About Catacombs of Paris
Goosebumps, damp darkness, and echoing sounds, these are the main attractions of the Catacombs of Paris, a network of subterranean tunnels and rooms. Descend at your own risk, for underground Paris is forbidden to all except the cataflics and the bones of the dead, and over 6 million interred that line the passageways in a macabre display. An official tour will give you a glimpse, and no more, but enough to whet your appetite for a thorough understanding of this side of Paris.
Near the end of the 18th century, there was nowhere to store the dead but in the limestone quarries under the city, first used by the Romans. Graveyards and charnel houses were overflowing with bodies, becoming a source of deadly diseases in nearby districts. The city officials thus decided to discreetly transfer their dead to another resting place—the quarries that had long been exhausted and abandoned. Thigh bones punctuated with skull bones and morbid quotations are stacked along the walls of the complex tunnel system (over 300 km long), which extends beyond the tourist-designated 14e arrondissement to the 5e, 6e, 12e, 13e, 15e, and 16e arrondissements. Since 1955, exploring the tunnels unescorted by official guides has been illegal—for good reason. It is very easy to get lost in underground Paris, or les carrières de Paris—the official title of Paris's most famous burial place; some passages are practically touching the ground, extremely narrow, and partially flooded. Still, for some thrill-seekers, calling themselves cataphiles, there's nothing like spending time with the dead. And the police who patrol the tunnels, the cataflics, continue to play cat-and-mouse with cataphiles.
How to get there
By Metro: Line 4 (Denfert-Rochereau).
Tue 11am-4pm, Wed-Sun 9am-4pm; closed Mon and holidays