Europe

Visiting Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides in Paris

Whether you’ve realized it or not, if you’ve been to Paris you’ve probably seen the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, at least from a distance. Napoleon is buried inside the Dôme Des Invalides at Les Invalides (officially the Hôtel National des Invalides). The bright, gold dome of the chapel reaches high into the sky and stands out on the Paris landscape like a glittering beacon.

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

An entrance ticket to Les Invalides allows visitors passage into the Dôme Des Invalides, as well as the Musée de l’Armée, the national military museum of France. (Definitely worth a visit, especially since it’s included in your ticket price to see Napoleon’s tomb!) Children are allowed into Les Invalides for free, but adults will need to buy a ticket for €9.50.

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Napoleon’s tomb At Les Invalides is made up of two levels, the upper of which is where the entrance and exit is located. The upper floor is characterized by exquisite murals, gold detailing, and intricately-carved sculptures covering every inch of available space. These details, combined with the floor to ceiling altar, make for a very dazzling, over-the-top display. It appears that even in death, Napoleon is still compensating for his small stature.

The tomb shares a space with the chapel inside Les Invalides, and from behind the altar a small glimpse is provided into it. It’s included in your ticket price, so if you’ve got time, you should check it out. Also from this level, visitors can peer down below to where Napoleon’s sarcophagus is displayed in the center of a large circle. To get a closer look, you’ll need to take the stairs down to the bottom level, so that’s where we’re headed next!

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

After descending the stairs, you’ll come to the entrance of the crypt guarded by two giant statues with pretty massive feet. (I got some weird looks while I was taking that photo!) The door itself is made of cannons from Austerlitz, the site of one of Napoleon’s greatest victories.

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Underneath the center of the dome, amid a colorful mosaic and resting atop a granite pedestal, sits Napoleon’s tomb. His body is laid to rest inside a nest of six coffins of iron, mahogany, lead, ebony, and oak.

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

Surrounding the sarcophagus are twelve figures mounted on pillars representing Napoleon’s military victories, and on the walls lining the circular path around the tomb are reliefs depicting different eras in Napoleon’s reign. This is probably where purchasing a multimedia guide would have come in handy. My knowledge of Napoleon’s life is limited to the small amount I learned in World History class in high school, so it would have been nice to know what exactly was going on in these scenes. (The guides come in eight languages and provide information for all the areas inside Les Invalides, not just the tomb. There’s also a special guide for kids.)

Tickets to Les Invalides are available for purchase online, but long lines don’t seem to be an issue at this museum like they are elsewhere in Paris. We made it in with only a ten minute wait. While the main attraction inside the Dôme Des Invalides is certainly Napoleon’s tomb itself, there’s more to admire here than just that. It truly is a burial fit for a king, or I suppose in Napoleon’s case, an emperor!

Les Invalides: Website
Address: 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris

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Visiting Napoleon's Tomb At Les Invalides In Paris

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    bobbobitybob
    October 20, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    Yeah but, isn’t the actual box, the sarcophagus, the most tasteless thing you’ve ever seen? I was just thinking about when I visited the tomb as a boy of 11, looking at that smooth shiny bakelite box with its infantile geometry, the doughnut dongles hanging off the side, and the 50’s-hairdo lid with lines that make it seem like it was made for something else but happened to cover the top just about perfectly.

    It was in the instant of gazing upon the sarcophagus that I learned what bad taste was.

    I think it reflects the fraught, repressed, ambivalent atmosphere that the return of Napoleon’s remains took place in. If it had been a more open and public event there would have been a discussion. People would have said “OMG! You can’t bury him in a bakelite planter drawn using a ruler!”

    But the situation was precarious. Napoleon III had just attempted a coup, feelings ran both ways about Napoleon, the government could collapse over the ‘retour des cendres’. So it was a mixture of repression and mythic grandiosity that ended up pooping out that ugly little box. It reflects the queasy, over-wrought quasi-religiosity of the cult of Napoleon bottled up in a repressed military id.

    Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe everyone else goes “Ooh, isn’t that nice.” But … honestly, isn’t it the most tasteless famous artifact in the world?

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      October 22, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      Wow – what a comment! If you had told me this in person, I’d be clapping right now! I personally don’t feel super passionate either way about Napoleon’s tomb/sarcophagus, but I’m impressed that even at the young age of 11, it was able to evoke such strong feelings in you.

      You’re clearly a writer – do you have your own blog? I’d love to read more from you!

      • Reply
        Mee Tu
        March 17, 2016 at 5:34 PM

        I found the inscriptions surrounding the statues to be amusing, depicting all his great achievements in law, public works and so forth, but they also somehow had a familiar ring to them. I could swear some of them read Kiwanis, Elks, Rotary…

  • Reply
    Robert Wareham
    December 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    Have you ever considered becoming a professional photographer, Sarah?… I think you should. You’d be a very good one! :)

  • Reply
    Claire
    December 10, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    I’m wracking my brains to try to remember whether or not I’ve been there – I was sure I had, but those photos don’t look familiar… confused! Guess if not that’s a good enough reason for a trip to Paris on the agenda!

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    December 10, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Definitely fit for a king! Wow, so ornate!

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    December 10, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Do you jot down notes after going through all these places? I don’t think I would ever remember all the details and information like you do

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 10, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      I research places before we go, and I normally do write a lot of things down in a notebook when we get back to our hotel at the end of the day, but I also save the free pamphlets most attractions hand out. Between the three, it’s a pretty good collection of information for when I finally get around to writing about them!

      • Reply
        Emmymom
        December 10, 2013 at 9:02 PM

        That is awesome! You really do such a great job

  • Reply
    Jo
    December 10, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Wow we’ve never gone to have a look at it, will have to go next time. PS. you’ll have to come visit us to see where the battle of Waterloo took place

  • Reply
    Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    December 10, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    wow this place looks incredible. Dome ceilings are my weakness, especially the lovely painted ones. Something to add to the list for next time for sure, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 10, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      I love painted ceilings, too! I can’t wait for the day I finally get to see inside the Sistine Chapel!

      • Reply
        Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
        December 11, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        You know, after having the time to see all the beautiful painted ceilings everywhere, the sistine chapel wasn’t as awe inspiring as I had hyped it up to be! It was pretty, don’t get me wrong, but I have loved some of the other churches painted ceilings more. And the famous bit is the same size as all the rest so I was kind of like, oh, if you didn’t know anything about it you wouldn’t even think anything of it.

  • Reply
    Anna
    December 9, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    I love the detail photos. SO beautiful! And yay! Now I have another thing I have to do when I go back!!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    December 9, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Yet again, gorgeous pictures of a beautiful building!

  • Reply
    Diana Hoyos
    December 9, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Very nice pics as always Sarah. Hope u can come one day to Africa and take more beautiful pictures :)

  • Reply
    Katrin
    December 9, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    I want to go there too! We are thinking about traveling to Paris soon! Thanks for sharing your great pictures!

  • Reply
    Charlotte MacDonald-Gaunt
    December 9, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    It was many years ago since I was there, but your photos bring it back to me how impressive I thought it was, definitely well worth a visit! Xx

  • Reply
    Mandy Southgate
    December 9, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Absolutely exquisite photos yet again Sarah! You’ve really inspired me to visit Paris with your posts and I think I’d especially like to visit here to see the inside of that dome and those reliefs for myself. And this has to be my favourite line in a blog post ever: It appears that even in death, Napoleon is still compensating for his small stature

  • Reply
    Sara Louise
    December 9, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Absolutely fantastic photos Sarah!

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    December 9, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Amazing!

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