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.