The Paris Catacombs are part of the former mine tunnels that riddle the underground of Paris. They were originally used to mine the stone that was used to build many of the city’s buildings. A lack of burial space in the city cemeteries led to the bones of six million people being placed in the disused tunnels between 1786 and 1788.
How to Get To The Catacombs
Entrance is via Place Denfert-Rochereau. We used the Metro to get there, getting off at Denfert-Rochereau.
If you go in peak season and do not pre-book your ticket, the wait in line can be up to four hours. Alternatively you can book a skip the line ticket and wait in this shorter line. These options allow you to pace yourself around the catacombs, using a set of headphones and recorded commentary.
We took the more expensive option of a guided tour. This allows a definite start time, with a guaranteed no waiting in line. The professional guide also provides excellent information as you go, as well as access to areas the general entry patrons cannot access, as they are behind locked gates.
There is no disabled access to this site, as entry and exit are via spiral stairways. Once in however, the tour is along fairly good pathways, although they are made of dirt / stone and can be wet and slippery in places. The tunnels can be quite low, so tall people may find it a bit discomforting to walk around bent over for part of the tour.
What You See
The first part of the tour covers old tunnels, where you can see place holders for the above streets. This is all quite interesting, but the tour really takes off when you see the ossuaries. The sheer quantity of bones and how they have been placed is amazing. At this point the guide left us to walk through by ourselves in silence. You are also asked to be respectful of the dead as you pass through. Photos are allowed, but no flash.
The tour lasted two hours. As with many tours, it exits through a gift shop.