Ever visit the Crypte Archéologique? Almost every visitor to Paris eventually comes to Notre Dame Cathedral, but few venture below the Parvis to see what lies below.
But the Ile de la Cité was a very different place than what you see there today. Peel back the layers of the island like an onion to discover what it looked like before Haussmann’s late-19th-century transformations, before the great 18th-century fire that gutted the ancient Hôtel Dieu, before the 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral was built, all the way back to the Gallo-Roman era 2000 years ago when Paris was called Lutetia.
That large building running along the Seine to the Petit Pont was the original Hôpital Hôtel Dieu before it burned down. Today it’s 19th-century incarnation sits on the north end of the cathedral’s square.
Other important archeological sites around Paris are described as well. One of the largest Gallo-Roman necropolises was found near the 17th-century Gobelins Tapestry Manufacture.
The Crypte Archéologique is located at the west end of the Parvis de Notre Dame. It’s open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Entrance is €4; audio guides cost €3.
If you’d like to learn more about the lives of the Gauls of Lutetia known as the Parisii, there’s also a current exhibition about them, Gaulois, at the Cité des Sciences, Parc de la Villette, through September 2012.