Visit Catacombs (Paris, France)
Perhaps during your Paris visit you will get tired of the tourist attractions, the glitz and glamour, and feel a need to visit somewhere more down to earth. We have just the place for you - and it's not so much 'down to earth' as 'under the earth'!
Head off to the Denfert-Rocherea station on the Paris metro and you will find the (rather discrete) public entrance to the Paris catacombs. Note that there are various other entrances scattered across central Paris, some secret and some less so, but you are not permitted to use these for reasons of safety.
The tunnels were originally carved out as underground quarries, providing the rock for the construction of much of Paris.
It was only later, from about 1787, that the tunels found a new and more ominous use. The paris cemeteries were becoming too crowded, so to make space for 'new arrivals' the authorities had the bright idea of removing some of the older remains from the cemeteries. Where to put them though? Well the extensive quarries underneath the city provided the perfect solution - and the Paris catacombs came into being.
The catacombs became a popular place to stack the bones and in many places they were piled in patterns and artistic designs. Quite a spooky sight, that appraently altogether includes the bones of more than six million Parisians.
About the same time (late 18th century) graffiti artists also moved in and started decorating the walls, which you will also see during your visit. The entrance to the catacombs is marked 'Here is the Empire of the Dead' just to help set the tone for your visit through the passageways, followed by an extensive walk through dark, slightly damp, tunnels where you will be startled by the very large number of bones (not complete skeletons) that you will see lining the walls.
See Paris Short Breaks to plan your Paris visit
The quarry system itself is much more extensive than the catacombs section - a great deal is not accessible by the public - and is said to include hundreds of kilometres of passages, so next time Paris faces the same problem the city will perhaps once again hear the sound of transport lorries in the middle of the night transporting thousands of skeletons to a new final resting place...
Note: the second solution to the problem of the number of bodies was to create a new cemetery. This was called the Pere Lachaise cemetery, and is now perhaps the most famous cemetery in the world, and last resting place for many famous people from Edith Piaf to Jim Morrison. The cemetery is now, like the Paris catacombs, a tourist attraction in its own right.
Photos taken within 10 km
Address: Paris, Paris, Paris, 75000 || GPS: latitude 48.834008, longitude 2.332322
Map of Catacombs & places nearby
Highlights close by
The Louvre 3km
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Catacombs, France
- Centre de la mer et des eaux - aquarium
- Pantheon - national monument
- Jardin des Plantes - Paris (2km)
- Ménagerie du Jardin des plantes - zoo or wildlife park (2km)
- Abbaye Notre Dame de Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris) - religious monument (2km)
- Notre Dame cathedral - national monument (2km)
- Sainte-Chapelle - national monument (3km)
- Pont-Neuf - Paris (3km)
- Rodin Museum - Paris (3km)
- Conciergerie - national monument (3km)