Who would think that one of the most enjoyable offbeat tours in The City of Light would be so... utilitarian? And yet, the vast sewer system of Paris was designed by famous architect and city planner Baron Georges Eugéne Haussmann, he of the famous Boulevard Haussmann and "Haussmann-style" buildings.
Although it had its rudimentary origins in the 14th century, the modern underground system of streets beneath the streets was built during the mid 1800's under the auspices of Napoleon III.
Access to these underground networks is at Pont D'Alma, on the Quai d'Orsée on Monday through Wednesday, and Saturday as long as it isn't raining. For a very small fee, one can descend into dank tunnels that are surprisingly odor-free although they really REALLY are the sewers of Paris.
The network comprises some 1,300 miles of sewer but the tour allows visits into just 500 yards of the vast underground space. That should be enough for almost anyone. A history of the system is offered, along with working models of the "tools of the trade" which include sundry pumping utensils, flusher trolleys and mockups of "les égoutiers" in their hip-waders.
Running along the tops of these stone-walled underground avenues are tubes representing modern life's acoutrements. While millions of gallons of human waste is processed below, telephone cables, compressed air pipes, gas pipes and fibre-optic cable run above.
This is an ideal tour to enjoy with kids over the age of four. The darkness and the descent would most likely frighten children younger than that and four-year-olds might be bored. But anyone who has spent time with a five-year-old will understand the delight they'd derive from the "poopiness" of the experience, especially if you purchase a "sewer-venir" at the shop on the way out.
Sewer Museum Official Site
The Remarkable Sewers of Paris