Hidden beneath the streets of Paris lies the infamous Catacombs, a network of tunnels containing the remains of over 6 million people. As the world’s largest grave, this labyrinth offers a unique underground adventure in the City of Lights. The first time I went to Paris I missed them so this last visit I was determined to cross this off my bucket list. It did not disappoint though it was a little unsettling being so up close and personal with so many human remains.
Getting to the Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs are located at 1 Avenue du Colonel Rol-Tanguy, next to the Denfert-Rochereau metro station. Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended to skip the long lines. Tickets cost €29 and can be booked online via the Paris Musées website.
Unfortunately, strollers are not permitted due to the narrow tunnels. However, the pizza restaurant across the street can watch your stroller for a fee, or you can enjoy lunch there after your visit, the pizza is good too so definitely worth a stop.
Descending Into the Darkness
After lining up and showing your ticket to the catacombs of Paris, you’ll descend 131 spiral steps underground. Temperatures are a constant 14°C/60°F so dress appropriately. The narrow tunnels reinforced with brick archways were formerly old quarries beneath the city.
You’ll quickly realize you’ve entered a different world as the sights and sounds of Paris fade away. The one-way 1.5 kilometer circuit takes around 45 minutes to explore.
After passing through ancient tunnels of the catacombs of Paris, you’ll enter the ossuary section lined wall-to-wall with bones and skulls. It’s astonishing to see the remains of over 6 million Parisians neatly stacked and arranged in patterns. While slightly eerie, seeing the memorialization of past lives is incredibly fascinating.
Along with the endless bones, highlights include quarry worker inscriptions, tomb replicas, and Saint Sebastian’s fountain. Legend says the underground pool grants wishes if you toss a coin in. Photography is permitted without flash to capture the experience. Having a guide provides historical context to make the most of your visit.
To recap, arrive early to avoid long lines, dress warmly, and leave large bags and strollers behind. Be respectful of the remains and this solemn place. The last entry is 7:30pm before closing at 8:30pm. The Catacombs are open Tuesday through Sunday year-round, with exceptions for some national holidays. Visit their website for further information
While offering an uncommon perspective, the Catacombs of Paris provide an adventure into the city’s past buried far below the streets. It’s an underground, slightly unnerving journey you’ll likely never forget.