Skip to main content

Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Jason is a full time traveler, sharing his experiences with the world and showing what it has to offer.

An 1806 Original Painting of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He Did Not Approve of it and it was Found In A Warehouse Years Later.

An 1806 Original Painting of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He Did Not Approve of it and it was Found In A Warehouse Years Later.

My Experience Visiting Napoleon's Tomb

The Tomb of Napoleon has always been high on my list of places to visit, as I have spent many years studying his conquests through Europe and the impact he left on this world. While Americans were celebrating Independence Day, I spent the day touring the Musée de I'Armée, France's national military museum, in Les Invalides.

Les Invalides is a complex that consists of the aforementioned museum, as well as the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, the national cathedral of the French military and the Dôme des Invalides. The Tomb of Napoleon is in the latter, on the north side of the field.

Arriving

It's not hard to find where it's located within Paris, and the drive ended up being very easy for me. It's located in the heart of the city in the 7th arrondissement, actually quite close to the Eiffel Tower.

When you arrive, there are two places you can enter. The north entrance faces the Tomb of Napoleon itself, while the south entrance features a long path that leads to the courtyard containing all the military museums on site. I began my journey on the north side. This article will detail the Tomb of Napoleon itself, and I will detail the rest of the museums at Les Invalides later on.

The domed Church of Les Invalides houses Napoleon's tomb and was heavily inspired by the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The domed Church of Les Invalides houses Napoleon's tomb and was heavily inspired by the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Tickets

Getting tickets is very simple and not terribly expensive. A one-day ticket to all the museums costs €14, and you can go in as many times as you want until closing—this includes reentering the tomb itself. Check to see if you can see about getting a discount by having a student ID or if you go with enough people to get the group rate.

Look for tickets on the museum's website.

Getting the full experience of Les Invalides, the other museums, and what they have to offer could probably take days. If you like museums and history, make sure you set aside a good amount of time to really make the experience worth it.

The Yard

You go through security at either gate and then proceed into the yard, which on the tomb side has a garden to the left and the tomb on the right. The entrance is a site to behold and features a large staircase that you can take a dramatic and movie-star-like walk onto.

Inside

The first two parts you will notice once you walk inside the church are the grand interior which houses Napoleon's sarcophagus below level, and the cupola overlooking the interior. I could have spent hours studying the details that are captured in the works of art.

The cupola once you pass the entrance, which is directly over Napoleon's sarcophagus.

The cupola once you pass the entrance, which is directly over Napoleon's sarcophagus.

My pictures cannot do the entire site justice since it is such an open place to walk through. Various wings branch off of the center and contain tombs of various other military figures in French history and even two of Napoleon's brothers.

The sarcophagus of Joseph Bonaparte.

The sarcophagus of Joseph Bonaparte.

When you walk past the front entrance, to both sides of you will be Napoleon's brothers, Joseph Bonaparte and Jerome Bonaparte. Joseph is to your right, you can see his sarcophagus in the picture above, and Jerome is to the left. Interestingly, Jerome's sarcophagus is out in the open, out where anyone can touch it.

Scroll to Continue

Read More from WanderWisdom

Additionally, others are also entombed in various sections, including Lyautey, Foch, Vauban's heart, and Turenne. These are all important figures in French military history.

Jerome Bonaparte's sarcophagus

Jerome Bonaparte's sarcophagus

As I mentioned, you can walk up to Jerome's sarcophagus and touch it. When visiting, I was not sure if this was temporary or permanent.

The Emperor himself

The Emperor himself

Napoleon's Tomb

Directly ahead of the front entrance is Napoleon's sarcophagus itself, which is one level down. The picture above is viewed from the entrance level. As you can see, various angels are watching over the sarcophagus. The 12 life-sized figures have been considered to be both in commemoration of his military achievements and acting as guardians of the grave.

The stairs to go down are towards the back of the tomb, which leads to both the emperor himself and his son. Once at the lower level, you can walk around the entire sarcophagus. Another important detail I'd like to note is to notice how surrounding the sarcophagus are the names of Napoleon's greatest battles.

Final Resting Place of Napoleon II

Final Resting Place of Napoleon II

Other Tombs

Across from Napoleon is the tomb of Napoleon II, his son. This has been his permanent resting place since 1969. Before, he originally was buried in Austria, but under orders of Adolf Hitler after the fall of France, most of his remains were transferred to Paris in December of 1940 as an attempted gesture to the French people.

The Main Altar overlooking Napoleon's sarcophagus

The Main Altar overlooking Napoleon's sarcophagus

The picture above is of the far side of the tomb, which leads to Saint Louis Cathedral on the other side. The cathedral itself is blocked off from the tomb entrance, so you would have to go around to the courtyard where all the museums are to enter it. It is an impressive site to see as well. I recommend taking the time.

Saint Louis Cathedral, on the opposite side of the tomb.

Saint Louis Cathedral, on the opposite side of the tomb.

Saint Louis Cathedral is a site to behold. It is intended to be in honor of the French armies. What you see in the photo above is what most of the cathedral is. At the time I went, no one else was there, so I was able to get a clear picture of it and spend a few minutes taking in the gaudy scenery and details.

My Thoughts

For me, this was a dream come true and one of the best places I have ever witnessed. To read about Napoleon Bonaparte for years and to finally see his legacy in person is an unforgettable experience.

Even if history is not for you, this is still a place I would recommend for anyone to see. It's conveniently located within the city of Paris, plus entry costs are not too high. Words and photos can not do justice to what it is like to see this sight in person for me. I would highly recommend making this one of your top priorities if you are visiting Paris.

In a future article, I will cover the rest of Les Invalides and what each museum has to offer. I hope you enjoyed reading through this and hope you have the opportunity to visit this magnificent piece of French history.

© 2022 Jason

Related Articles