Beneath the streets of Paris is a whole new sinister world to explore. One of these places is the Paris Sewer System. It doesn’t sound to attractive, but once you are down there one cannot help but be fascinated. The sewer system is not an attraction that immediately springs to mind. However, if you love visiting off the beaten track places, Des Egouts De Paris will give a unique and different perspective to the City of Light.
“…Paris has another Paris under herself; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its crossings, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is slime, minus the human form.” ( Jean Valjean in Les Miserables).
Des Egouts De Paris is a fully operational water treatment plant located at Pont D’Alma. Upon entry you need to obey a couple of simple rules – one being not to touch the walls or equipment. This is a hygiene matter so it is best to adhere to that one. Before the sewer system was built, the method for disposing of waste was not hygienic, the people would get water from the river but then tended to throw their waste straight into the city streets.
Over time this became quite a health issue for the city. It was not until the 13th century when the first sewer system was introduced at Rue Montmartre and slowly expanded over the next 400 years to ensure coverage across the whole city. During the French Revolution Napoleon Bonaparte contributed to the improvement of the sewer system and in 1805 commissioned an 182 mile extension of the sewer tunnels. Then in 1850 separate tunnels were engineered to accommodate both drinking water and sewage waste thanks to the innovative techniques during the industrial revolution. By 1878 the tunnels stretched further to reach 360 miles long
As far back as the 1800s the sewers were on the tourist map thanks to Victor Hugo. Curious people were given tours of the tunnels and today tourists continue to be fascinated about the tunnels beneath Paris,
For less than 5 Euros a tour of the Paris sewer system, will take you on a historical 6 century journey of water treatment in Paris. Start with the history of drinking water , waste water, the evolution of sanitation and finally the evacuation and purification techniques used today.
Be warned though there will be an odour in the air as you walk through the tunnels. After all, this is a working sewage treatment plant. Once you get passed the smell immerse yourself in an impressive 1300 mile network of water and sewage treatment history.