Sorry Paris – Not This Time


Parisian Sewer Museum

One of my favourite things about visiting Paris is the opportunity to check out some of the smaller museums.

These bite sized gems often give you a focussed insight into Paris and her history. They are small enough so as not to overwhelm your mind, your feet or your budget. And as a general rule, they are friendly to your itinerary. They don’t take up too much time – you can often squeeze a visit in before (or after) a leisurely lunch.

Over the years, I’ve written about some of my favourites. These include the Musée Carnavalet, the Musée Rodin and the Musée de l’Orangerie. Other enjoyable small exhibitions include Espace Dalí in Montmartre and Les Arts Décoratifs, where I was particularly taken by the fashion and style exhibits. Regardless of the subject matter, each and every one of these museums has added greatly to my knowledge of Parisian history and culture.

The Parisian Sewer Museum

Given the fact that I’m such a fan of these small doses of history, I wasn’t at all perturbed when Scott suggested we visit the Parisian sewer museum – Musée des égouts de Paris –  on our last trip. Scott has an engineering background, and has been fascinated by the Parisian sewers since he watched a documentary on them years ago. The fact that the Parisian streets are replicated by sewers below ground really captured his imagination for some reason.

Following a typically yummy lunch in Saint Germain, we meandered along the Seine in the sunshine to the famous Pont de l’Alma, where you can find the entrance the museum. After paying the entrance fee of a few euro each, we headed down the stairs into the sewers.

The visit started innocuously enough. Static displays detailing the long history of the sewer system and information on the Parisian water cycle lined a disused sewer.

We wandered along until we reached a sewer junction. And it was here that I started to have concerns. Water was suddenly rushing beneath us and I’ve got to tell you, things were starting to get more than a little stinky. My brain began conjuring up all sorts of questions about what might be flowing below my feet or running around at the end of some dark sewer behind me.

It’s safe to say that from this point on I hurried past the various displays demonstrating how the sewers are maintained. Scott would suggest that I fled in terror.

Maybe It Was Just Me?

Now, in the interests of balance, I have to disclose that it may just be me that didn’t have the fortitude to enjoy the visit. Given the subject matter, I’d almost expected Scott and I to be the only visitors in the museum. But the place was packed. Tourists and a school group made up the bulk of the visitors. And no one else appeared to be having the issues I did with the stench. Probably because they hadn’t let their imagination run away with them. I’m also guessing that they fully understood that there was no raw sewerage down there (that stuff is actually transported in fully enclosed pipes).

Personally though, I’m popping the Parisian sewer museum in the same bucket as the Parisian catacombs. A Parisian museum that may be charming to some, but not one that I’ll be rushing back to. Or recommending.

If the idea of touring the Parisian sewer does hold some appeal, you can get all the details right here. If you’re wondering about the dress code, I’d suggest jeans and flat shoes as the starting point of your outfit. Team these two items with a comfy top and you’ll be set. Heels, sandals and frocks are unnecessary for this one.

Have you visited the Musée des égouts de Paris? Did you enjoy it? Or did you have the same issues I had? What about other small Parisian museums? Do you have any recommendations? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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4 thoughts on “Sorry Paris – Not This Time

  • Alisa

    lololol!
    I actually loved this museum, Janelle – but I can understand that it is not to the taste of all. (It is also chilly, so be sure to take a light cover if you are in summer attire). It is definitely worth the time to read the display panels to make sense of it all and to get an idea of the massive engineering that is necessary to keep a city the size of Paris clean. I lived in Paris in 1973 when they still did the boat tours of the sewers, and have always regretted that I did not take advantage of that opportunity when it was available.
    I thought it was interesting that you connected this to the catacombs museum – both are part of the underground Paris that is so critically important to Paris and its inhabitants and that has shaped its history for centuries. The metro, of course, is the third piece of that underground puzzle and all three are linked to the massive quarrying of stone under the city which created the first mazes of tunnels. Every once in a while I think about how porous the foundation of Paris is, and then I shake my head and quickly move onto another and less troubling thought!
    There is another underground museum worth mention – at the far end of the parvis of Notre Dame, there is an entrance to an archaeological crypt: http://www.crypte.paris.fr/en/crypt It is very well done, and provides a look at the earliest beginnings of the city, even some partially excavated streets and buildings with displays showing what the ruins once were. There are electronic touch boards that allow you to ‘build’ Paris from the ground up. It is quite fascinating!
    I will add (with a touch of embarrassment) that I am addicted to the tourist coins that are now available at all the tourist sites for about 2 euros. (I collect the ones that are actually available at the sites, from La Monnaie de Paris, but there are many others sold at tourist gift shops that are not official) I have been several times to the Catacombs, but when I discovered these coins, I went back and obtained them from various places that I have visited in the past in the days before they were introduced. On my last day in Paris last summer, I realized that I did not have a token from the Catacombes – and the line snaked literally around the block – I asked at the entrance and was told it was a 3 hour wait! So i explained my dilemma and the gentleman at the entrance gallantly offered to go in and buy my token for me – then his companion told him that he could not accept money from me, so he unhooked the gate and allowed me to go in just to buy the coin – and you can imagine the daggers that were looked at me by those in line who did not understand what i was doing because this conversation had been in French! So I popped in, popped out, flashed a big smile at the line, and went home with my coveted coin! I think it is my favorite one. 😀

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Alisa. I’m sure you aren’t the only one who enjoyed the sewer museum!! While I really appreciate the importance of Paris’ underground history and quite like reading about, I’m afraid my imagination is just a little too overactive to enjoy it ‘in person’. Thanks for the tip on the crypt – definitely one to check out on the next visit. And I love your idea of collecting the coins from the various sites – what a lovely memento. And I’m glad that you went back for the Catacombs coin – even if you did have to upset a few people. I would have loved to see the faces of both the visitors and the staff as you explained what you were doing.

      • Sandra

        I’m with Janelle on this one – in regard to the sewer museum. It’s not top on my list for my romanticized ideation of Paris. I don’t do well with certain smells and am also not keen to certain long tailed furry critters. When I went to Disney Paris last year a huge rat ran right in front of me while we were walking from one part of the park to another. Thanks to said rat, I was on ‘rat alert’ the entire time and I can now say I’m good with Disney Paris. However, I did love the Catacombs. Spooky, interesting, and full of history. I also LOVED walking through Pere Lachaise Cemeterie. You are surrounded by so much beauty in the form of memories and amazing crypts. Me and my friends found Jim Morrison and many other famous people there. But, alas, I wan’t able to leave a beret with Edith Piaf, because we didn’t have time to find her location. That’s ok, because it means, I must return to Paris. 🙂

        • Janelle Post author

          Yes, you must definitely return to Paris Sandra! I loved Père Lachaise too. I’ve been thinking about what I didn’t like about both the sewer tour and the catacombs…and I think it was the overall ‘drippiness’ of both of them. Turns out that water dripping from ceilings does nothing for me. Good thing to remember in the future!