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What are the CATACOMBS of PARIS?

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One of the most popular tourist destinations in the French capital is the Catacombs of Paris. If you’re not afraid of the deep and love history and maybe gothic, this is a must visit.

Today we will see what are the catacombs of paris but also when and how can you visit.

The Catacombs of Paris

The tunnels are very old and date back to the time when the Romans passed through Paris. They belong to some old limestone mines but they became one common cemetery at the end of the 18th century.

The continued use of the mines left behind a network of tunnels and chambers which, at that time, was intended to become a cemetery. Local cemeteries were by this time in the 18th century collapsed, so the Inspector General of Quarries determined in 1786 that they could be used to store bodies. They began to bring bodies from other cemeteries, those who died in public disorder, and then millions of bones that remained elsewhere.

There has been graffiti in these tunnels ever since, but they have also been used for other things than storing the dead and human remains: a hideout, a refuge for the resistance against the Nazis, a German bunker, and yes , today a tourist destination.

The Catacombs of Paris are miles long. The bones are piled up on the walls and in some parts you can see plaques and altars with epitaphs in Latin. A certain decorative organization was made, columns, tombs and funerary cipos were fashioned. Shortly before the cemetery opened, the chaos of meaningless piled up bones was left behind and began to take shape. curious egyptian style structures for example, or Doric columns, stelae or places that have been baptized with names like the Samaritan fountain or sepulchral lamp.

With the idea of ​​adding an educational dimension, Héricart de Thury, the Inspector General, ordered the construction of two cabinets in the traditional style to display curiosities, things related to mining and pathology. In the latter, specimens related to diseases and bone deformities were exhibited. In addition, he also ordered to place, through the galleries, plaques with religious poetic texts intended to induce meditation on life and death during the macabre march.

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On another side, Parisian basements have also been the subject of numerous and varied studies. After its opening, two researchers from the French Museum of Natural History devoted themselves to studying the flora that could develop without sunlight, discovering the existence of crustaceans in the underground springs. de Thruy even left a few goldfish in the Samaritan Fountain to see what would happen. The fish survived but did not reproduce and went blind.

They also came down here pioneer photographers, Nadar for example. He experimented for three months and took pictures using artificial light. The required exposure time was so long that he had to use dolls that simulated the miners. Experiments of this type were abandoned, but studies continue today, this time devoted to the preservation of the place.


Officially, the catacombs were consecrated as the municipal ossuary of Paris on April 7, 1786, and in 1809 they were opened to the public for the first time. The Paris Catacombs in figures: they are 20 meters deep and have five floors, there are 131 steps to descend and 112 to climb, the circuit covers 1500 meters, which makes a visit of one hour. The total area is 11 thousand square meters.

Visit the Catacombs of Paris

Of the total 300 kilometers of tunnels, only one and a half kilometers are open to the public. Yes They are visited with a guide because some tunnels are very low or narrow or easily flooded. Yes, you can also go alone, always with an audio guide. Descend the spiral staircase and the adventure begins. For many, it’s more about archeology than mystery or terror.

In fact, when you walk around and see the bones, you can’t help but wonder about all the people who died and lived or how they died. The reading of certain boards sheds light on these stories, or at least the provenance of the bones. Thus, you discover that some come from the Cimetière St-Jean and that they were deposited here in September 1859. Of course, apart from a few bones which belong to French aristocrats, the rest is quite common: poor and rich, thieves and righteous, men, women coexist and children. After all, everyone’s fate is exactly the same.

There are different types of visits. you can meet the geological history quarries that formed 45 million years ago under the action of a tropical sea, which left limestone that was mined in mines that eventually became an underground cemetery. There are visitors who are interested in geology, there are others who are interested in death, the Gothic, the macabre…


You should know that the temperature in the catacombs is on average 14 ºC and is generally super wet. The wait at the tunnel doors is usually long, even in winter, so bring a coat.

The catacombs are one of the most popular attractions in the city, so the advice is that make the reservation well in advance. Groups are a maximum of 20 people and there is the option to sign up for one with sign language, which are smaller. Small children are not accepted, only from 10 years old, and the visit lasts between 45 minutes and an hour and a half.

To buy the ticket with the time of the visit you just have to go to the official website of the catacombs and give Click on when purchasing the ticket. It redirects you to the Paris Museums Ticketing site. Today for the 2022 season the ticket costs respectively 29, 27 or 5 euros. For last minute tickets, the price is 25 and 13 euros. Always between June 15 and September 30. Also from here you can take the online tour.

The catacombs are managed by the same team that takes care of the Carnavalet Museum, dedicated to Parisian history.

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