Tourist Guide Paris

Parisian Sewers


When one thinks of the sewage system of Paris an image of underground passages will probably spring to mind, in which the legendary Belphégor would carry out his mischief and then retreat back to the lowest levels. The sewage system – documented since 1850 and created by G.E. Baron Haussmann however, has nothing to do with this mysticism. Over a total length of 2,100 Kilometres – something which was unthinkable at the time, Haussmann was the first to achieve the creation of a double water supply network in which sewage water was taken away from households, whilst at the same time transporting fresh water into households.

The Network

Several reservoirs of varying size lay directly under the city, positioned at significant locations so as to enable constant regulation of the water level. Consequently, throughout the years, the most important buildings in Paris have still not experienced flooding due to torrential rainfall. Additionally, the reservoirs ensure that the population has more than enough water available to it. There was only one notable problem with flooding, this being at the city’s cemeteries which were as result, re-located to the so-called ‘catacombs’. Thus far this hygiene problem could not yet completely be eliminated.

The other side

Paris however has another side to offer in particular for the younger generation in that there truly is an accessible underworld; lovingly named "Les Égouts de Paris” by the local population. In the area accessible to visitors, episodes about the mythical demon Belphégor were filmed – who during the night would haunt the Louvre and who during the day would take rest in these alley ways. Unfortunately during filming it was not particularly quiet - the echo down there being a major factor. Incidentally, the Americans took these episodes as an opportunity to 25 years later create and shoot the story of ‘The Beauty and the Beast’.

The Exhibition

A city beneath the city has almost emerged underground, as one part of the sewage system – it being hygienic and clean incidentally, has been used to display a small exhibition for visitors about the history of the sewers. Unfortunately however, one can not simply lift a man-hole cover at one end of Paris and disappear beneath; rather for this exhibition there is only one entrance- at the Pont de l’Alma. Both the entrance and exit can be found here. This journey into the Parisian underworld is both a once in a life time and highly interesting experience however, is not totally without cost. Incidentally some years ago, in a different part of the sewers a fully grown crocodile was found whose origin was unfortunately never discovered!