Catacombs of Paris Catacombs of Paris

Catacombs of Paris: The World of the Dead

Ah, Paris. The moment you enter the country, you can’t catch a break and are left aw-struck by this magnificent European city. I’ll tell you the reason behind it. Actually, there are lots of things to offer: an intimate vibe for honeymooners, several iconic monuments, gorgeous flower gardens, Michelin-starred restaurants, and the glum catacombs of Paris. So, the first thing to add to your bucket list should be the catacombs of Paris. They are arguably one of the most incredible and intriguing attractions in the city.

Have you ever wondered what lurks deep beneath city streets? You might see hundreds of Parisians and visitors strolling directly above a network of hidden underground passageways home to approximately 6 million skeletons.

You may not believe but Parisian catacombs hold a record of history, with walls covered in skulls and remain of the dead all over. There are around 250-300 km of passageways beneath the surface, of which only a small section is offered to the public for exploration. The destination should be high on your list of intriguing locations to see in Paris.

A visit to the city will allow you to get to know it better as well as give you a unique opportunity to observe the beauty in the disarray.

I Can Count Various Reasons to Visit There

1. Biggest Necropolis Beneath the Ground

As the catacombs of Paris are the true hidden gems of Paris, the whole excursion is a solo tour that allows spectators like me and you to explore at our own wish. Once you step inside, you’ll find yourself in a long series of tunnels with directions and information boards teaching you the history of the destination. It’s a place full of loculi and possesses a historical and religious significance.

2. You Will be AweStruck

Aren’t you curious about its history? In late January 1815, the mortal remains of Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were said to be reburied at the Basilica of St Denis. They were discovered in the 19th century during the monarchy’s rehabilitation.

3. So Many Bones

As you navigate around a network of passageways, neatly organized skeletons are waiting to greet you. Most typically, you will notice that the interior walls are built of thigh bones capped with human skulls. Several bones are packed more precariously behind these well-arranged fences. It’s really going to give you goosebumps.

You’ll be amazed at how beautifully the bones may be arranged. The rhymes and hymns etched into the symbols will be more easily understood if you bring a guide.

4. What Transpired the Bones to be Here?

To summarize a long story in brief for you, there was a severe influx of deceased individuals in Paris in the late 18th century. One particular spot stands out: the Holy Innocents Cemetery, located in the center of the city.

Throughout the Middle Ages, nearly all of Parisians’ corpses have been buried here, explaining the steady packing over time.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, insufficient space for corpses in the city became a serious problem in other graves. The remains had to seek a new home since the overflow posed potential hazards to the surrounding region.

The Icy Whiz team talked to Giacomo Piva, Travel Industry Analyst and Co-Founder of Radical Storage, about the catacombs of Paris. Here is what he said:

Giacomo Piva
Giacomo Piva

“The catacombs of Paris are a quintessential element of the city of Paris, a standout feature that has been a central part of the Paris cultural and historical value for all the centuries and a touristic destination that every visitor in the city has to check out, to fully appreciate and understand the true magnificence of Paris’ potential.

Different elements make the Catacombs of Paris so compelling, starting from the architecture of the structures of the catacombs.

In fact, through the changes and the influences of the Catacombs’ architecture, you can also see not only the outstanding beauty but also the everchanging structural elements going along with time, making it a true symbol of the architectural styles of the city.

But, we also have to remember that they hold a very important meaning to the city and challenge its identity.

It highlights the importance of death, history, and the connection that we have with our past, becoming one of the most central elements in the history of the city and the cultural value that it has.

Luckily, the city of Paris is aware of this importance and it does everything that it can to preserve this ever-lasting treasure that it has underground, despite the constant presence of tourists and visitors every day.

The government constantly promotes projects based on the restoration of the catacombs, to maintain them as spotless as possible.”

I’ll Tell You All About Its History and Origin: A Glum Story

It feels incomplete without knowing the history and origins of the Catacombs of Paris. It started in the 18th century when Paris was plagued by serious public health issues that resulted in the demise of les innocents.

The city was expanding, and the cemeteries started quickly filling up, resulting in sanitary challenges for the neighboring areas. Paris officials needed to reduce this congestion and boost the city’s overall wellness. They discovered a rapid answer in the Tombe-Issoire quarry, a navigable collection of tunnels developed in the Roman era.

The purge of tombs surrounding Paris began in 1785, and bones were carried into tunnels. The subsurface location was dedicated as the Paris Municipal Ossuary—a site for the collection of human remains—on April 7, 1786. Following that point, the location has been known as the “Catacombs,” which alludes to the earlier Roman burial grounds with corridors.

The remains of innumerable individuals were relocated to their ultimate burial site in the catacombs over the course of 12 years. The initial evacuations began at Paris’s biggest cemetery. The labor-intensive operation of relocating the bones involved diggers, cleaners, vehicles, priests, and animals. In order to avoid offending the surrounding communities, the projects had to be completed discreetly at night.

Things to Remember Before Visiting the Catacombs

  • The catacombs of Paris are dedicated to allowing access to as many people as possible. Nevertheless, due to subsurface limits, they are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs and those who require step-free access.
  • It is strictly prohibited to go inside the catacombs of Paris with luggage, a big bag, or a helmet to preserve the privacy and conservation of the ossuary. Bags no bigger than 40×30 cm are permitted. They have to be held in front of you or at the side of you.
  • You are permitted to use a flash without bothering other guests. There is also a giant cinema screen further in, so don’t forget to explore it as well.
  • The journey through the area accessible to the public is one mile long. The catacombs of Paris are said to be 320 kilometers (199 miles) long, but only a small section is open for you to discover, and it may take a while to go through them, so pack comfortable shoes.
  • Carry anything warm because the average temperature in the catacombs is fourteen degrees Celsius. Of course, you are not permitted to make contact with the bones, which are the delicate remnants of countless Parisians.
  • To travel to the catacombs of Paris, take the train or take Bus 38 or 68.
  • You may travel to the Denfert-Rochereau station in the metro by taking metro lines 4 or 6. The Paris Catacombs are just a few minutes from the metro exit. You may also take a cab if it fits your budget.

We interviewed Matt Jones, CEO of Wonder Days, on how the catacombs contribute to Paris’s history, identity, and perceptions of mortality. Here is what he had to say:

Matt Jones
Matt Jones

“The catacombs of Paris captivate visitors with their macabre beauty and stark reminder of the finite nature of life.

This underground ossuary, holding the remains of over six million people, offers a unique perspective on the city’s past, where space for the dead was scarce and creative solutions were necessary.

Originally limestone quarries, the catacombs were transformed in the late 18th century to address the city’s overflowing cemeteries. Exploring these tunnels provides a historical snapshot of Paris’s urban development and public health challenges.

It reflects the city’s pragmatic approach to issues of sanitation and space, which shaped much of modern Paris.

Visiting the catacombs confronts visitors with the reality of death physically and unavoidably. The arrangement of the bones and the solemn ambiance prompt reflections on life, death, and what lies beyond.

This can alter one’s perception of mortality, seeing it not as a distant abstraction but as a tangible, shared destiny.

The catacombs are a part of Paris’s identity as a city that celebrates its history, no matter how grim some chapters might be. They remind us of Paris’s resilience and its ability to reinvent itself.

The catacombs also draw in those intrigued by the darker aspects of human history, adding a layer of mystique to Paris’s image.

Preserving the catacombs while keeping them accessible to the public involves meticulous monitoring and maintenance. Regulations limit the number of visitors to prevent damage and erosion caused by foot traffic.

Efforts to preserve air quality and structural integrity are continually managed by preservationists, ensuring that the catacombs remain a sustainable historical site.”

The UnXplained: Darkness Lurks in the Paris Catacombs (Season 3)

C’est Ici L’empire De La! There’s much more to the city of love than dazzling towers, museums, delectable delicacies, and breathtaking monuments. There are treasures beneath the city to be discovered that many tourists have ignored for far too many years, just like this largest cemetery, which police discovered very later on.

I would suggest you carry a map, or as they say, ‘carte de Paris,’ around to avoid being lost; it will come in handy in case you cannot speak French. You can plan your itinerary through Du Site Paris musée; also, do not forget to observe the logo Du Site Paris!

This is about an eerie past that often goes unnoticed as people in a hurry commute to work and go on their daily lives spanning city limits, but a very intriguing world lies just beneath them. According to travelers, these underground passageways are known as the catacombs of Paris, where there is usually a huge line of people who want to visit the eerie world trapped underneath.

To avoid long lines, make your reservation online. If you want to make your trip fun and memorable, get ready to explore les catacombes de Paris in underground Paris. But keep in mind that this is not for the faint-hearted, and we warned you about what lies beyond through l’empire de la mort. Have fun!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many people died in the Paris catacombs?

There are currently almost six million human bones in the catacombs. Throughout the French Revolution, the French continued burying the new deceased in the catacombs, but the ritual was discontinued after 1860.

2. Are the skulls in the catacombs real?

The quarrymen started covering the walls with femoral bones accented with skulls at the end of the 18th century and continued into the 19th century, which served as the foundation for the majority of the exhibits seen by tourists now.

3. Can you buy a ticket to Catacombs Paris?

For a tour of the Paris catacombs, you can purchase tickets straight away at the entrance or via the Internet through their website. This second alternative is preferable because buying them in advance avoids enormous crowds.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Pragya


  1. I was moved by the amount of knowledge this article holds on the catacombs of Paris.
    Be it the History or the steps to get a ticket today, be it the reasons for formation or the visiting rules today,
    this has got ’em all in a beautifully explained manner.

  2. This article was very insightful and has given me new insights on the catacombs of Paris. I never knew that there was an underground world of corridors below Paris. I also didn’t know that the history of it was that it was made by the Romans for some Limestone.

  3. I really like learning about interesting things like the Catacombs of Paris. The article talks about the history and mysteries underground in the city. It explains that the Catacombs used to be a place for bones and now have cool art. After reading, I want to know more about this hidden place and why it’s important to culture.

  4. A thorough guide to the Catacombs of Paris! The article paints a vivid picture of this unique and eerie attraction, emphasizing its historical significance and the meticulous organization of bones. Details on its origin, the relocation of remains, and the city’s health challenges add depth to the narrative. Practical tips for visitors enhance the reader’s understanding and preparation for the experience. Overall, it’s a comprehensive exploration of a lesser-known aspect of Paris.

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