As many of you who follow my blog are aware, my husband is an American. Whenever we travel back home to Paris, I always try to make sure we have something unusual or off the beaten path to do. My husband always jokes as a life long New York City resident, he has never been to the top of the Empire State Building. I imagine, like most people wherever they are from, you tend to take the local attraction for granted and like most Parisian that is obviously the case with me. There are so many things to do and discover in Paris, that I have to admit, the Catacombs were never on top of my list. However, my husband has been talking about his fascination for the Catacombs since I met him. He has always wanted to discover and explore the city underground. So on a cold, rainy day, I decided to take him. I have to admit in terms of all the wonderful attractions that Paris has to offer (Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées…) the idea of visiting the Catacombs on an already depressing day did not thrill me.
I always pictured the Catacombs as dark, humid place with rats running around… well, I have to confess, I was very nicely surprised. The site itself is well maintained. It’s clean, well lit and no rats to be seen anywhere on the horizon. Picture yourself walking in a brightly lit, clean cave basically.
For those of you that are wondering what I’m talking about, the catacombs are a series of underground ossuaries in Paris. Located in the 14th district, you can take the subway to Denfert-Rochereau station. Inside after descending a long long long winding staircase, you will find tunnels containing the remains of over 6 millions human bones collected from cemeteries all around Paris, spanning a period of almost a thousand years dating back to the Crusade. One set of bones I stumbled across was dated 1780. Taking a moment to reflect on that was very cool. The tunnels themselves were created out of the limestone quarries that were mined to provide most of the stones that make Parisian style buildings so unique.
They highly recommend booking your tickets online, because the line gets long pretty quickly. They only allow a certain number of people at a time, because the space is quite small. Be aware, if you are claustrophobic, you should consider those things before you go. As I mentioned before, it was not a very nice day in Paris, and we decided to take our chances and go without booking our tickets online. We did wind up having to wait in the damp and cold for about a half hour, but overall it was not that bad. Be prepared if you go on warmer days without purchasing your tickets online, the line might be considerably longer.
The ticket price itself were reasonable, around 13€ per person. The actual visit itself doesn’t take too long, approximately an hour.
Be aware, that when you exit, you will be in a different location. So take notes where the subway station is located.
I was born and raised in Paris and was very surprised to discover how interesting this part of the city was to explore. I have read a lot of books about the Catacombs and learned about it in school but, I never really took the time to actually visit it. For those of you that are skeptical or might find the idea of this a little morbid. I would say on the contrary, it is incredibly interesting and informative, especially of you stop and take a moment to think that the bones you are looking at might be almost a thousand years old.
Paris has a lot to offer and you can easily get overwhelmed by all the beautiful and interesting places to visit. I would recommend the Catacombs for a second trip to Paris; because on your first trip you’ll want to be able to cover the basic tourist spots, then you’ll have the time to visit the more unusual and unique places that Paris has to offer. My family enjoyed the visit also and we were all nicely surprised. I would also recommend when you are done with your visit, to stop for a drink in one of the numerous café around the Denfert-Rochereau plaza and just relax while looking at the people passing by.
Is this a place you would like to visit? Tell me what is your favorite part of Paris.