The Catacombs of Paris: 10 Interesting Things

You’ll experience one of the craziest and most interesting trips of your life with the Catacombs of Paris. There are, of course, extremely well-known locations in Paris, such as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

The Panthéon and the Arc de Triomphe are only two examples of the city’s great treasures. Explore the Catacombs of Paris instead if you’re searching for something unusual, fascinating, and something you’ll remember long after your trip.

the catacombs of paris
Photo by Chelms Varthoumlien / Unsplash / 2020

Under the streets of Paris lies the Catacombs, where millions of human remains are entombed. But this underground labyrinth, also called “les Catacombes de Paris,” was not always an ossuary. The tunnels, which stretch for over 200 kilometers, were originally limestone mines dating back to the city’s construction.

The stones used to build Paris were extracted from these mines, causing the city to gradually sink into the tunnels, leading to dangerous sinkholes.

To prevent further collapse, in 1777, Charles-Axel Guillaumot, the King’s architect, was tasked with reinforcing the tunnels. The walls of the Paris catacombs are inscribed with dates and numerals, indicating the number of times each location was stabilized. One famous cemetery, “Les Innocents” is also located here. For a more in-depth exploration of this intriguing site, it’s best to hear from your expert guide.

2. Why were the Catacombs of Paris built?

Paris was expanding and thriving during the same time, growing into a populous city. Cemeteries overflowed as a result of its fast expansion. Simply put, there wasn’t enough room to bury the deceased. Paris began to smell strongly of decaying remains, which was extremely dangerous for people’s health.

The tunnels were secure by 1785, at which point the bodies of the deceased were moved within. This bone-transfer process continued right up until 1859, during the French Revolution in the 18th century. There is a tunnel where the bones and corpses were thrown into the quarry.

It’s interesting to note that Napoleon III was the one who determined the Paris catacombs should be a popular tourist attraction. Napoleon III felt that Paris should possess a similar attraction to the catacombs, which were a popular tourist attraction in the ancient Roman empire.

For the purpose of creating ornamental works, quarry tunnels’ employees started sorting through the bone mounds. They artfully arranged the skulls and adorned the ceilings with tibias and femurs.

There are signs with memorial plaques, as well as bones arranged in different forms. The Catacombs of Paris just the ultimate place for resting for so many people can be seen as an artistic creation and is quite weird and disturbing.

It would be significant to note that the Right Bank settlement diverged from the conventional practice of burying the deceased far from populated areas and instead began with cemeteries near its center.

Furthermore, the decision was made to utilize the vast network of limestone quarries on the Left Bank, situated largely outside the city limits of Paris, as the optimal location for interring the remains of millions of Parisians.

3. Cataphiles of Paris

There really are 200 miles of subterranean tunnels, but the general public is only allowed to go through around 2 km of them. Some visitors enter prohibited places in the city illegally because they are a little more intrigued with the Catacombs of Paris.

The “Cataphiles of Paris” are those folks. Metro stations like place Denfert-Rochereau may be used as entrances for the Catacombs of Paris to the tunnels. Du colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, a key figure in French Resistance throughout World War II, is honored by the station’s subtitling “Colonel Rol-Tanguy”.

The cataphiles may come as a part of a cultural movement, but other times they are just out exploring and building their own maps.

Authorities first found a hidden underground cinema in the catacombs in 2004. Nobody has ever been penalized or caught, though. Unauthorized subterranean exploration in the Parisian tunnel system is punishable by a steep fine.

4. Exceptional Access Areas in the Catacombs of Paris

Ordinary tourists could not access two sites that were behind closed gates. People can enter the Catacombs of Paris and places like these with a historical guide for a well-guided tour experience. Within the western ossuary, people can get the chance to see two wall sculptures.

François Décure, a quarry worker, covertly sculpted the Sculptures de Décure into the limestone from limestone quarries between 1777 and 1782. One displays a structure’s Quartier de Cazerne façade.

Another sculpture shows the location of Port Mahon, where he was held captive, while a third carving shows Port Philipe. These sculptures depict his recollections or make-believe images of these locations.

These were made in a difficult atmosphere and are highly detailed. As it was so far beneath and so dark and damp, Decure had to labor by torches. Unfortunately, he was building a staircase to his artwork when he was murdered in a cave-in underneath.

Seeing the Sculptures de Decure is undoubtedly worthwhile. The bones and skulls may seem a little too menacing to you, but they are just intriguing and lack the frightening component.

the catacombs of paris
Photo by Mathew Browne / Unsplash / 2022

5. Things to Know Before Visiting the Catacombs of Paris

Before your vacation, there are a few things you need to arrange. These are some special pointers for visiting the Paris catacombs. Use the potty beforehand as there are no restrooms in the Paris catacombs. It is advised not to touch any of these skeletal remains.

It is advised to prepare yourself about an hour before your visit. Put on some supportive walking shoes. Throughout your journey, you will descend 131 steps and then ascend 112 steps.  A mass grave filled with masses of human remains and skeletal remains are encircled by a 1.5-kilometer-long circuitous trail.

The Catacombs of Paris just aren’t wheelchair friendly because of the site’s subsurface restrictions. Also, they advise not going if you are expecting or extremely sensitive.

You are not allowed to eat or drink while exploring the Paris Catacombs. Both alcohol and any form of animal are prohibited within the tunnels. also no smoking. All of this should be obvious, in my opinion.

The staff will check your baggage as you leave to make sure you aren’t taking any bones. You may snap as many pictures as you’d like inside the ossuary, but you cannot use your camera’s flash.

You can consider taking a virtual tour of the twisting passageways of the Paris Catacombs for an even greater sneak peek.

6. How Should you Dress for the Catacombes de Paris?

How should you dress for the Catacombes de Paris? During your visit to the Catacombes de Paris, bring a sweater or a light jacket. As you’ll be climbing stairs at the start and conclusion of your journey, choose more durable footwear, such as sneakers, running shoes, or closed-toed shoes.

The Paris Catacombs do not allow heavy bags or luggage. A stroller or a motorcycle helmet is also not permitted. If you carry a bag, it has to be smaller in size and it must be carried at the front or in the side of you.  No cloakroom is available to store baggage.

7. Are the Catacombs of Paris Actually Haunted?

So, you may well be thinking if Paris Catacombs are eerily eerie. Obviously, that depends entirely on your worldview. The tour guide might relate a tale to you.

For one night, Airbnb offered two people the chance to stay for the night in the Paris catacombs. At the ossuary, they constructed a bed that was naturally encircled by skulls and human remains. It was light sources out by twilight.

Of course, in utter darkness, the mind may fool you. The contest winners chose not to stay all night at the venue. They feared too much, Are the tunnels really eerily eerie? We can never be certain.

The catacombs of Paris with the dark galleries of skulls and human remains would undoubtedly be the most spooky location on earth. In fact, 6 million individuals are interred there!

8. Where are the Paris Catacombs Located?

Your journey will commence at the entrance of the Paris Catacombs, conveniently located near the Denfert-Rochereau station. Upon disembarking from the metro, you can easily find your way to the Catacombs by following the clearly marked signs. Nestled within the city limits, reaching the Catacombs from the heart of Paris is a straightforward affair.

The conclusion of the tour is just a few blocks away, both situated in the 14th Arrondissement. The entire trip generally takes around two hours to complete. Since the Catacombs can only accommodate up to 200 visitors at a time due to their small size, it’s fortunate that access is restricted, as it never feels overcrowded down there.

9. Things You Should Know If You’re Not Doing a Bypass-the-Line Tour

The Catacombs of Paris used to be accessible without an advance ticket purchase standing in line. Currently, whether through a tour operator or the official website, everyone must purchase a timed ticket in advance.

You may only purchase scheduled tickets first from the official site seven days beforehand because of the high number of fake tickets that were offered online. This is one reason why purchasing a skip-the-line ticket for your Paris Catacombs Tour can be even better: it allows you to plan your trip far in advance.

You cannot guarantee that you won’t have to wait in line if you purchase timed tickets from the official website. The only way to ensure that is by taking the bypass-the-line tour! Also, you’ll want to check out the secret rooms that are not often visible during a self-guided tour.

Also, a knowledgeable guide will give you a tour of the historic Catacombs of Paris and provide you with the information you need to understand it better. See the cost of tickets here. If you choose not to take a tour, be sure to pick up audio guides somewhere at the entrance.

10. Secret Cinema Theatre in Catacombs of Paris

In 2004, police discovered an amazing establishment that had a giant cinema screen with projection equipment, stone-built chairs made from catacomb stone, and a fully stocked bar in the Catacombs of Paris! Even the energy from the apartments above had been used freely by the people who built this underground theater.

the catacombs of paris
Photo by Yann Schaub / Unsplash / 2019

Final Words

The sight of the biggest burial ground in the world could appear a little strange or perhaps spooky. But it’s really intriguing. Citadel de Mahon in the Catacombs of Paris makes Paris scarred yet beautiful.

The idea that every skull is a symbol of life is a little overpowering. Yet you may simply visit there to experience a very fascinating aspect of Paris’ past centuries. Your accompanying guide will teach you a ton of intriguing information about the city’s past which would be an awesome experience!

Read more from us here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Catacombs of Paris?

Ans. Mid-October to March is the best time to visit this place.

Q2. How Many People at once are allowed to enter the Catacombs of Paris?

Ans. 200 people at once are allowed to enter the Catacombs of Paris.

Q3. How Long Does it Take to Explore the Catacombs of Paris?

Ans. In order to explore the Catacombs of Paris, it would take a minimum of 45 minutes.



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