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Why Does Paris Smell Like Pee


I’m constantly intrigued at the random things people Google and subsequently reach my site. Seriously, there are some weird people out there and some even weirder questions. I’m not entirely sure the average internet user knows that Google passes on the information on what you have searched to the website owner (via Google Analytics). The internet is essentially a pretty anonymous place and Google appears as a safe place to ask all sorts of wacky questions you can’t ask your friends.

Sometimes I wish I could talk to these strangers stumbling around the internet who somehow, through a random search term, arrive at this site. So, I’ve decided the best way to communicate with the random readers who arrive here via Google is simply to answer their questions directly.

The burning question on everyone’s mind seems to be…


Why does Paris smell like pee?


Really? Apparently this is the question my dear readers would like to know the answer to.

Paris does, in fact, smell like pee. Every alleyway. Every Metro station walkway. You’re about to sneak a kiss in a quiet corner of a Parisian street but, uh oh, there’s that smell. Again and again. Wherever you go on Paris’s streets the smell of pee will follow you.

The origins of pee… animal, human? I’m not sure. Human… I think. The poo all over the sidewalk is definitely of animal origin. The French are fond of their little dogs, non? I guess if they’re pooping all over the show they’re probably peeing just as much (if not more) on lampposts and pretty Parisian trees.

Is there a lack of public toilets in Paris? Well, actually yes. You’ve probably heard the advice dished out to many a tourist… if you the urge to purge your bladder strikes while taking in the sights in Europe, find a McDonalds and use their facilities. Public toilets aren’t as ubiquitous on the streets of Europe as they are in the US, Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain. Does that mean local (men) just go whenever, wherever they need to?

Many Metro stations are open all hours so it’s a favourite spot for homeless people to spend cold nights. They’re not going to go outside and seek out a public toilet in the middle of the night now, are they?


Little dogs + lack of public toilets +homeless folk sleeping in the Metro station = aroma d’urine


Just deal with it. Pull your scarf over your nose and power through any particularly pongy Metro stations or alleys. Paris is a city to be enjoyed whatever the cost.



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Showing 29 comments
  • wandering educators

    hilarious. LOVE IT!

    • Bethaney Davies

      Thanks Jessie. The readers asked the question… give the people what they want!

    • Dave

      Isnt it true that people in paris charge to use toilets? And frankly no, any city that stinks of urine and has dog crap everywhere is frankly a dive. I wont go there.

  • Barbara

    I don’t actually remember a pee-smell when I was in Paris!

    • Bethaney Davies

      I don’t really care that it smells like pee… it’s still the most beautiful city on the planet!

  • Talon

    I’ve never seen poo on the sidewalk, and I disagree that it spells like pee everywhere. I read this stuff and wonder which Paris people have gone to that I keep missing. I’ll happily keep missing that part, but it’s a head scratcher. (And to me most big cities have areas that suffer from that aroma, especially metro stations.)

    • Bethaney Davies

      Maybe because you were there in the Winter it didn’t smell as strong? I constantly get search traffic on the term so I know I’m not the only one who thinks Paris smells like wizz. The only other city I’ve smelt urine in the Metro stations was in Rome. I didn’t detect it in Munich, Vienna, London or NYC.

    • Edna

      Man, you totally lucked out. Every single day I’m dodging piles, and in 15 months in Paris I’ve stepped in my fair share of crap. What Paris did you go to? Because I want to be there.

  • Jenna

    I’ll have to check this out when I finally get there again…but it is true that the strangest search results can bring people to a site 🙂

  • Charli l Wanderlusters

    Hummm, how bizarre! I’ve never been to Paris so I really couldn’t comment, Although I shall be on high alert for a whiff when I finally get there! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply

    Bahahahaha one thing I definitely noticed the first time I was there…and the second…and the third. In all fairness, some part of my homebase of Seville smell that way, too!

  • Kate

    I remember reading something in David Lebovitz’s sweet life in Paris book about the history of this. I can’t remember the details but it is a tradition for Parisian men to pee on the street.

  • lola

    hahaha i love it! i’ve been to Paris several times and i concur it does smell like pee but no one has ever asked me why. maybe they think i’m an offender too! 😉

  • Nicole @ Suitcase Stories

    Yes I remember that smell but it didn’t brake the spell I was in. There was LOADS of doggie do-do everywhere but again, I was too entranced by the beauty to even notice.

  • Edna

    Surprisingly enough there are a fair number of public toilets — I think people are just scared to use them! I’m a huge fan of them though, I think they just need better instructions on the outside. Not that it’d stop the dogs and homeless folks and disgusting men. Sigh.

  • Micki

    It\s not just Paris, sadly. I’ve been dodging doggy surprises on the sidewalks in Spain as well.

  • Reply

    I never noticed that on my last trip to Paris. I’ll just have to go back!

  • D

    I heard the same thing about New Orleans from a friend who grew up there.

  • Rich

    The last time I was in Rome it was everywhere piss & feces especially the train station. Yes it was summer and it did really stink. Ditto Paris and Holland. Aren’t those people toilet trained?

  • Fernando Marchet

    I definitely have to say you are totally right. Paris smell pee wherever you go. I’m spending this month here and in my first days I thought could be an specific place but now I’m totally convinced that this is a result of a huge lack of education of FRENCH people. It isn’t animal pee. It’s human french pee.
    If you’d like I can send photos that I took a block from my apartment here. I’m living here in an amazing apartment with a view of Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, exactly behind of Saint Paul church in Le Marais, one block from Rue Rivoli. But to go home I have to walk through an fantastic alleyway – Rue du Prevot – that could be a dot to be visited of Paris. However is impossible walk there without seeing people peeing during the day and they don’t mind with the others. And I have to say they are not homeless!! The alleyway smells pee always and I don’t understand how nobody controls the behaviour of this stupid people. Three hours ago I was coming home with my wife and one guy, around the 45 entered in the alleyway with us and after some meters stoped and started peeing without any cerimony. I obviously complained and called him some good names that could represent that behaviour. And the guy, as had happened in other similar cases, replied in a good french…
    Probably if some one come to Paris and spend only some days walking on Champs Elysées won’t realize this situation, but it exist and it a pity. And the problem isn’t the pets or only the homeless, unfortunately.

  • Erwan

    It smell like human pee, particularly at the alleyway, Underground Metro and outside the Metro station. I could not spot any poo along the sidewalk maybe because i did not spend much time at the park and garden. Its freezing cold during my trip. There are free toilet at Galery La fayete (between the men & ladies department) for you to ease yourself, but if you don’t mind spending 1.5 Euro in the Carousal shopping mall Toilet(underneath Louvre Musee) then that is the decent toilet you use.
    I was surprise with this as i was expecting clean and well behave citizens. I love Paris city for its architecture minus the stink smell but Love London for its diversity & beauty.

  • I went to Paris

    Quite a few Paris metro stations smell like pee, but the streets not so much. Then again, I only went to the “touristy” areas so I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t too fond of taking the metro when I was there, so I’m thinking the next time I go I’ll probably rent a car instead.

  • Sallie

    The worst case scenario for me was going in the toilets at Blackpool Tower .England an adult by the looks of things[SIZE] had smeared feces all over the toilets cubicles, window ledge and doors.
    The same week my twin sister and I witnessed a young man , hand on penis urinating the other hand holding a bottle of beer , this was during a busy Saturday morning market place.My sister said’ Welcome back to England Sallie’.

  • noelmorata

    Who wants to spend a euro…if you can just pee on a landmark or in the metro 🙂

  • Sam D

    OH MY GOSH! I nearly fell off my chair (laughing) when i read the name of this post!!!
    I cant say that i noticed Paris smelling like PEE, although iI was only there for about 12 hours on a tour and didnt get a chance to wander around much.
    Ill block my nose next time i go! haha

  • BatDog

    Pee – absolutely a problem in the part of paris I live in. Here’s a theory to be tested: is it more prevalent in pedestrianised areas with cobbles? More bars so more full bladders. And harder to flush away when the street cleaner trucks come through spraying the cobbles. The area around Les Halles and Hotel de Ville is bad. The quai on the left bank also stinks in parts.
    Public toilets – there are lots in Paris. Self cleaning, free, may even be marked on good le maps etc. Definitely on an app.
    Dog poo – there is lots of dog poo. It used to be legal to let your dog poop in the gutter and some continue. Be aware when jaywalking. But I walk my dog all the time and only once have I had to suggest to another dog walker that I had a bag for them if they needed it. It is a mystery. Are there gangs of big dogs roaming the streets at 4am. Most of the poop is big dog poop.
    Other poop – there is a surprising amount of human poop too. It tends to be darker and a different shape. Sometimes with a piece of paper. Unfortunately my dog likes to eat human poop (high in nutrients) so it gets highlighted to me in our walks.
    Comparison – I’ve lived in London and found Soho, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch very high in men peeing on walls (and my front door). I’ve even seen guys peeing against a wall right next to a portable urinal. I’ve lived in NY and had similar peeing on my front door problems, but the streets are wide and the doormen often hose down the sidewalks. There is also human poo around east village and Washington square park areas. Now I live in Paris and there are more spots where the pee smell is high. So I’m guessing it is something structural about cleaning.

  • Helene G

    I used to ride the Washington, D.C. Metro every day, and it is immaculate and clean smelling. Ditto the London Tube. Can’t say the same for the NYC subway, however.

  • Divaa

    I just had a friend who that visit Europe just last week and she said that Paris was AWFUL, and it SMELLS like Pee and Poo..very dirty too. Now I having second thoughts about going.

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