One Day in Paris – Touring The Paris Catacombs

One of our first stops while spending a day in Paris was the Paris Catacombs. We had a full day planned with our next stop being the Louvre, but I have read that the lines for the Catacombs can get long in the summer. For as long as I can remember, The Catacombs of Paris have intrigued me. The story behind the people who rest here and the mystery of the unexplored caves. Stopping in during our day in Paris was a no brainer.

Paris Catacombs History

In 18th century Paris, the cemeteries were completely full with no room available. Bodies were piling up and in some cases becoming unearthed. Beneath the city were miles of limestone quarry caverns to pull out materials for building the city. The solution was to move the cemetery inhabitants into the quarries. 6 million Parisians finally had their final resting place right below the busy streets of Paris.

Close up of a Skull in the Paris Catacombs

What to Expect

A word of advice if you are going to The Catacombs during the summer months…Get there early! We arrived about 45 minutes before ticket sales opened for the day and still were in line until a little while after opening. Make this your first stop! The second piece of advice…be prepared to be overwhelmed. The Catacombs in its entirety, is about 200 miles of tunnels, with only a very small portion open to the public. You will walk through room after room filled to the brim with skeletal remains.

Entrance Sign to the Paris Catacombs
Archways leading down to the Paris Catacombs

Our Paris Catacomb Tour

After waiting in line for what felt like an eternity, we finally entered the entrance building, paid our fee and waited for our turn to enter the Catacombs. The number of visitors allowed in the Catacombs at any given time is limited to 200. There is a guard on each end counting how many people are going in and coming out. The entrance has a spiral staircase of 130 steps going down. After that, you walk along a very narrow tunnel that twists and turns for quite a ways (anyone afraid of the dark or claustrophobia will not enjoy this part) before finally reaching the official entrance.

Spiral Staircase with water at the bottom - Paris Catacombs
Lined up skulls and other bones in the Paris Catacombs
Sea of bones in the Paris Catacombs
Staring skull in the Paris Catacombs

The first few rooms are always packed with people who are in amazement of what they are seeing. Oh by the way…no flash photography so bring a camera that can handle low light situations. The guards scattered throughout are very strict about this policy. Secondly…don’t try to take anything. The do search bags on the way out. Lastly, if you find a quiet area without people around and you see one of the gated off corridors…take a minute to look out into the darkness. Super creepy with the stillness of the air, the quiet around you and the knowledge of where you are. Gave me the chills…that’s for sure!

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Comments 3

  1. Agree that this is a fascinating place, albeit a morbid one! The scale is staggering and yes, can certainly be overwhelming at first. Great pictures in the low light catacombs you’ve managed to take there 🙂

  2. This has always sounded like such a cool experience but the lines are crazy even in the off season and I could never bring myself to wake up early enough to go all the times i’ve been to Paris. Maybe one day I will finally do it!

  3. The Catacombs in Paris have always been fascinating to me. I hope to visit in person someday. Thanks for the excellent tips on arriving early and being prepared for a little claustrophobia.

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