NYC Catacombs: all you need to know

The Catacombs in New York have been a silent witness to over 200 years of the city's history. If you are in New York, you should take a few hours of your time to visit them.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

NYC Catacombs: all you need to know

Catacombs of New York | ©Dennis Fraevich

The Catacombs in New York are located underground in the former St. Patrick's Basilica. They have served as the burial place of the city's most prominent New Yorkers and bishops for over 200 years, until the practice was discontinued due to lack of space.

As of 2012, St. Patrick's Basilica resumed the practice of burying the deceased on Cathedral grounds. This activity may be a bit gruesome for people who are easily impressed, but for those who are not, it is almost obligatory to include this visit in the list of things to see and do in New York.

The only authorised visit to the Catacombs

New York City Catacombs by Candlelight Tour

Enjoy this fascinating tour on a group excursion.

You will enjoy an exclusive 90-minute visit to the Catacombs, including the restricted areas such as the two cemeteries.

The New York Catacombs by Candlelight tour includes all the necessary entrance fees to enjoy the full, unrestricted tour of both the underground and the other facilities of the Basilica.

This is the only tour that St. Patrick's Basilica has authorised to visit its facilities and the catacombs and cemeteries. The remains of many New Yorkers who played an important role in the history of the city are buried here.

Recommended if... you like history On this tour you will have the chance to visit places that are usually closed to the public, such as the Basilica's two cemeteries.

How much do tickets to the Catacombs in New York cost?

Inside the Catatombs| ©Missy B
Inside the Catatombs| ©Missy B

Tickets to the New York Catacombs are quite affordable for the type of activity involved. They cost around 36 euros per person if you buy them through a specialised company.

Ticket prices may vary depending on some factors, such as vouchers, group discounts or New York City Business Card holders.

Are there guided tours of the Catacombs in New York and are they worth it?

Start of the Guided Tour| ©Laura L
Start of the Guided Tour| ©Laura L

Currently the only tours available at the New York Catacombs are guided tours. This is an activity, called "The New York Catacombs by Candlelight" and is organised exclusively by TOMMY'S NEW YORK with the permission of and in coordination with St. Patrick's Basilica.

You can purchase tickets for this activity from different online ticketing sites but it is the same activity although prices may vary from one company to another.

This tour merited an article in the New York Times, highlighting the virtues of the New York Catacombs by Candlelight from the New York Times' perspective.

Can I get tickets for the Catacombs in New York by Candlelight at the box office?

Catacombs Church| ©Belbirdweb
Catacombs Church| ©Belbirdweb

As this is a very special activity and also in high demand, tickets are sold online through specialised New York package tour companies or through St. Patrick's Basilica.

It is advisable to buy tickets through tour companies and not directly from the St. Patrick's Basilica Old Cathedral website because, strangely enough, the prices at the Basilica are more expensive.

It is important to plan ahead and book as soon as you decide on a date as tickets sell out quickly, especially if you are looking to visit in high season.

Book your visit to the Catacombs in New York City

Are tickets to the New York Catacombs included in a New York City Sightseeing Pass?

New York Pass Tourist Card| ©Viaggio Routard
New York Pass Tourist Card| ©Viaggio Routard

Admission to the Catacombs in New York is included in the New York Explorer Pass and also in the New York Pass by Go City.

On both cards, the pass holder is entitled to free entry to the Catacombs in New York, but it is necessary to book the date online in advance.

At the time you begin the booking process, you will be asked to provide an associated credit card to which the value of the tickets will be charged and on the day of the visit, when you show your New York Explorer Pass or New York Pass Go City, the costs charged to your credit card when you booked will be released.

Please note that if you do not show up on the day you booked or if you cancel less than two days before the date of your visit, you will not receive a refund. If you will be visiting New York for 3 days or more, it is very convenient to buy one of the city passes, because the main attractions are included free of charge or with significant discounts on the price.

The New York Explorer Pass, for example, has dozens of attractions with free admission and deep discounts at various restaurants, shops and shows.

Buy your New York Explorer Pass

What will I see on the New York Catacombs by Candlelight tour?

St. Patrick's Cathedral| ©Kathleen B
St. Patrick's Cathedral| ©Kathleen B

The New York Catacombs by Candlelight tour is primarily designed to allow you to see what is usually closed to the public, and these tours are the only way to access these places.

St. Patrick's Basilica (Old Cathedral) is the oldest basilica in New York City and was the seat of the bishopric until the Catholic authorities decided to move it to the new St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue, which is still under discussion by some of the faithful who are not at all in agreement with the move.

You will be able to access the underground areas of the old St. Patrick's Basilica, which has more than 200 years of history and has served as a burial place for bishops, high-ranking church officials and members of prominent New York families.

The guides on this tour are highly trained and knowledgeable about the history of the basilica and its surroundings. When you take this tour, you will also be able to visit the interior of the Basilica and learn everything there is to know about it.

Through this unique experience, you will learn amazing stories about the Cathedral and its surrounding area, events that have marked the Catholics of New York and the not-so-Catholics as well.

Remember that New York was the destination of many emigrants from Italy and Ireland, which are mainly Catholic countries.

If you want to know the names of some of the people buried in the Catacombs of New York, you can consult the list of some of the prominent citizens buried in the catacombs.

This list is based on the historical archives of St. Patrick's Basilica (Old Cathedral) and includes only some of the names that can be found during the visit.

How to get to the Catacombs in New York City

New York Subway| ©Jean-Marc Vernier
New York Subway| ©Jean-Marc Vernier

The first thing you should know is that you should not go to St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue, as that is not the Cathedral where the catacombs are located although the name is the same.

Many tourists get confused, go to the wrong Cathedral and miss the tour, which is very difficult to book. The address for the "New York Catacombs by Candlelight" tour is 266 Mulberry Street (between Houston and Prince Street). It can be reached by both bus and underground.

If you take the bus, the closest stops are 8 and 9 on the Downtown Route. You can also take the underground, the most convenient stops are Prince Street, Broadway, Lafayette Station, Bleeker Street.

Is it advisable to visit the New York Catacombs with children?

Part of the Tour| ©Missy B
Part of the Tour| ©Missy B

There are hundreds of kid-friendly attractions in New York, but the Catacombs are not the best activity to do with children, unfortunately.

There are even adults who don't feel comfortable visiting the Catacombs in New York. Keep in mind that you are visiting an underground cemetery and, although it is a very interesting activity from a historical and cultural point of view, there are some people who have a very hard time during the visit.

You should also keep in mind that since 2012, burials have been taking place there again, so it is possible that on the day of your visit there will be some funerals or people visiting the graves of their loved ones.

In such cases, the schedule of the visit may be altered. There is so much to do in New York that if you want to enjoy the trip with your children, you will have the possibility of doing many other activities that are more suitable for them.

You can opt for tours in Spanish if they don't speak English and you can also choose original and unusual activities to do in New York that suit your children's age.

How much time do you need to visit the Catacombs in New York?

Detail of the tombs| ©Kristin T
Detail of the tombs| ©Kristin T

The "New York Catacombs by Candlelight" tour lasts approximately one and a half hours. When planning this tour, remember that you are in New York and public transport disruptions may occur.

Don't leave for the Basilica too late - it's better to wait a few minutes than to miss the tour because you're late.

You can ask your hotel for the estimated time it takes for the bus or metro to get to the Basilica so that you can organise yourself better. Make it clear when you ask that it is St. Patrick's Cathedral at 266 Mulberry Street (between Houston and Prince Street) that you want to go to and not the one on 5th Avenue, as even New Yorkers often confuse the two.

Opening Hours of the Catacombs in New York City

Entrance to the Catatombs| ©Meander
Entrance to the Catatombs| ©Meander

The tour "The Catacombs of New York by Candlelight" can be done at different times as it is a guided tour with an approximate start and end time. The tour is available every day, with the first group leaving at 10:30am and the last group leaving at 4:15pm.
If you have booked a time slot, you must be at the meeting point at 266 Mulberry Street (between Houston and Prince Street) 15 minutes before the start time to validate your tickets.

If you are a New York Explorer Pass holder, for example, you will be reimbursed for the money held on your credit card at that time.

Tips for visiting the Catacombs in New York City

Cathedral Cemetery| ©Wonder
Cathedral Cemetery| ©Wonder
  • If you are going to visit the Catacombs in New York, you are already a lucky person to have a ticket, don't miss your chance to do this activity by arriving late, leave early to make sure you arrive 15 minutes before the meeting point.
  • If you are impressionable don't book this tour, some people don't deal well with themes associated with death and cemeteries, this tour is mostly that. I loved it, as I also loved the Catacombs in Paris and the Church of the Bones in Portugal, but I must admit that not everybody likes this kind of activity.
  • If you already visited the Catacombs in Paris and you think that the Catacombs in New York are more of the same, you are wrong, they are totally different experiences. The New York Catacombs by Candlelight tour is a historical tour, with lots of information about the Basilica and the surrounding area.
  • The guides are very approachable so if you have any questions about any of the points covered on the tour, don't hesitate to ask them, they will be happy to answer.
  • If you take the tour in summer, you will find that the temperature during the visit is quite pleasant, cooler inside the Basilica than outside. If you are sensitive to cold temperatures, bring a coat.
  • As I said before, this is not the best activity to go with children, but if you decide to go with them and they are very young, keep in mind that you can bring a pram in case they get tired. This tour is suitable for people with reduced mobility and wheelchairs.
  • Something of utmost importance to remember when booking the "New York Catacombs by Candlelight" tour is that you will be visiting a Basilica and cemeteries, therefore, respect for these places is necessary, avoid making too much noise and maintain a posture of respect, there may be people praying and also visiting the graves of their relatives.

Where to eat near the Catacombs in New York?

New York's Little Italy| ©Steve Lange
New York's Little Italy| ©Steve Lange

St. Patrick's Basilica is very close to the Soho and Little Italy areas so there are plenty of places to eat nearby. You can take advantage of your proximity to visit these two iconic New York City neighbourhoods and enjoy the delicacies sold in their restaurants.

If you like Italian food, you'll be happy in Little Italy, very close to St. Patrick's Basilica, where you can eat the pizzas that are the signature dishes of this traditional New York neighbourhood.