The Catacombs, Paris – Why you should visit & what to expect

Paris, France. City of light, the city of love, the city of life.

When planning a trip to Paris you may be attracted to the vast array of elegant coffee shops, grandiose art galleries, and museums. Thoughts may consume you of great poets writing in the park or lovers walking hand and hand through busy streets and ancient gardens. It certainly is a tourist’s wish come true. A city that has everything you could ever dream of, with a history as rich and deep as those enchanting dreams.

City of love, the city of life… the city of death? 

Lurking beneath the city streets is a cryptic accident which has a deep dark history spanning the centuries. From Roman times to the great plague to Nazi invasion. The Catacombs of Paris are often not heard of in the typical tourist ads.  For many, it is not the first place to make the bucket list when planning a trip to the city of light.

But you aren’t like other people, are you?

In this post, I would like to share with you some reasons why you should definitely take the abysmal plunge beneath the city streets to view the catacombs for yourself. After all, how can you truly appreciate what is above without first respecting what is below?

The Catacombs


Why you should visit the Catacombs…

Unique broadened perspective

The ancient mines of Paris run beneath almost the entire city. A smallish section of that tunnel network holds much more than just the foundations of modern-day Paris. It is the home to more than 6 million human remains. An open tomb in the heart of the greatest, most beautiful city in the world. So why would you venture down 130 steps to witness such a disturbing part of this famous cities history?

During our everyday novel lives, hardships, struggle, and the realistic harshness of the world are often lost to us. When I explored the catacombs for myself, a part of my mind and perhaps even my soul was awakened. I was shaken to the reality from which modern civilization has been built. I felt that in some way I had witnessed a place that embodied in every way the hard truths of the world and its histories.

My eyes were opened to the profound fact that the entire city is held up by the remains of its very own citizens. A city for the people by the people.

This is a powerful place. You will leave with a broadened perspective on human struggle and endurance. In difficult times for the love and desire of progress and civilization, human beings are capable of much more than our contemporary eyes are often able to see. A peek into reality, an open look at history, and a perspective of the city that many people never get to experience is what is waiting for you beneth Paris in the catacombs.

It is completely unique & one of a kind

There is only one Eiffel tower, one Mona Lisa, one Notre Dame de Paris. Man-made structures, art, and religion of profound historical significance and beauty who’s homes are in Paris. However, mankind also created the catacombs in which there is no other, nothing that even comes close anywhere in the world.

Human desperation and resourcefulness like no other. In a frenzied attempt to control the dead population within the city walls, kings, priests and officials scattered to find a solution. The already existing tunnels by the long gone Romans seemed like the perfect refuge for the dead. So they filled the tunnels, it’s abandoned hallways with the bodies. A mass grave like museum was born.

When the city began to crumble under the weight of the world above in 1777 the newly appointed Charles Axel Guillaumot first quarries inspector under King Louis XVI, did more than just raise the city from its crumbling state. He created walls from the bodies. Great pillars were born in some parts as structural support to the city above. Who knew? Who would have thought there was such a gruesome foundation laying under your feet. It is certainly difficult to imagine while sipping an espresso in a French cafe.

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What to expect…

Long Lines

The entrance to the catacombs is located at 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France. It was by far the longest line that I waited in the entire time I was in Paris. As it was right up there on my list of places I wanted to see, I did not mind the wait. We waited for 2 1/2 hours. So if you are pressed for time you may want to determine what you wish to do and if you can fit it in.

However, if this is a must-see attraction for you then arriving early and bringing some reading material, water and snacks make the wait a lot easier. Believe me, it is certainly worth the wait once you get down there.

It’s Cold

Reaching a depth of 20 meters in some places the catacombs are bound to be a bit chilly compared to the cheery streets above. I was visiting the city in September and on that particular day it was very hot.
Luckily I brought a sweater because once standing on top of the spiraling stairs there was quite a cool draft hitting me.

So if you are planning on exploring the catacombs for yourself bring a sweater. It is not freezing down below but a sweater will make things more enjoyable while in the deeper parts.

Somber Feelings

It was such an odd feeling entering into the Catacombs. I was hanging onto a lot of built up excitement. But once down there it was kind of shocking when an overwhelming somber sense washed over me.

The longer we were down there the more sedated I became, along with everyone else down below. Walking through a 300-year-old graveyard with walls made of over 6 million dead Parisians leaves your soul feeling heavy. So keep in mind that this is not the type of place you go to laugh and take pictures. This is a place to pay respects and take in the weight of your environment.

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Have you ever heard of the Catacombs in Paris? Would you visit them if you were visiting the City?

Take another look at Paris by visiting The Notre Dame de Paris. 

 

COMMENT

  1. Alison | 10th Feb 16

    I have been to catacombs and found them to be macabre. But I’m so glad I’ve had this experience.

    • StephJ | 10th Feb 16

      I am also happy to of had that experience, and to have a new perspective of the city.

  2. LivingTheQLife | 10th Feb 16

    We are jealous. We were in Paris a few years ago and had planned on going to the catacombs on our last day there, only to find that they had closed for repairs THAT day. Good excuse to go back πŸ˜‰ as if anyone needs an excuse to go to Paris.

    • StephJ | 10th Feb 16

      Oh that is terrible! Next time you go back you should defiantly check it out πŸ™‚

  3. aliceandembo | 11th Feb 16

    The dead support the living. Makes us think of our purpose in life, what we can do for the other. An eye-opener here. Thanks πŸ™‚

    • StephJ | 11th Feb 16

      Thanks for reading! Cheers!

  4. Sartenada | 13th Mar 16

    It is awesome place, I know. Did You visit Père Lachaise Cemetery? I have been there thrice and searched graveyards of famous persons like Jim Morrison.

    Happy blogging!

    • StephJ | 14th Mar 16

      I did visit two graveyards while there but i missed that one πŸ™

  5. noellekelly | 6th Jun 17

    Oh, I’d love to visit the catacombs under Paris, maybe for my next visit! Creepy inspiration galore!

    • StephJ | 6th Jun 17

      It was a really cool place to visit and not a side of Paris that many people get to enjoy.

  6. emfletche | 6th Jun 17

    Wow, I never thought about putting this on my Paris to-do list but if I make a return visit then this is right up my alley πŸ˜€

    • StephJ | 7th Jun 17

      Oh you should really do it! Most people don’t even know they exist but they are honestly the coolest thing. Right under your feet are millions of bones literally holding up the street. Amazing!

  7. Lisa Orchard | 6th Jun 17

    Wow. Think of all the history there. It’d be interesting to hear or read about some of the people buried there. You took some awesome pics. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! πŸ™‚

    • StephJ | 7th Jun 17

      It would be pretty cool but most of the bodies are from the black death so no one really knows. I took so many pictures down there but they came out really blurry. I am so happy I waited in the giant line up though. Would you ever go?

  8. josypheen | 6th Jun 17

    I keep meaning to visit these. I love your photos, it is the kind of creepy-cool place that i’d like to explore.

    • StephJ | 7th Jun 17

      It is so worth going to! One of the coolest and surreal places I have ever been. Do you think you will make it there someday?

      • josypheen | 7th Jun 17

        Yes, once we live in the UK again! We just moved to Canada, so I think i’ll do more North American related things first…

        • StephJ | 7th Jun 17

          Come to Newfoundland! πŸ™‚

          • josypheen | 7th Jun 17

            I hope we can! I’d like to explore loooads

          • StephJ | 7th Jun 17

            there are tonnes of icebergs here now, making the weather not so great. But renting a car for a week and driving the coast would be an amazing way to explore the province! πŸ™‚

  9. Debbie H | 7th Jun 17

    This sounds like such an interesting thing to do! Great to read about it.

  10. sustainthedream | 14th Jun 17

    I did the catacombs this month and it was the best part of my trip to Paris. I did the audio tour and it was amazing learnin about the history of the tunnels.

    • StephJ | 14th Jun 17

      Oh cool! It was amazing wasnt it? It was like nothing I have ever seen. The audio tour sounds pretty great, I didnt even know that was an option.

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