I have recently discovered that there is more to Paris than what you see at ground level, and i’m not just taking about the Paris metro.
The Catacombs of Paris is miles upon miles of underground quarry tunnels, originally used in the 12th century for mining limestone to help build famous buildings in Paris such as the Louvre and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. After the mining finished, the tunnels were used as a bone store and in 1810, the catacombs opened to the public. A popular tourist attraction and the resting place for more than 6 million people.
The tunnels stretch for nearly 200 hundred miles and even though the public can only access a small section, you are still walking through hundreds, even thousands of deceased remains all neatly placed together lining the walls.
Cemetery to Catacomb
Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the remains of the Parisians were transported from the cemeteries to the underground tunnels by horse and cart in a night-time mission. The bones laid covered in a black fabric and were led through the streets of Paris by chanting priests.
The cemeteries began to over-populate, leading to improper burials and open graves. Eventually the locals began to complain of the awful smell and eventually due to the suspicion on ‘risk to public health’ the bodies were relocated.
The remains of 6 million people fill that catacombs. That is more than the amount of people living in Paris today,
Various of secret entrances are located around Paris. However, only a small section is open for the public eyes.
The Catacombs is 20 metres deep, which is equivalent to a five-story building.
Located south of the former city gate, which name translates into ‘Gate of Hell‘ you will find the entrance to the Catacombs. You enter through the tiny public ‘museum’ entrance and descend down narrow and spiral stairs, 20 metres below ground level. You will enter an underground maze of tunnels and instantly get an eerie feeling, then all of a sudden; you enter through a passage way and instantly are surrounded by bones and skulls stack up and lining the walls.
When walking down the old mine tunnels, there was an unearthly feel. Especially when coming face to face with the thousands of remains which laid in front of me. It is surreal to actually realise that these catacombs are a tourist attraction.
Location:1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy.
Opening Times: 10am – 8pm (last entry at 7pm) | Closed: Mondays and public holidays.
Cost: €10 ( €8 for ages 18–26 and free for under 18)
There is a capacity on the Catacombs of 200 people at one time. If you do not have pre-booked tickets, it will be worth visiting later in the day as the busiest time is between 12-3pm.