Visit Montmartre Cemetery

A visit to Montmartre Cemetery can be a relaxing break from the small crowded streets of Montmartre village and the throbbing, sex-shop lined, boulevard de Clichy. It’s for this reason it stands, somewhat incongruously, as a haven for a meditative stroll − and in the heat of high summer, the cemetery’s cool tree-lined avenues offer a surprising respite from the overhead sun. For those interested in culture, the cemetery is packed full of fascinating treasures — the map of graves found at the entrance reads like a who’s who of cultural life in France over the last 200 years. Important artist and writers like Edgar Degas and Stendhal are found buried in among the elegant avenues.

The cemetery was originally an open quarry from which much of the gypsum was mined for the plaster used in the buildings of the capital. It’s for this reason the cemetery sits below street level and a large wrought iron bridge intersects it carrying on the street from above. Offically opened in 1860 (it had been used as makeshift cemetery for some decades before) the cemetery remains the third largest after Père Lachaise and Montparnasse.

Famous Graves at Montmartre

Emile Zola (Section 19) Although Zola’s remains were moved to the Pantheon in 1904, his grave can still be found right beside the roundabout near the entrance.

Edgar Degas (Section 4) A member of the 19th century impressionist movement, Degas famously painted scenes from the Paris ballet. Many of his works can be seen displayed at the Musée d’Orsay.

Adolphe Sax (Section 5) The inventor of the Saxophone.

Stendhal (Section 30) The early 19th century writer Marie-Henri Beyle, who adopted the penname Stendhal, is considered the earliest exponents of realism in literature and inspired Honoré de Balzac who greatly admired his work. His most famous works are Le Rouge et Le Noir and the Charterhouse of Parma.

Hector Berlioz (Section 20) This romantic composer is famous in France for his Symphony Fantastique. His large marble gravestone isn’t difficult to find.

Francois Truffaut (Section 21) The 20th century is also represented by some of France’s most famous artists, and the brilliant director Francois Truffaut is no exception. A member of the illustrious Nouvelle Vague film movement of the late 1950’s his iconic blank and white film, Jules & Jim, will have Paris lovers swooning.

Dalida: The most visited grave at Montparnasse might not evoke much of a response from English-speaking visitors, but with more than 125million albums sold worldwide, Dailda was one of the highest earning French pop stars of all time.

Heinrich Heine (Section 27) The German romantic poet spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in France.

Henri Murger (Section 5) The author of Scènes de la Vie de Boheme, shot to fame after his book became hugely popular; sadly, bad health, brought about by his hand-to-mouth existence, precipitated his premature death. His novel was immortalised by the famous opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini. Fittingly he lies in the cemetery of Montmartre − the centre of Bohemian life during the 19th and early 20th century.

Vaslav Nijinsky (Section 22) The famous ballet dancer and Russian choreograph is also buried here.

Jacques Offenback (Section 9) Another German expatriate and romantic, the composer Jacques Offenback is famous for his Operettas, his best-known being the eponymous The Tales of Hoffmann.

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