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Half-term and horrifying Halloween highlights in Paris

Half term and Halloween is a great moment to come visit Paris. You might not see a lot of children trick or treating in the streets of the French capital on 31st October at night, but All Saints Day is a celebration day in France as well. During this time, locals usually go to cemeteries and pay homage to the dead. If you are looking at ways to keep your children busy during half term, like carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-Lanterns or dressing up like Disney or Marvel characters, you’ll be able to find those kind of activities online. But why not go for something a little more off-the-beaten-track and still get to learn a lot about Paris’ culture and history? Sure, you can visit iconic places like the world famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, but there are other places that will send shivers down your spine. Have you ever heard of the Catacombs or the “Manoir de Paris”? Or would you dare to discover some of the haunted areas in the capital? Here is a list of some fascinating eerie places you should consider visiting during your half term / Halloween holidays in Paris this year. Catacombs of Paris Imagine an underground maze of endless tunnels with the remains of over 6 million people neatly piled up… the Catacombs of Paris is certainly the most popular off-the-beaten-path attraction in the city. Not only is it the biggest ossuary in the world, but it holds many fascinating curiosities: sculptures from an 18th century quarry worker, impressive consolidation structures, a curious well with crystal clear water… half-term-horrifying-highlights-catacombs But the highlight of the Catacombs is the ossuary. Keep in mind that some of these bones might be those of famous French historical figures who were buried in communal graves during the French Revolution. Book your tickets online to avoid (very) long queues. Address: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris Metro station: Line 4 – Denfert Rochereau Price: skip the line. Tickets bought online: €27. Tickets purchased at the counter: 12£ Opening hours: open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 8.30pm Manoir de Paris The Manoir de Paris (“Paris Mansion”) is Paris’ most frightening attraction. Presented as a haunted house (although historically, this mansion was never haunted), it will surely give you and your children cold sweat! With amazing creepy decors based on the theme of the moment (run down psychiatric hospital, mad santa, prom night etc.) and very frightening actors, this attraction is not for the faint hearted! half-term-horrifying-highlights-manoir-de-paris Buy your tickets online (chose the skip-the-line option to avoid waiting in line for long periods, especially during Halloween). The Manoir de Paris is not recommended for children under the age of 10. It is also strictly forbidden for epileptic people or people with heart failure. Address: 18 Rue de Paradis, 75010 Paris Metro station: Line 4 – Château d’Eau Price: £17 for adults and £14.50 for children Opening hours: open Fridays from 6pm to 9.30pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 3pm to 6.30pm The Vampire and Imaginary Monsters Museum What would Halloween be without vampires and imaginary monsters? One atypical French man decided to create a “museum” out of his passion. Don’t expect an exhibition the size of the Louvre though! The Vampire and Imaginary Monsters museum (Musée des Vampires et Monstres de l’Imaginaires) is more of a gathering of objects and posters that are linked to Dracula and its ilk in an ordinary house. half-term-horrifying-highlights-vampire-museum You’ll have to call and make a reservation to visit the museum, but it’s really worth it if you are interested in the occult and blood thirsty creatures. One thing that is worth mentioning is that the owner of all those objects really knows a lot about the subject! He has even written (or co-written) a few books about legends, symbols and their repercussion on our real world. Address: 14 rue Jules David, Les Lilas Metro station: Line 11 – Porte des Lilas or Mairie des Lilas Price: €8 per person Opening hours: open every day from 10AM to midnight, and the visit lasts approximately 2 hours The History of Medicine Museum If zombies and devilish creatures are just not your thing, but still want to feel the chills going up and down your spine, then why not head out to the History of Medicine Museum (Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine). And when you know that these instruments are real and were used on people, that’s when it can get really disturbing. half-term-horrifying-highlights-history-of-medicine-museum This small museum is located inside a medical School. It showcases many ancient medical instruments and amputation kids from the dawn of medicine to our modern times. There’s one thing you shouldn’t miss if you spend a bit of time in this small museum: the table made partially from human brain, blood, bile, liver and a foot! Address: 12 Rue de l’École de Médecine, 75006 Paris Metro station: Lines 4 & 10 – Odéon Price: € 3,50 Opening hours: closed on Thursdays and Sundays. All other days, it is open from 2pm to 5.30pm The Guillotine One of the most popular French inventions is the guillotine. This machine was invented in the late 18th century and used for carrying out executions by beheading. Sadly, the guillotine is the symbol of the French Revolution when thousands of (innocent) people were executed between 1790 and 1794. But the guillotine was used as the official execution method until 1977. This means that the last person that was guillotined probably had seen the first Star Wars movie! half-term-horrifying-highlights-guillotine-concorde There are no guillotines left to be seen in Paris (only a blade in La Conciergerie, the Revolutionary prison where those people were trialed and sentenced to death). But the places where the public executions were held during the French Revolution can still be seen today: Place de la Concorde, where 1119 people were guillotined, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. Place de la Nation, where 1306 people were executed and then sent to a common grave (Cimetière de Picpus) The 5 visible stones embedded in the street on the intersection of Rue de la Croix Faubin and Rue de la Roquette mark the exact place where a guillotine once stood. Here, it served to execute 200 prisoners of the nearby Prison de la Grande Roquette between 1851 and 1899. Haunted areas of Paris Just like any other big city, there are places where the strangest things happen. And in Paris, even the most famous monuments have their fair share of dark stories… It is said that the metal works on the main doors of Notre Dame Cathedral were in fact forged by the devil himself, or that the Louvre has been the theater of black magic rituals… And what about the famous Phantom of the Opera, who haunted the Opera Garnier during the end of the 19th century? half-term-horrifying-highlights-haunted-house-pigalle There are 2 well known haunted areas in Paris that still tend to frighten people today: French composer Victor Massé died of multiple sclerosis in a house, and so did the following owner. A few years later, a woman was slain with a poker and famous contemporary French singer Sylvie Vartan fled the house abruptly one night, leaving everything behind and never came back! This all happened in the charming looking small neo-gothic house at 1 Impasse Frochot. A charming house from the outside, but looks can be deceiving! La Grange aux Belles area, near the Buttes Chaumont park, was were a massive gibbet once stood until the 17th century. This large structure could “welcome” 45 people at a time, who were left to hang and rot. Today, it is said that if you listen closely at night, you can still hear the cries of those put to death some 300 years ago… Assassinations Back in the old days, diplomacy was not the privileged way to deal with an enemy. Simple elimination of the undesired was more likely to solve the problem. Poison was used in the medieval times (also called “succession powder”), as well as knives and other sharp and life threatening objects. Many assassinations have taken place in Paris, but here are 2 that have had a huge impact on the History of France. half-term-horrifying-highlights-assassination On his way to visit the Duke of Sully on May 16, 1610, King Henri IV was caught in a medieval traffic jam. The coach being at a complete stop, and with guards sent out ahead to see what was creating the halt, it was the perfect time for Ravaillac to approach the king and stab him to death. A sign at 10 Rue de la Ferronnerie indicates the exact spot of his assassination… Political rivalries immerged between 2 families as king Charles VI’s was becoming completely insane. The Duke of Orleans, being the king’s younger brother, has the upper hand for succession, but John the Fearless (Jean Sans Peur),  a cousin, wasn’t planning on letting that happen. He therefore decided to assassinate his rival in the street next to today’s Impasse des Arbalétriers in the Marais district. This lead to a bloody civil war, right in the middle of the Hundred Year War with England! Tragic deaths Many tourists come to Paris and admire the beauty of its monuments and areas. Little do they know that some of these places have a bloody past… The Square du Vert Galant is a small park on the western tip of l’Ile de la Cité, one of the 2 islands in the center of Paris. What we see now are many people enjoying a nice summer picnic, but in March 1314, it was a totally different ambiance. On that night, Jacques de Molay, the last of the Templars, was burned at the stake alive after being accused of heresy by King Philippe IV. half-term-horrifying-highlights-tragic-deaths One of the most beautiful places in le Marais is Place des Vosges. A magnificent square with a quaint little park in its center… But back in 1559, something tragic happened here. On June 30, King Henri II participated in a jousting tournament. Accidentally, he got a fragment of the wooden lance in his eye and died in excruciating pain a few days later in the Hôtel des Tournelles palace. To forget about the tragic accident, King Henri IV had the palace destroyed and built the Place Royale (Royal Square). The name was later changed to Place des Vosges in 1612. Magali Déchelette is CEO at Family Twist. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. I have to say this is the most entertaining read I have ever had on Paris. My brother has lived there for 20 years and I thought I knew all the off the beaten track spots!

  2. @Dave: Thanks a lot for your comment. I am passionate about Paris and always like to find the stuff that no one knows about. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it (and discovering the places).

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