The Sewers,
A Space With History

“Paris has beneath it another Paris; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its crossroads, its squares, its blind-alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is of mire and minus the human form.”

( Victor Hugo, Leviathan's Intestine, book II )

Visiting the sewers of Paris means diving into the intestines of the city and exploring its hidden realms. Intimately linked to the architectural evolution of the streets of the capital, the sewers museum offers a way to discover the history of this network. Pedestrians in the upper world walk on the sewer plates while barely paying any attention to the underground world below them. But does one truly know what is going on down there?

Below is a city under the city, with its daunting streets and circulation channels, as Victor Hugo so intricately described in Léviathan’s The Bowel:  Les Misérables, in which a chapter is devoted to the sewers of Paris. These sewers were an object of fascination to the author in his opus, even before the great subterranean intervention infrastructure and urban architectural works of Haussmann had been achieved.

Under our feet, the sewers today unfold 2600 km of galleries and gutters. Some 300 million qm3 of rainwater and wastewater pass through them every year, hurtling down the pipes of this singular, gravitational and visitable network. Moreover, the waters are directed to power plants where they become treated and cleaned. The sewers also house other networks:  portable drinking water, non-drinking water and even fiberoptics since several years!

Unquestionably modern, the operation of this underground network, designed more than a century ago remains pertinent. It is an outstanding industrial heritage, the result of man’s sanitary engineering genius.  

To grasp and enjoy the history of the sewers of Paris, a museum has been built for that purpose. This Parisian heritage full of history reflects the captivating fascination of the surface world above with the underground city below.

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