Exploring Quirky Paris
Paris has some of the world’s best-known sights. It also has some of the oddest. So here are your choices, broken down into categories: Crap, Dead Stuff, Medicine and Animals. Enjoy!.
Les Egouts (The Sewers)
Why would you want to visit the sewers of Paris? Many do, despite the smell (especially bad in summer). You can visit the huge underground passages in the bowels of the city (no pun intended), a museum, and view a film. Info: 7th/Métro Alma-Marceau. Pont de l’Alma (opposite 93 quai d’Orsay). Tel. 01/126.96.36.199. Open 11am-4pm (May-Sep until 5pm). Closed Thu, Fri and part of Jan. Admission: €4.20, €3.40 ages 6-16, under 5 free. See Eiffel Tower Area Map.
Grim, strange and claustrophobic. Beginning in the late 1700s, six million people were deposited in what used to be stone quarries. It gets even creepier. The bones are arranged in patterns. Not for everyone. Info: 14th/Métro Denfert-Rochereau. 1 place Denfert-Rochereau. Tel. 01/188.8.131.52. Open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €8, under 13 free. See Montparnasse Map.
Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse
(Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal)
Catherine Labouré was a young nun when she claimed that the Virgin Mary, dressed in a white silk dress, visited her (four times in 1827) to deliver a design for a holy medal. Go figure! Catherine’s body is here in a glass cage. The spot where the Virgin Mary is said to have sat during her visits is a place of veneration. You can buy a rosary or medal in the courtyard (they actually have a machine that dispenses these souvenirs). Another glass cage holds the body of St. Louise de Marillac (one of the founders of the Daughters of Charity). St. Louise is still wearing her habit. Info: 7th/Métro Sèvres-Babylone. 140 rue du Bac. Open daily 7:45am-1pm and 2:30pm-7pm (Tue 7:45am-7pm). Admission: Free.
Around the corner is La Congrégation de la Mission (Congregation of the Mission). Here, the waxed corpse of St. Vincent de Paul (known for his charity) is found in an ornate glass-and-silver casket above the main altar. If you like this sort of macabre stuff, you can climb the stairs and get a close-up view of his body. Info: 7th/Métro Sèvres-Babylone. 95 rue de Sèvres. Open daily. Admission: Free. See Eiffel Tower Area Map.
Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Museum of Medical History)
Yikes! You can see implements used for skull drilling in this 100-year-old museum dedicated to medical history. The implements used to perform Napoléon’s autopsy are here, too. Info: 6th/Métro Odéon. 12 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine. In the René Descartes University (second floor). Tel. 01/184.108.40.206. Open Sep-July 15 2pm-5:30pm except Thu and Sun, July 15-Aug 2pm-5pm except Sat and Sun. Admission: €3.50. See Left Bank Map.
Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière (Anatomy Museum)
Formaldehyde jars with Siamese twins and deformed body parts, wax models of anuses and skinned faces, and the mummified bodies of a whole family are some of the horrid exhibits that greet you in the eighth-floor lobby of this university. Fun! Info: 6th/Métro St-Germain-des-Prés. 45 rue des Sts-Pères. (in the René Descartes Université). Tel. 01/220.127.116.11 (by appointment only). Open hours vary, usually Tue and Thu 2pm-5pm. Admission: Free. See Left Bank Map.
Musée de l’Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris
(Museum of Public Assistance and Hospitals).
Interested in exhibits on infanticide or “historic” blood-covered uniforms? If so, this museum is right up your alley! The 17th-century mansion used to be a pharmacy. Info: 5th/Métro Maubert-Mutualité. 47 quai de la Tournelle. Tel. 01/40.27.50.05. Open Tue, Wed, Fri, and first Sun of each month 10am-6pm. Closed Aug. Admission: €6, under 13 free. See Left Bank Map.
For the truly adventurous, you can head out of Paris to one of these sights:
Musée Fragonard d’Alfort (Veterinary Museum)
Ugh! Animal skeletons, skinned cats, a camel’s stomach and a partially flayed 200-year-old horse and its rider are just some of the rather grim exhibits at this veterinary school’s museum. Info: Métro Alfort - École Vétérinaire (line 8). In the suburb of Maisons-Alfort/Métro Alfort-École Vétérinaire. Located in the National Veterinary School. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm that the museum will be open). Open Wed and Thu 2pm-6pm and Sat and Sun 1pm-6pm. Closed Aug. Admission: €7, under 26 free. www.musee-vet-alfort.fr.
Cimetière des Chiens (Dog Cemetery)
The French love their dogs (and cats) so much that they have an entire cemetery with some elaborate memorials to countless poodles and even Rin Tin Tin. How totally French! Info: In the Asnières-sur-Siene suburb/Métro Mairie de Clichy (line 13). A 15-minute walk from métro on rue Martre, left at end of the bridge Pont de Clichy. Located along the river. 4 Pont de Clichy. Tel. 01/18.104.22.168. Open Mar 16-Oct 15 10am-6pm, Oct 16-Mar 15 10am-4:30pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €3.50, under 6 free.
For more on exploring Paris, check out Open Road's Best of Paris.