Musée des égouts de Paris) – Opening Hours & Tickets
The Paris Sewer Museum is open every day except Thursdays and Fridays year-round. The exceptions are a two-week period of maintenance that happens in January, as well as the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It’s easy to miss the entrance to the museum – it is in the strip of the park between the Quai d’Orsay and the River Seine.
Ticket prices range from €4.30 for adults to €3.50 for children from ages 6 to 16. Kids under the age of 6 are currently free. You’ll want to allow for about an hour to do the entire visit. Ticket office, gift shop, and museum hours are 11 am to 5 pm from May through September and 11 am to 4 pm from October to April.
Our best advice: bring a hat, a mask, or a handkerchief, and a little extra courage if you happen to encounter one of the famously large sewer rats. Don’t forget to exit through the gift shop to pick up a commemorative water carafe and stuffed rat so that you’ll always remember your visit.
Why are the sewers of Paris a tourist attraction?
The reason the sewers are tourist attractions is that they’re an eerie reminder of Paris’ past that also offers insight into how the city has evolved in such a short amount of time.
The Sewer Museum of Paris showcases some items from its extensive collection and displays photos, drawings, and maps showing their evolution over the years.
Can you tour the Paris sewers?
Yes, you can tour the Paris sewer tunnels on a guided tour.
Why are the Paris sewers famous?
The city of Paris, which includes over 200 kilometers of sewage pipes from Constantinople, has a population of 2 million. The world’s biggest wastewater treatment plant handles over 1.3 million cubic meters of waste every day. The subterranean sewage systems were built in 1867 for tourism and are now a major tourist attraction.