The 18 endangered French monuments to be saved by new lottery

French President Emmanuel Macron launched on Thursday a new heritage lottery (loto du patrimoine) to pay for the restoration of France's crumbling monuments. Here are the 18 buildings at top of the list.

The 18 endangered French monuments to be saved by new lottery
Aqueduc romain du Gier Photo: Jmh2o/Wikicommons
The government hopes to rake in up to €20 million with this initiative and will set up a fund for the buildings which are in most need of repair. 
These are the 18 monuments at the top of the list. 
Ancien Hôtel-Dieu, Château-Thierry (Aisne)
This hospice northeast of Paris was built in 1304 and was run by nuns until the 1960s. The government wants to turn the building into a museum of hospital history which will cost an estimated 7.5 million euros. 
Ancien Hôtel-Dieu Photo: Johann “nojhan” Dréo/Wikicommons
Château de Carneville, Carneville (Manche)
This listed 18th century château on the coast on the northwestern tip of France with elaborate facades and elegant French gardens has been privately owned since 2012. 
Château de Carneville Photo: Xfigpower_Wikicommons
Théâtre des Bleus de Bar, Bar-le-Duc (Meuse)
Bringing this early 20th century 'Italian-style theatre' in eastern France back to its former glory will cost up to 1.6 millions euros. For the past three years, locals have been actively involved in getting the restoration project off the ground.
Villa Viardot, Bougival (Yvelines)
The Russian writer Ivan Tourgueniev bought this 19th century villa not far from Paris in 1874. An opera singer lived it it for a while, where she entertained the famous writers and composers of her time. Plans to turn the building along with two other ones close by into a European centre of music are being set up.
Villa Viardot Photo: Renaud Camus/Flickr
Château de Bussy-Rabutin, Bussy-le-Grand (Côte-d’Or)
In the 17th century, this listed Renaissance-style château belonged to a count and critic of Louis XIV, who decorated his home with over 500 portraits mocking the court. The building was bought by the state in the 1920s.
Château de Bussy-Rabutin Photo: peuplier/Flickr
Rotonde ferroviaire de Montabon (Sarthe)
This railway roundhouse, a building which was used to store steam trains, was built in 1891. It is one of the only buildings of its kind to remain in its original state and has been listed since 2010.
Rotonde de Montabon Photo: E24000/Wikicommons
Fort-Cigogne, Fouesnant (Finistère)
The military fort on a small island in Brittany was built in 1755 to fend off fleets from England and Holland but was never completed. Listed since 2013, it is currently used by members of the local sailing club.
Fort-Cigogne. Photo: Matthieu FAURE/Flickr
Eglise Notre-Dame, La Celle-Guénand (Indre-et-Loire)
This Romanesque church has a nave which dates back to the 12th century and is famous for its remarkable facade and central door with two blind arcades. 
Maison de Pierre Loti, Rochefort (Charente-Maritime)
Pierre Loti was a French writer who died in the 1920s. HIs house is full of the treasures he bought back from his travels. 
Maison de Pierre Loti. Photo: AFP
Aqueduc romain du Gier et pont-siphon de Beaunant, Chaponost et Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon (Rhône)
The Roman aqueduct used to carry water along 86 kilometers. Some of it it still well preserved, such as the section with 72 arches close to the town of Lyon. 
Aqueduc romain du Gier Photo: Jmh2o/Wikicommons
Hôtel de Polignac, Condom (Gers)
This listed building on the ramparts of the town of Condom was built just before the French revolution. It now houses a primary school.
Hôtel de Polignac, Condom (Gers). Photo: MOSSOT/Wikicommons
Pont d’Ondres, Thorame-Haute (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence)
This 17th century bridge is 41 metres long. It crosses over the impressive Verdon gorges.
Pont d’Ondres Photo: AFP
Couvent Saint-François, Pino (Haute-Corse)
This former Franciscan monastery was built in 1486 and is now empty. Some restoration work began in 2008.
Couvent Saint-François Photo: Pierre Bona/Wikicommons
Maison d’Aimé Césaire, Fort-de-France (Martinique)
The 1930s house of the famous poet and politician in Martinique Aimé Césaire is now owned by the Césaire institute. It wants to turn the building into a museum. 
Photo: AFP
Habitation Bisdary, Gourbeyre (Guadeloupe)
This colonial-style house on a sugar plantation in Guadeloupe was built by Jesuits in the 18th century. It has been severely damaged by storms and fires over the years.
Maison du receveur des douanes, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni (Guyane)
This house made of wood and brick used to house French officials in French Guiana. It is now listed. 
Maison Rouge, Saint-Louis (La Réunion)
Built in the 18th century on a coffee plantation on the Reunion Island, this building now houses an art museum. 
Maison Rouge Photo: Thierry Caro/Wikicommons
L’usine sucrière de Soulou, M’Tsangamouji (Mayotte)
This former sugar factory in Mayotte still contains many of the original machines from the 19th century. 

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Skulls, beer and a ‘cathedral’: Discover the secrets of underground Paris

You've certainly heard of the Metro, maybe the catacombs and perhaps even the Phantom of the Opera's underground lake - but there are some things lurking beneath Paris that might surprise you.

Skulls, beer and a 'cathedral': Discover the secrets of underground Paris

One of Europe’s most densely populated cities, Paris has over two million people living within its boundaries. As those inhabitants walk along the Champs-Elysées or Rue de Rivoli, they might be entirely unaware of the extensive underground world that exists below their feet. 

These are some of the hidden gems beneath the famous monuments in the City of Light:

Skulls, beer and police

The final resting place for over six million Parisians – the catacombs are the most well-known part of underground Paris, but did you know that the 1,700 metres of catacombs that are open to the public represent less than one percent of the whole of the catacombs in Paris? In fact, the underground network is thought to be around 300 km in size.

The catacombs are also known as the Ossuaire Municipal, and they are located at the site of former limestone quarries. The Ossuaire as we know it was created during the 18th century, because the city’s cemeteries could not withstand its population growth and public health concerns began to be raised. Gradually the remains of millions of Parisians were moved underground.

The bones of Parisians only comprise a small section of Paris’ ‘carrières‘ (or quarries), which can be seen in the above map.

These subterranean passages have fascinated cataphiles for many years – with stories of secret parties, illicit tunnel exploration and much more. During the Covid lockdowns, the catacombs infamously served as a location for clandestine parties. At one point, over 35 people were ticketed for participating in underground raves

The network even has its own police service, the Intervention and Protection Group, known colloquially as the cataflics, who are a specialised police brigade in charge of monitoring the old quarries in Paris.

Though these quarries might be a location to secretly throw back a few pints, they are also connected to beer for another reason, as they are the ideal environment to both store and make beer – with consistently cool temperatures and nearby access to underground water sources.

In 1880, the Dumesnil brewery, located in the 14th arrondissement, invested in the quarries underneath its premises, using them to store the thousands of barrels of beer that it produced each year. Over the years, the brewery simply turned its basement into a real underground factory. 

If you really want to visit the ancient underground quarries specifically, you don’t have to just go to the catacombs. You can also do so by visiting the “Carrières des Capucins.” Found just below the Cochin hospital, located in the 14th arrondissement, access to these tunnels is allowed to the public (with reservation) in small groups.

As for entering the rest of the old quarry system, that has been illegal to enter the old quarries since 1955, which has not stopped several curious visitors and explorers from trying to discover what secrets might be underground. 

Sewer Museum

Recently renovated, this museum might not be at the top of a tourist’s list in the same way the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay might, but the museum of sewers actually has a lot of fascinating history to share. It took almost a century to build Paris’ sewage system, and it is largely to thank for the city’s growth, protecting the public health of inhabitants by helping prevent disease outbreaks. 

Visiting the sewers is not a new activity either – according to the museum’s website, “as early as 1867, the year of the World’s Fair, visits were met with immense public success, the reason being that this underground space had always been hidden from the curious eyes of all those who dwell on the surface of Paris.”

Ghost stations

A total of 16 Metro stations go unused underground in Paris – some were built and never put into use, others were decommissioned after World War II.

The most famous is Porte des Lilas – a working Metro station that has an unused ‘ghost’ section which these days is used for filming scenes in movies and TV.

If you’ve ever watched a scene set in the Metro, chances are it was filmed at Porte des Lilas, which has a section of track that Metro cars can move along if needed for action sequences. 

The extra section was taken out of commission in 1939 due to under-use, and in the 1950s it served as a place to test new metro cars.

Beware if you find yourself in Haxo station – it does not have its own entrance or exit and is only accessible by following the Metro tunnels. It is one of the six that never opened, similar to Porte Molitor, Orly-Sud, La Défense-Michelet, or Élysée-La Défense.

Other stations were closed for being too close to other stations, such as the Saint-Martin station, which was closed after World War II as it was too close to Strasbourg-Saint Denis. 

These phantom stations are usually off-limits to the public, but sometimes access is allowed for special guided tours or events.

Reminders of World War II 

Paris’ underground played an important role during the Second World War.

First, there is the French resistance command bunker, which is now part of the Musée de la Libération at Place Denfert Rochereau.

It was from here that Resistance leaders co-ordinated the battle for the liberation of Paris in 1944.

There is also the anti-bombardment bunker near Gare de l’Est. Normally this is closed during the year, but it is opened on Heritage Day in September. (Journées de patrimoine). 

The bunker was originally commissioned in 1939 to keep trains running, even in the event of a gas attack, and it was completed by the Germans in November 1941. It is located between Metro tracks 3 and 4. The bunker itself – which can fit up to 50 people – has basically been frozen in time, featuring a control room and telephone. 

Another river

You’ve heard of the Seine, but what about the underground river that flows through the city of Paris? Prior to the 20th century, the Bièvre river flowed through the city as well, running through Paris’ 13th and 5th arrondisements. Once upon a time, tanners and dyers set up shop next to the Bievre, shown in the image below. 

The river eventually became quite polluted and concerns arose that it might be a health hazard, so in 1875, as part of his transformation of the city, Georges-Eugène Haussmann decided that the Bièvre had to go. It was mostly covered up, and now what remains of the river flows beneath the city, with some parts of it joining Paris’ sewage system.

The Phantom’s lake

If you are a fan of Phantom of the Opera, you would know that the Phantom’s lair is below the Palais Garnier (the Opera house), and that Christine and the Phantom must cross a subterranean lake to get there.

This body of water is not a figment the imagination of Gaston Leroux – though not an actual lake, a large water tank can be found below the grounds. It is even used to train firefighters to swim in the dark.

The Phantom’s not real, though (probably).


The Montsouris reservoir is one of Paris’ primary drinking water sources, along with L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Saint-Cloud, Ménilmontant and Les Lilas.

But while it’s undoubtedly very useful, it’s most famous for its looks.

The structure resembles a kind of underground water cathedral and is home to over 1,800 pillars, which support its numerous vaults and arches. It’s closed to the public, but its rare beauty means that it’s often photographed by urban explorers.

Mushroom farms

And last but not least – the ‘mushroom houses.’ Les champignons de Paris have been grown below the capital’s soil for centuries.

READ MORE: Inside Paris’ underground mushroom farms

“Paris mushrooms” have been grown since the 17th century. The rosé des près (meadow pink) mushrooms were a favourite of Louis XIV and were originally grown overground – their colour comes from the limestone that Paris is build on.

By the 19th century they went underground, which provided more space and allowed the fungi to be cultivated year-round, but eventually the construction of the Paris Metro pushed many growers out of the capital.

Today, there are just five traditional producers in operation – Shoua-moua Vang runs the largest underground mushroom cave in the Paris region, spread across one and a half hectares of tunnels in a hill overlooking the Seine river.