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 attractions. 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 millions of 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, 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.
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 on the 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 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 the corpses from this infectious cemetery. 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 scientifict, had the idea to organize the bones. The bones were placed in a beautiful manner, along with inscriptions on the walls that remind tombstones.
How to Get to the Paris Catacombs
This bones-filled labyrinth is located at 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. If you take either the 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. It is open everyday, but on Mondays, from 10 am to 8.30 pm.
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. 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 the fact that millions of bones are in the long strip of tunnels of the Paris catacombs. There is usually a long queue to see this mysterious and creepy world underground.
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 to people suffering from claustrophobia. You will be thirty meters underneath the ground, 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.
- 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 audioguide, this will cost 29 euros. 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 olds, and 5 euros for the children. On site, if you want an audioguide, an extra five euros will be charged.
The reason why you will like it
During your visit through 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, their lives, but you won’t know anything in particular about them. It will make you question yourself about your own life and deeds.
We are not eternal, but our legacy is. We are all flesh and bones, and we all die. No one is immortal, it is what we leave behind us that lives on. These are the kind of thoughts I had during my visit of 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, have claustrophobia and are easily affected psychologically and emotionally.
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 accompanied adult.
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 to redirect to another page carry out the tickets purchase.
- 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 a priority access for adults and an audioguide which costs twenty nine euros. Then, the second option is a priority access for children that 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 quantity 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 everyday! 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 Paris Catacombs, discover unique facts about both the Catacombs part that is open to public but also about the one that is closed. People who go to the forbidden are 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.
Updated by Farah in March 2022