The Best Way to Visit the Paris Catacombs
Today I will be talking about the Paris Catacombs and tell you how to visit this unusual Parisian attraction. You’ve probably heard of it; however, it’s usually not a top priority for the people who come to visit the city of Paris. If you have some time to spare while in Paris, you should consider visiting the Paris Catacombs, because it is interesting, quite impressive and a little creepy. A good kind of creepy, don’t worry!
The bones of six million Parisians were moved to the underground tunnels of the City of Light. If you feel intrigued by this place, read on and find out how to visit the Paris Catacombs!
A short history lesson
You might be wondering what are the Paris Catacombs, what is their origin and what is the story behind their existence, so here’s a short history lesson. First of all, you need to know that the mines of Paris are centuries old; the stone from there used to be extracted for the construction of the buildings in Paris. These mines are pretty huge! However, only a section of it is open to the public.
Check out: A brief history of the Catacombs of Paris
During gallo-roman times, Paris was kind of small, the center of the city was the City Island. The people wanted the dead to be separated from the living. So, the cemeteries were located outside of Paris. But, Paris got bigger very fast, so it ended up with cemeteries right in its middle.
The Cimetière des Innocents, located near the Saint Eustache Church in Paris’s first district, was one of them. Over the years, it got crammed with dead bodies. There were so many; they couldn’t even bury all of them. Hygiene and health issues forced the moving of corpses from this infectious cemetery. Was it an easy task moving these corpses? Of course not. The process took several years. Sometimes the bones were moved to the catacombs in the middle of the night on wagons. During the end of the eighteenth century, all the bones and remains were moved to old quarries, which are now the Paris Catacombs.
But, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, a French politician, and scientist, had the idea to organize the bones. The bones were placed beautifully, along with inscriptions on the walls that remind tombstones. What appeared like a simple act of respect for the dead turned out to be a beautiful scene. After a few decades, the Paris Catacombs became a source of excitement for visitors to the beautiful city.
Do you know the secrets of the Paris Catacombs? Click here
You must note that they were a no-go zone until the nineteenth century. The government saw an opportunity to make money. So they opened the place to the public. Today, the bones, the underground tunnels, and the chambers at the Paris catacombs attract more people than any other place.
How to Get to the Paris Catacombs
This bones-filled labyrinth is located at Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. If you take either metro line 4 or 6, it will get you to the Denfert-Rochereau metro station. You will find the Paris Catacombs a few steps away from the exit of the metro. Alternatively, if you prefer using a bus, I would advise you to take either bus line 38, 68, 88, or 216. Either of them will drop you near the Catacombs. Another option is using a taxi or ride-sharing service that is readily available in the city. However, if you stay in central Paris, you can walk or bike. It is only half an hour walk away from the Luxemburg Gardens. It is open every day but on Mondays, from 10 am to 8.30 pm. Closed Mondays can be compensated with 27/7 open weekends.
Is it worth visiting the catacombs in Paris?
Visiting the catacombs is an unusual experience, and you get to experience a mystical atmosphere of Paris’s past in the Avenue du Colonel. They have fascinated many generations and are a testimony to the history and past of Paris. The place should rank high among your list of the most unusual places in this beautiful city.
Many locals and visitors are oblivious to the fact that millions of bones are in the long strip of tunnels of the Paris catacombs. Taking a walk through the underground tunnels and chambers will blow your mind. Although a little scary, but in a positive way, you do not have to worry because you are accompanied by experts. There is usually a long queue to see this mysterious and creepy world underground.
The catacombs are not for everyone. If you have a fear of being surrounded by human bones, you would rather not get inside. Several people use this tourist attraction to overcome fear. The claustrophobic, for instance, has a chance to change their lives by simply going through the tunnels. Consider acquiring an audio guide, at an extra cost, if you want to go alone.
The quotes in many areas of the catacombs highlight the nature of the catacombs as a burial site. One such as the one by Thury from the Aeneid at the entrance describes the catacombs aptly: “Arrête ! C’est ici l’Empire de la mort,” in English: “Stop! Here is the Empire of Death!” However, the only downside, in our opinion, to visiting the catacombs is the long line and queuing outside to get inside the attraction. To beat the wait, book your tickets online in advance.
A few tips to make sure you enjoy the Catacombs in the best conditions
In this part of the article, I will be sharing a few tips to make sure you enjoy the visit in the best conditions. For your safety and the well-being of the experience, some necessary precautions are to be taken.
- First, you need to know that the walk through the Paris Catacombs is two kilometers long, and the way can sometimes be a bit slippery and uneven. You will be walking for forty-five minutes, so put on some practical shoes. Ladies need to forget about their heels for this kind of adventure, where comfort is key!
- Also, bring a jacket, because it can get a little cold underground. The temperature is constant at 14ºC, 57.2 ºF. Then, you should also know that you will only find some toilets at the end of the tour. So, make sure you use the bathroom before entering the Paris Catacombs.
- I strongly discourage the Paris Catacombs from people suffering from claustrophobia. You will be thirty meters underneath the ground, and you will have to cross some narrow tunnels, so the claustrophobic might feel uncomfortable. The Catacombs are also not accessible for persons with reduced mobility. Remember, your health is more important, and you will need a health pass to get in.
- I highly recommend psychological preparation for the experience before you come to this place. Let me remind you that you will be walking past hundreds of humans. Some people who are sensitive to seeing human bones may find it uncomfortable. A little advice, take a tour guide with you. But if you are confident enough to stand next to a human skeleton, you are also reminded to respect the rules. You will have fun.
- Since only 200 people are allowed inside at a time, you might have to wait for some time. So, the best you can do is to buy your tickets in advance. This presents some advantages: you will be able to enter directly, without queueing, and it includes an audio guide, which will cost 29 euros. Avoid the long queue. Don’t go for the last admissions if you have limited time. If you rather buy the tickets on-site, it will cost 13 euros for adults, 11 euros for people aged between 18 to 26 years old, and 5 euros for children. On-site, if you want an audio guide, an extra five euros will be charged.
The reason why you will like it
During your visit to the Paris Catacombs, you need to be open-minded and embrace the experience. You will walk these alleys, and you will look at the remains of millions of Parisians who once walked the city you’re visiting. You will wonder about their identity, their families, their jobs, and their lives, but you won’t know anything in particular about them. It will make you question yourself about your own life and deeds.
Above all, you will have a glimpse of French history stacked in one place. If you are lucky enough, you will ask every question and get answers. Parisian culture, fascinating architecture, unusual experiences, and history are all at your disposal in the catacombs. I hope you have a cool head to absorb all the thrilling information and store these fascinating images.
We are not eternal, but our legacy is. We are all flesh and bones, and we all die. No one is immortal, and it is what we leave behind us that lives on. These are the kind of thoughts I had during my visit to the Paris Catacombs, and I am sure it will touch you somehow as well.
Can you legally go into the catacombs of Paris?
This is an important question as to who is allowed to visit the place. There are some restrictions to protect visitors and to preserve the environment and atmosphere of the catacombs.
The place is dark, with little or no ventilation, and has many steps. As such, it might be difficult to visit if the person is physically impaired, have medical conditions with the cardiac and respiratory systems, has claustrophobia, and is easily affected psychologically and emotionally.
Also see: Top 15 Scary Facts about the Catacombs in Paris
As for age restrictions, then children under 10 aren’t allowed inside the catacombs, and children before 14 years of age can only visit with an accompanying adult.
Adults have access at scheduled times, and some have special access for booking tickets in advance. You skip the lines if you pay earlier. Don’t worry about the car parking space or wheelchair access point. This place is huge.
How to buy your Paris Catacombs tickets
If you want to buy your tickets for the Paris Catacombs in advance, I will explain to you step by step.
- You first have to go to Paris Catacombs’ official website.
- At the top of the page, you will see “Purchase a ticket” Click on this message. A new tab will open, because you will be redirected to another page carrying out the purchase of the ticket.
- On this new page, at the top on the right, pick the English language.
- Scroll down to the “Museum Offer” section. You will have two offers: the first one is priority access for adults and an audio guide which costs twenty-nine euros. Then, the second option is priority access for children which costs five euros, which is only available for kids aged between four and seventeen years old.
- When clicking on “Buy“, you will once again be forwarded to a new page. On this page, you will have to select a date for your visit and a timeslot.
- Then, you’ll have to scroll down a little further down and pick the number of tickets you wish to buy.
- The total cost will appear. All you have left to do is to click on “Add to cart“.
- Your order summary will be updated and you will have to pursue the purchase.
- To make the purchase, your login information will be asked. You have to create an account on Paris Musées to buy the Paris Catacombs tickets, which is a great idea since you will be able to buy tickets for many other museums in Paris.
- Once you’ve finished your Paris Catacombs tickets purchase, they will be sent to you by e-mail. Please, make sure you write your e-mail right.
I think that visiting the Paris Catacombs is a one-of-a-kind experience that needs to be done at least once because you don’t get to see a human skull every day! But visiting it in the company of a local is even more interesting because you will learn a lot more about the place. You will get to understand more about the history of the Paris Catacombs and discover unique facts about both the Catacombs part that is open to the public but also about the one that is closed. People who go to the forbidden area of the Catacombs are known as Cataphiles.
You now know how to visit the Paris Catacombs! I think this article almost covers it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and that it has been useful! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need further information about anything.
Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings, tell me how you’ve felt while in the Catacombs in the comments by tagging us on your Instagram profile! See you soon in Paris!
Updated by Farah in March 2022 and Felix in May 2023