Underneath the glamour and beauty of Paris lies an open graveyard with human remains going back centuries. Wait, it’s not as gruesome! A Paris Catacombs tour has been one of the most sought after experiences for tourists, a fact the legendary queue outside the entrance are testament to!
Here's everything you need to know before booking tickets for a Paris Catacombs tour - is it really worth it?
Why You Must Visit The Paris Catacombs?
Tale As Old As Time
It all began in the 18th century with most Paris cemeteries becoming overpopulated. With no place to bury the dead, what followed was a lot of open graves, improper burials, and unearthed corpses. Years of public outrage finally forced the government into action and led to the creation of the Catacombs.
In 1786, the Tombe-Issoire quarries were converted into what we now know as the Catacombs. Over the next two years, bones were transferred from the Les Innocents to the catacombs, and all subsequent burials occurred on the Catacombs. By the time the construction was finished, the winding tunnels had stretched a massive 300 km!
Paris Of The Past
Outside of being an archaeological marvel, where over 6 million dead people lay (peacefully?) under the City of Lights, the Catacombs are significant to the city in more ways than one.
The Catacombs were built on abandoned limestone quarries, which produced the stone used for building Paris. While a majority of the surface is covered with bones, there are small remnants of the quarries still intact, offering history enthusiasts a peek into the literal building blocks of the city of Paris. Another aspect that makes the Catacombs special is their significance in the evolution of Earth’s geology.
Paris Catacombs Tour Deconstructed
Most Paris Catacomb tours cover a 2 km (about 1.25 miles) distance, which lasts for about 45 minutes. While a mere 1% of the total 200 km wide Catacombs, the tour is quite engaging and informative. Skip the long lines and head straight into the fascinating tunnel complex alongside your tour guide. Delve deep into this grotesque architectural wonder of skulls and bones as you learn about the history of the Catacombs from your expert bilingual tour guide. Most guided tours also include access to some of the restricted areas in the Catacombs.
Paris Catacombs Tickets vs Guided Tours
Skip the Line Catacombs Tickets with Audioguide
Paris Catacombs Underground Tour
upto 13% off
*Headout’s Paris Catacomb Tour tickets are available for 20% less than other online prices.
Paris Catacombs Tour Reviews
My family of 5 saved a LOT of time by buying passes ahead of time through HEADOUT. We bought them online and then picked up the physical tickets from a small cigarette/tourist shop near the Catacombs. It all worked out fine. Yes, we did pay a little more than face value, but it was well worth not waiting in the "buy ticket" line.
The Catacombs are definitely worth seeing. However, depending on time or day and year you go will determine if you need to buy the skip the line ticket (headout.com). We went and similar to a previous post, the line wrapped around the park and almost connected. This would be well over a two hour wait. If you go and there is a smaller line, wait it out. If you see the line is way too long for your comfort, then buy the ticket via smart phone right then and there. Go to the bodega across the street and they will print the ticket out free of charge. They also have free wifi if your phone does not connect to the internet. For about 12 Euro more than the regular ticket, you skip the line, get an audio device, and small children are free.
Getting To The Catacombs Paris: Location and Directions
The Paris Catacombs are located at 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, Place Denfert Rochereau, 75014 Paris and there are many ways to get there.
Schedule and Timings
The Catacombs remain open from Tuesday to Saturday, with Monday being an off day. Visitor timings are 10 AM to 5 PM.
Paris Catacombs Map and Location
You can get to the Paris Catacombs by taking the Paris Metro, specifically trains M-4 and M-6. Deboard at the Denfert-Rochereau station and the Catacombs entrance is across the street, a mere one minute walk away.
By Paris RER
Alternatively, you can opt for the RER and take train RER-B and deboard again at the Denfert-Rochereau station.
Local bus lines 38 and 68 also stop close to the Catacombs if you prefer traveling by bus.
If you choose to rent a car or bring your own (if you happen to live in Paris), the closest paid parking place is at Saint-Jacques Boulevard.
Paris Catacombs Tour - Is it Worth it?
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Now you know all about how the Paris Catacombs came to be, what the experience involves, and the schedule. The only question that remains is if the experience is worth it? Let’s look at the good and the bad of the Paris Catacombs tour:
- The Paris Catacombs are downright iconic when you think about all the work that has gone into their creation. The placement of each skull, every bone, the amount of planning required to make something of that scale, the massive length (300 kms!), and the perfection on display at every step despite the technological limitation of that time, all make the Catacombs of Paris the marvel they’re considered today.
- A Paris Catacombs tour is (probably) one of the closest time travel-esque experience you’ll ever have. The maze-like halls of the Catacombs are lined with the literal and figurative skulls of the past, a reminder of how far humanity has come and the fact that we are all mortals at the end of the day.
- The Catacombs of Paris are also a grim yet beautiful reminder of the rich history of the city and the events that have shaped the city like the French Revolution and Hitler’s regime.
- The Catacombs of Paris are also the resting ground for many revered artists like Jean De La Fontaine, Charles Perrault, Simon Vouet, Francois Girardon, and Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
- One of the most pressing concerns for tourists planning on visiting the Catacombs is the dreaded queue. On an average the waiting time falls between 1 hour to 6 hours and that is a deal breaker for many. Headout's Skip The Line tickets can get you directly to the entrance.
- The catacombs are essentially an open graveyard and some guests might not enjoy staring at the bones of dead people or the general vibe of the place.
Great! Now you’re all set to visit the Paris Catacombs. Before you begin planning, here are some handy tips you’ll thank us later for:
- Given that the Catacombs are entirely underground with limited ventilation, the temperature can get pretty chilly, at around 60°F/15°C . Bring along a sweater even if it’s the summer, because the temperature outside really doesn’t impact the Catacombs.
- Not that you would want to (or maybe you do?), but DO NOT touch the bones. It’s gross and disrespectful.
- Don’t try and steal the bones (it’s a thing some people do), or anything that you did not bring in. The guards at the exit conduct a pretty thorough check and you don’t want to be found with a bone in your front pocket.
- The ceiling gets pretty low in certain sections of the catacombs. If you’re tall, watch your head!
- When you exit after the 2 km walk, you’ll be in a completely different area. Don’t get lost. The nearest metro station is Mouton Duvernet.
- The floor is dusty and/or wet in certain areas and you’ll walking in the dark a lot. Avoid bringing your best pair of shoes for the tour. Opt for a worn out pair of sneakers or anything that’s comfortable and old.
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