Not exactly cheerful, more of a creepy and scary place, but interesting. It's the catacombs of Paris. It may look like a Czech ossuary near Kutna Hora. Les catacombes de Paris are originally stone mines created by the ancient Romans.

It wasn't until 1786 that the premises were consecrated and the catacombs became the new repository for human remains from disused cemeteries.

Today, the catacombs of Paris comprise over 190 km of passageways beneath the whole of Paris and lie at a depth of approximately 20 m underground. Only less than 2 km of corridors are open to the public, which are illuminated and you walk past variously arranged bones.

Top 10 hotels in Paris

Why were the catacombs created?

The history of the catacombs in Paris goes back deep into the 12th century, when limestone mines were established en masse, often illegally, on the outskirts of Paris, in the form of wells and then horizontal tunnels until they were completely mined out.

Until the 18th century, burials were common in open-air cemeteries, where bodies were buried only very slightly underground, often in appalling conditions. The worst of these were in the infamous Les Innocents (Cemetery of the Innocents), where on several occasions the inhabitants of the adjacent houses suffocated from the fumes of the badly buried bodies. Such cemeteries in the Middle Ages also rapidly increased the chances of plague infection.

Therefore, in 1780, King Louis XVI ordered the abolition of all cemeteries "intra muros", i.e. inside the walls. Thousands of bodies had to be exhumed and disposed of quickly and efficiently, and the former mines were ideal for this purpose. The bodies were buried deep underground (usually up to 20 metres) in a relatively dignified place.

6 million skeletons

Over time, the Parisian underground became filled with the skeletons of more than 6 million inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area, especially during times of mass cemetery closures due to plague. These 6 million skeletons accumulated in the catacombs in just 30 years at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The remains are spread over 250 km of corridors.

Admission and opening hours

The catacombs are open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:45am to 8:15pm (last entry 7:15pm). A maximum of 200 people can visit the underground at any one time, and only a very small part of the passages is accessible - about 2 km in total.

In this part, you will walk through the underground with skeletal remains stacked up and skulls stacked on the walls.

  • Adults - 29 eur
  • Juveniles under 26 - 23 eur

Currently, admission can only be booked online and at least 7 days in advance. Tickets cannot be purchased on site.

For more information visit the official website: www.catacombes.paris.fr.

How to get there

As the catacombs are located further away from the centre and other tourist attractions, it is advisable to take the metro to get here.

Directly to the entrance of the catacombs are lines 4 and 6 at Denfert-Rochereau station, the RER train line B and there are also bus stops for lines 38, 59, 68, 88.

What to see around

Discover all the places to see in Paris.

This article may contain affiliate links from which our editorial team may earn commissions if you click on the link. See our Advertising Policy page.