Shivering six feet underground in the catacombs of Paris

Get ready to plunge into the most frightening underground passages in Paris! The world's largest ossuary in the city of love is quite unexpected. And yet, from the end of the 18th century onwards, the bones of several million Parisians were transferred to the capital's underground passages in order to remedy the city's unsanitary conditions. A veritable labyrinth in the heart of underground Paris, this unique site has been open to the public since 1809 and attracts thousands of curious visitors every year. Although the dim light and low temperatures create a sinister atmosphere, the Paris Catacombs are still a must-see in the capital. The catacombs cover almost 11,000 square metres and are 20 metres below the surface, the equivalent of a five-storey building... Enough to delight fans of urbex and thrills!

Human skulls in the catacombs of Paris.

- © javarman / Shutterstock
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The history of the catacombs of Paris

At the end of the 18th century, as the health problems associated with cemeteries multiplied throughout Paris, the city decided to close the cemeteries and transfer their contents to an underground site to remedy the problem. The first was the Saints-Innocents cemetery, located in what is now the Halles district, in 1785. The Parisian authorities chose an easily accessible site which, at the time, was located outside the capital's walls: the old Tombe-Issoire quarries, under the plain of Montrouge.

On 7 April 1786, the site was consecrated the "Municipal Ossuary of Paris" and then named the "Catacombs", in reference in particular to the Roman catacombs, whose history had intrigued and fascinated the public. The Paris catacombs were opened to the public in 1809, attracting ever more curious visitors.

Bones transferred from the Cemetery of the Innocents in 1809.

- © izanbar / 123RF

Today, the maze of Paris catacombs lies 20 metres below ground level and covers more than 11,000 square metres. But the portion open to the public is less than two kilometres long, representing just 0.5% of the total surface area of the capital's underground network. Many areas are strictly off-limits to the public, such as the Salle Z, once an emblematic venue for clandestine parties. There is also the cinema, also clandestine, located under the Palais de Chaillot, and "La Plage", a former brasserie in the 14th arrondissement. Lovers ofurbex enter these forbidden zones via entrances that are, for the most part, sealed off.

Why visit the catacombs of Paris?

During the tour, we plunge into the capital's mythical underground passages and wander through their great galleries in search ofbones and hidden treasures. In this maze of skulls and bones, visitors navigate between several key points: theworkshop, the Port-Mahon gallery, the bell of Fontis, thealcove of the ossuary and the sepulchral lamp of the ossuary. As you wander through the various rooms, you'll come across some interesting engravings and inscriptions in the walls, which you can learn more about from the information panels. One thing's for sure: this subterranean immersion surrounded by skulls will send shivers down your spine!

Book your ticket for the Paris catacombs Paris

Book your ticket for the Paris catacombs

Delve into the depths of the Earth and explore this unique place where thrills, history and passion come together.
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To descend into the depths of the Paris catacombs, a 131-step staircase awaits you. The exit is centred on a gradual "return to light" towards Avenue René Coty. After a journey of one and a half kilometres through the underground galleries, visitors head towards the laminated glass canopy, which diffuses opalescent light, and climb back up to the surface via a staircase with 112 steps. Visitors can then take a tour of the bookshop-shop, which houses one of the last shafts through which bones were transferred to the galleries.

Bones in the catacombs of Paris.

- © Rafael Fernando Ribeiro / Shutterstock

Did you know? Among the bones of millions of anonymous people, the remains of many famous French personalities have been transferred here! None of them are identifiable, but history tells the tale: the bones of Blaise Pascal, Rabelais, Racine, Montesquieu and Charlotte Corday are here. The catacombs of Paris are the perfect place to scare yourself and tell scary stories...

Our favourite hotel near the Paris catacombs

Hôtel Du Midi Paris Montparnasse 3* Paris
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Hôtel Du Midi Paris Montparnasse 3*

In the Montparnasse district, just a few minutes from the catacombs, this 3-star hotel offers comfortable rooms at affordable prices for the capital.
8.2 Very good
From
£148 / night
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Practical information for the Paris catacombs

As the largest ossuary in France, and indeed in the world, the catacombs of Paris are a must-see for cataphiles and curious visitors to Paris. Allow around an hour to complete the one-and-a-half kilometre tour.

🚌 How do I get to the Paris catacombs?

The entrance to the Paris catacombs is on Place Denfert-Rochereau, in the 14th arrondissement. It is served by metro lines 4 and 6, RER line B and buses 38 and 68 to theDenfert-Rochereau stop. Several Velib' stations are also available nearby.

⏰ Paris catacombs opening times

The Paris catacombs are open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.45am to 8.30pm. However, the site is closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.

The corridors of the Paris catacombs.

- © Wyatt Rivard / Shutterstock

👛 Paris catacombs prices

Tickets purchased online (audioguide included):

  • Full price: €29
  • Under 27s: €27
  • Under 18s: €5
  • Under 5s: free
  • PRM: €4.30

Tickets purchased on site, subject to availability:

  • Full price: €15
  • Under 27s: €13
  • Under 18s: free
  • Optional audioguide: €5

A few tips for your visit

  • The Paris catacombs attract a lot of visitors, so there's a risk that you won't be able to get in if you go directly to the catacombs.
  • Visits to the Paris catacombs are not recommended for young children or people suffering from claustrophobia.
  • The temperature in the catacombs is 14°C all year round, so remember to cover up, even in summer.
  • It is totally forbidden to touch the works of art, the bones or the decor.
  • A guided tour of the Catacombs is offered every Thursday at 1pm.
  • Due to complicated access conditions, the Paris Catacombs are not accessible to people with reduced mobility.
by Jude JONES
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