|Image via Wiki Commons|
While in Paris, we knew that going to the catacombs with our 8-year-old daughter would be out of the question. Now, she has fully embraced the fate of Marie Antoinette as well as some of the wives of King Henry VIII. But, we felt that the catacombs would be a little too much. However, we did find that the Panthéon in Paris gave us a bit of the catacomb experience without elements that would frighten la petite fille.
The Panthéon is located in the Latin Quarter and is not too far from le Jardin du Luxembourg. So, you can easily add it to your Paris itinerary. Plus, it is on the Museum Pass. The structure is quite impressive both outside and in. From the front stairs, you can also see a nice view of the Eiffel Tower--away from huge crowds! What isn't to love?
The Panthéon was built at the former location of the church of the Abbey of Sainte Genvieve, the patron saint of Paris. Once inside, we were impressed by how light and airy the entire structure is. In Paris, we grew quite accustomed to being shoulder to shoulder in crowds. The Pantheon provided us quite a contrast to this and we found space to really enjoy our visit.
Now, how is the Pantheon similar to the catacomb experience? Well, the Pantheon serves as a crypt to many of France's illuminaries including Voltaire, Rousseau, Curie, Dumas, Zola, Hugo, Braille and more. When we descended down into the crypt, we immediately noticed a solemn atmosphere. While exploring and paying respect to such remarkable people, we found ourselves almost in a maze through the crypt. The quiet and dim lighting at times did give me a little chill without the aspects of the catacombs that would have frightened ma petite.
We did not have the Pantheon on our original must-see list for Paris. However, I am glad that we visited. The inside is spectacular, especially on a sunny day and the crypt is unlike any other experience that I have known.
If you visit with your children, note that they will need to be quiet. However, the Jardin du Luxembourg is a short walk away, so you can reward them by heading there next to enjoy a carousel ride or some of the other fun. Below is a picture from the steps of the Panthéon. The trees show where the Jarden du Luxembourg is. Close!
Also, note that right next to the Panthéon is the 16th century L'Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. I highly recommend peeking into this church as well. The rood screen is unbelievably intricate as is the wooden pulpit. The stained glass is also impressive.
The peacefulness and graceful beauty of the Panthéon made the monument one of our favorite sites in Paris. I am glad that we opted to add it to our visit!