Hundreds of kilometres of tunnels full of mystery and history are hidden beneath the ground of Paris. The catacombs are a place that, whether out of respect or ignorance, many people overlook on their visit to Paris, but it is a mistake not to visit them, as they are an essential part of your trip to the French capital.
Of the more than 300 kilometres of tunnels in the underground, only 1.5 can be visited legally. Here's a summary of everything you need to know before enjoying this unusual proposal.
Discover the darker side of Paris
In the 18th century, the City of Lights had a terrible problem with its overcrowded cemeteries. Discover the history of this underworld and the origin of the catacombs.
Explore the darker side of the City of Light with this ticket to the catacombs of Paris, a place that was consecrated as the "Municipal Ossuary of Paris" in 1786. An easily accessible site was chosen for its construction, which at the time was located outside the capital: the former quarries of Tombe-Issoire, under the plain of Montrouge. The first evacuations took place from 1785 to 1787 and affected the largest cemetery in Paris, that of the Saints Innocents. The tombs, the mass graves and the ossuary were emptied.
On this tour you will learn all the details thanks to the audio guide in several languages which is included in the entrance ticket. Get ready to descend a total of 131 steps and climb another 112. Once inside, you'll wander through this 1,500-metre labyrinthine space in the form of tunnels 20 metres underground.
Why I like this option... It is a very curious visit that is off the beaten tourist track.
Recommended if... If you want to delve deeper into the history of Paris.
How much do tickets to the Paris Catacombs cost?
To visit the Paris Catacombs you can either buy your tickets directly from the ticket office at the entrance, next to the Montparnasse cemetery, or you can buy them online. The latter option is more advisable as buying them in advance saves long queues. The prices for the normal ticket with audio guide are:
- Normal ticket for 1 person: From €27
- Reduced ticket: From 25€.
- Ticket for children between 4 and 17 years old: From 5€.
There is another more risky option but with which we can save something. If we go at the last minute we can get a special ticket called "last minute", valid for the same day and can only be bought at the ticket office.
These cost from €18 for a normal ticket, from €16 for a reduced ticket and children go free, but tickets are limited and only if capacity allows. So if you opt for this option, you run the risk of missing out on the visit. You should also bear in mind that this ticket does not include the audio guide and you will have to pay a supplement of €5.
Are there guided tours of the Paris Catacombs?
No, the visit to the catacombs includes the audio guide with the entrance ticket, which allows you to learn all about the darkest history of the city of Paris through the detailed explanations available in several languages, including English of course.
How to get to the Paris Catacombs
The tourist entrance is located next to the Montparnasse cemeteryon the Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, which is in the southern part of Paris, almost an hour's walk from the centre. For reference, it takes about 55 minutes on foot from Place de la Concorde. But it is very accessible by other means of transport which are among the best options for getting around Paris and its surroundings:
- By Paris Metro: The nearest station is Denfert-Rochereau station through which lines 4 and 6 pass.
- By bus: Lines 38 and 68 stop near Montparnasse Cemetery.
- By car or taxi: Put the following address in your GPS or ask the taxi driver to take you to Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014.
Is it advisable to go to the Paris Catacombs with children?
Technically, entrance is allowed for children over 5 years old. But it is not the best place to visit with children. Apart from the dark and gloomy atmosphere of the catacombs and the skulls and human remains that can be seen during the visit, the access and the conditions of the place are not ideal for children.
The catacombs are 20 metres underground and there are numerous steps up and down to get in and out of them. There is little light underground and many of the corridors are very narrow, which can make it feel cramped, especially for children.
Although it is possible to visit with children, bear these conditions in mind when deciding whether to visit with children at your own risk. Here are some alternative plans to get to know the French capital with children.
What to see in the Paris Catacombs
Of the estimated 300 kilometres of tunnels in the catacombs, only 1.5 kilometres have been made available for visits. On this route there is first an area of tunnels and a small exhibition explaining the history of the catacombs. Further on is the main attraction of the catacombs, the ossuary.
The ossuary area houses the remains of more than 6 million people whose skulls and ossuaries are arranged in very peculiar places and shapes. There are more than 800 metres of ossuaries, including an area dedicated to the memory of those who died in the French Revolution, the area of the shaft used for the tunnels, and the barrel of skulls. The latter is a pile of bones arranged in the shape of a barrel and is one of the most characteristic elements of the catacombs.
How much time do you need to visit the Paris Catacombs?
The tour lasts approximately 1 hour. It is important not to exceed this time as the capacity is limited to about 200 people and they keep an exhaustive control of the capacity and of the people entering and leaving the catacombs. However, in three quarters of an hour there is more than enough time to see the whole complex in detail.
Opening hours of the Paris catacombs
The Paris Catacombs are open every day of the week except Mondays. From Tuesday to Sunday, the opening hours are from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm. The last admissions are at 7.30pm, so be there early to avoid missing out on admission.
A brief history of the catacombs
The origin of the catacombs dates back to the early 13th century when the first tunnels were dug to extract stone and materials for the construction of buildings such as Notre Dame Cathedral. After many years of collapse and collapse, King Louis VXI ordered the catacombs to be refurbished, thus solving one of the problems that Paris was suffering at the time. The lack of space in its cemeteries.
From 1786 to 1859, the remains of many Parisians were continuously transferred to the catacombs. In 1814 the catacombs were made accessible and many of the remains stored there were placed in special shapes and places for visitors.
In 1955 entry to the tunnels was forbidden, as they were often used for satanic rites and not entirely legal activities. From then until today only a small part of the catacombs can be visited.
Tips for visiting the Paris Catacombs
Visiting the catacombs in Paris is very different from other tourist sites, so there are a number of things to bear in mind.
- The first recommendation is to buy your tickets in advance and online. If you don't, you will probably have to queue for more than an hour to get in, as the capacity is limited and demand is usually high. In high season queues can be more than 2 hours long.
- Even if you go in summer, you should be prepared with something warm, as the average temperature at 20 metres underground is no more than 15 degrees Celsius and it is very humid.
- If you are claustrophobic, suffer from a respiratory illness or are several weeks pregnant, visiting the catacombs is not recommended.
- Do not carry backpacks, bags or large items of luggage, as you will not be allowed to enter with them in order to preserve the ossuary. At some points it is very narrow and there is no left-luggage service.
- It is not possible to take flash photography inside the ossuary.
- It is not accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs.
- There are two flights of more than 100 stairs each up and down. Please take this into account when wearing good footwear.