History of the Museum
of Sewers of Paris

Long before the museum was created, organized sewer visits were offered. As early as 1867, the year of the World’s Fair, visits were met with immense public success, the reason being that this underground space had always been hidden from the curious eyes of all those who dwell on the surface of Paris. They built the source of imagination of the inhabitants and artists of the city alike. For the latter, the sewerage infrastructure are not simply a network of dark galleries, which carry the society’s waste, they are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and fantasy. Like a mystic space, a labyrinth, where fictional characters and other imaginary animals can be found. No wonder so many people wanted to go down whenever it was made possible.

In 1867, the “walk” in the sewers of Paris was guided by the “sewers” and was done by boat or “wagonette”. It was a popular outing, attracting a diverse audience, from royalty, to people from all over the world in search of a thrill, or last but not least, young engineers on a study mission. Here, everyone could discover the modernity of the capital and its underground world.

‘’ History passes through the sewer. (...) The social observer should enter these shadows.’’

( Victor Hugo The Intestine of Leviathan )

Becoming one of the most popular, the visits would take place two Wednesdays per month, between Easter and October. They would last almost an hour from Châtelet to Madeleine crossing through city from the Concorde via Sevastopol, Rivoli collectors and the Asnières collectors. During the first part of the journey, the women took their seats on a boat, as men followed on foot, joining them later in a wagon with comfortable seats, pushed by four sewermen in white outfits.

« … requests for visits to the sewers soon took on such considerable proportions that I had to arrange for real trains in the collectors. The wagons used for the regular cleaning of sewers were unprepared to receive visitors. I then had to build nine small special elegant “wagonnets”, which were equipped with sufficient benches to be able to transport ten people each. »

The Underground Works of Paris, volume 5
Eugene Belgrand

The route of the tour was changed after the construction of the first metro line. Two sections are offered via collectors from the Centre or Petits-Champs and Sevastopol: Quay of the Louvre-Châtelet was travelled by boat and Châtelet to Arts and Métiers by wagon.

Traction became now electric. The journey took place in both directions and the transfer was done at the Châtelet. Each convoy carries a hundred visitors, who could admire the spacious galleries, which were illuminated and almost odorless.

An entrance ticket must be presented to acquire access, which can be obtained from the administrative directorate of works or the technical service of sewers and sewage. 

The educational aspect of the visit was developed, thanks to numerous panels showing the desalination basin or the diversion of the collector, the waters of the valve and the pneumatic clocks. 

The proximity of the metropolitan railway was indicated at the intersection of Rue de Rivoli and Boulevard de Sevastopol, which passes below the intersection of the two sewers.

After the second world war, the entrance to the tour was located at Place de la Concorde. The visit led to the Madeleine after a quick journey through the collector of Rue Royale. The tours are now organized on Thursdays, twice a month in May and June, every week between July 1st and October 15th, as well as the last Saturday of each Month. Visitors were allowed access depending on availability, with no reservation required, with a right of entry levied upon descent.

The wagon ride under Paris disappeared. From 1975 on, a museum is opened to tell the story of the sewers and its various instruments and machines. It is installed in the Alma factory, initially a siphon, in the heart of an operating site. Visitors could walk 500 meters under the line of the sewers. First redeveloped in 1989, the museum welcomes about 100,000 visitors a year.

In the summer of 2018, the Public Sewer Tour closed its doors for a complete renovation of its visit.

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