The Paris Catacombs are a tourist attraction made from the tunnels which stretch under the streets of Paris. The vast majority of the city’s catacombs are off-limits to visitors however, one small 2km section is available to visit. It’s very popular though, so be prepared to wait in line.
The first thing you notice when you enter is just how far down you are. There are 130 steps on the spiral staircase at the entrance which takes you well below the sewers and metro lines.
The whole thing is a bit of a spooky experience though as the tunnels were used a cemetery for human remains for almost one hundred years. One minute you’re walking along empty carved tunnels, looking at some of the things the quarrymen built and the next you’re surrounded by endless stacks of human bones, all lined up in neat patterns. We found it both fascinating and disturbing.
It was 1780 when the largest cemetery in Paris was closed and it was subsequently decided that the human remains from all the city’s graveyards would be moved into the catacombs. The remains of six million people are stored down here and you can’t really prepare yourself for the sight of all those bones, in neatly stacked lines. Carved stone features tell you which church the bones came from.
It’s not all bones though, and once you’ve passed this part, known as the ossuary, there are more tunnels before the climb up a small spiral staircase (83 steps) back to street level.
On the whole we enjoyed our visit to the Paris catacombs. However, we’d have liked to have known more about the social side to them. For instance, have people lived in them as the stories go? When you visit, bear in mind that there is no lift, no toilets, lots of rough ground, cramped spaces and slippery surfaces. Also, only 200 people are allowed in the catacombs at any one time, so sometimes the line to get in is long. We waited about an hour, but there are times when the wait is much longer. You can avoid the wait by booking on the Small Group Paris Catacombs Tour.
The Paris catacombs are open every day except Monday from 10am to 8pm (last admission is 7pm). Adult admission is 10 Euros (2014 prices) with discounts available for young people with ID. An audio guide is also available at an extra cost of 3 Euros, but we didn’t take it.
LOCATION & CONTACT
Address: Paris Catacombs, 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0) 1 43 22 47 63
The Catacombs entrance is right across the street from the Denfert-Rochereau metro stop. It’s located inside a green hut and there’s likely to be a queue of people stretching from it.
MORE ON THE PARIS CATACOMBS
Paris Catacombs Tour – Skip the long wait with this top-rated tour
Paris Catacombs – Official Website
Paris Catacombs – Wikipedia
Hotels near the Paris Catacombs – We recommend Hotels.com
Paris Guide Books – Amazon.co.uk
Paris City Guide – From our sister-site, Free-City-Guides.com