The Spookiest Haunted Places and Graveyards to Visit in Paris

Expect to get chills down your spine at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris
Expect to get chills down your spine at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris | © BRIAN HARRIS / Alamy Stock Photo
Paul McQueen

Paris is known as the City of Light – but what if you’re in the market for something darker? For a great, big, knee-knocking, vocal-chord-shredding fright? There’s the catacombs, Montparnasse and Père Lachaise cemeteries – and even the Fragonard perfume museum is said to be haunted. Here, we shine our metaphorical torch at some of the city’s darker touristic crevasses.

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Cimetière du Père Lachaise

The largest of Paris’s cemeteries, Père Lachaise is known around the world as the final resting place of musical greats such as Frederic Chopin, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison, and literary giants such as Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein. Whereas most French graveyards are laid out in a neat, geometric style, the central portion of Père Lachaise is a maze of winding paths, lined on both sides by elaborate tombs and a host of religious and abstract statues. On a quiet morning, it’s easy to lose your way and stumble across something unexpected in the mist.

Le Manoir de Paris

A combination of a museum of the macabre and a haunted house, Le Manoir de Paris provides visitors with two floors of spooks and thrills. With changing themes that drag up the darkest parts of Paris’s long, brutal past, the attraction and its actors are hell-bent on terrifying all who pass through these halls. It’s creepy in a manufactured sense, sure, but an adrenaline-inducing and hilarious way to spend an afternoon with friends nonetheless.

Les Catacombes

Underneath the streets of Paris lies a huge network of bone-filled tunnels, a so-called Empire of Death. To get there, 130 steps lead you down from the light into a dark, cold and damp world. Throughout the haunted Catacombs, the remains of more than 6 million people lie piled up on top of one another, sometimes haphazardly and sometimes in careful, chilling displays, with quotes and lines of poetry contemplating our shared ending interspersed among them. The official route takes around 45 minutes to complete, leaving daring visitors staggered by the atmosphere.

Le Musée des Vampires

Le Musée des Vampires is potentially the world’s, and certainly Paris’s, only museum dedicated to our fanged and fabled friends. It is a private institution run by enthusiastic vampirologist Jacques Sirgent, and is packed with grisly paraphernalia that he has collected from some of the internet’s odder websites, as well as local flea markets and even some graveyards. Some of the finest (and scariest) pieces in the collection include a mummified cat and an authentic, 19th-century vampire protection kit. Easily as silly as it is scary, this eccentric Parisian attraction is nonetheless well worth a visit.

Cimetière de Montparnasse

This is the second largest of Paris’s cemeteries and contains some of the greatest writers and thinkers to have lived in the city, including Samuel Beckett, Charles Pierre Baudelaire, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The site was once home to three farms (with the ruins of one of the windmills still visible on the graveyard’s southern edge), and is now surrounded on all sides by tall apartment blocks and office buildings. The tallest of them all, the Tour Montparnasse, offers incredible ghost-spotting opportunities at a safe, sensible distance.

Musée Fragonard

The name Fragonard is most often associated with the sweeter side of life, namely perfume and painting. However, it just so happens that one of the illustrious family’s cousins, veterinary surgeon Honoré Fragonard, was a master of a darker art: cadaver preservation. His collection of dried and pickled organs, limbs, and complete figures – including a flayed man on the back of a similarly treated horse – is on display at the Musée Fragonard. His creations are as educational today as they ever have been, and the sight of a staring, skinless man is enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine.

Cimetière de Montmartre

The last of Paris’s major burial sites on our list, the Cimetière de Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement contains the graves of Edgar Degas, Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola (though his body was moved to the Panthéon six years after his death), and the singer Dalida. This cemetery has an even gorier history than the others in the city: once a gypsum quarry, it was used as a mass grave site during the French Revolution.

La Crypte du Panthéon

The Panthéon and its crypt are located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, just a few steps away from La Sorbonne. Visitors are greeted by a gruesome painting depicting Saint Denis lifting a recently decapitated head. The corridors leading to the crypts are fairly unsettling, but the tombs themselves are more likely to inspire respect and admiration than fright. Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille and Marie Curie are among the celebrated dead who rest here and helped make France the country it is today by contributing to the fields of philosophy, science and literature.

The towers and crypts of Notre-Dame

Whether it’s a sunny or even a gloomy day on the Île de la Cité, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame is far from a horror show. In fact, it’s a thoroughly spectacular example of gothic architecture. However, at night, when the crowds have dispersed, there is something rather eerie about the shadows cast by its swooping arches and legions of leering gargoyles. The cathedral remains closed after the devastating fire of April 2019, but when it eventually reopens, try a trip down into the crypts or up into the towers – experiences all the more frightening if you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo.

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