What Lies Beneath the Streets of Paris


Beneath the cobblestone streets of Paris lies an ossuary containing the bones of millions of Parisians. 20 meters below the surface, the tunnels of the Catacombs run all throughout Paris and were once used for mining purposes and as burial grounds when the cemeteries of the City of Lights were overflowing.

These mysterious tunnels have existed since the 13th century and were originally created for the mining of limestone, which was used to build most of the Paris we know and love today. For a city that is known for art, love, and fashion it is hard to believe such dark secrets hide under its streets.

The Catacombs have been measured to run around 320 kilometers (200 miles), but there many areas that are still undiscovered and untouched, just waiting to have some light shed on them. The Catacombs museum, located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris on place Denfert-Rochereau, is your ticket to the underground world of France’s capital. The museum entrance is the only place where you can see the catacombs legally. Open everyday 10am - 8:30pm, except Mondays. Expect to wait for at least 1 hour on any day and at anytime. This is a very sought-after historical destination for tourists and Parisians alike.



Address: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris

Transportation: Métro : Denfert-Rochereau (line 4 and 6) RER B Denfert-Rochereau station Bus: 38, 68, 88, 216

Opening Hours: 10AM - 8:30PM Tuesday - Sunday

Admission Fee: 13€ general

27€ “Skip the line”



We visited the Catacombs on a Friday morning in July. Since the museum opens at 10am we decided to arrive at 9AM to avoid a long line, but upon our arrival the line was already wrapping around the park. We ended up waiting outside for 2 ½ hours before entering the museum. If you are planning your visit to Paris, we suggest booking the “Skip the Line” tickets beforehand to literally skip the line when you visit. The “Skip the line” and audio guide ticket are 27 euros while general admission tickets are 13 euro or 11 euro for students.

At the start of the museum tour, you immediately begin descending down a spiral staircase. Your visit will begin in a room presenting you with the history of the catacombs and the geology surrounding you. After reading about the site, you can enter the tunnels winding beneath the streets you normal walk down. As you begin your journey through the dark narrow tunnels, an eerie feeling arises. The atmosphere is damp, dark and cool in temperature. There is water dripping from the ceiling and mysterious corners blocked with gates. Your only option is to keep walking.


Eventually, you will reach the ossuaries containing the remains of more than 6 million skeletons. This is when things really get creepy. If you frightened at all by the idea of death or human bones, we advise you to sit this one out. During the tour, you will walk around 2 kilometers and climb around 200 stairs. The entire tour will last around 45 minutes but you are welcome to take your time.


The bones you see in the ossuary are actually bones that were initially resting in a cemetery. In the spring of 1786 when a popular Parisian cemetery, Les Innocent, was becoming too packed with bodies, a huge rain came and whipped out the walls of the grounds. In the days after, bodies were found in neighboring villages because the water had washed them out. At this point, they began to bring the bones of about 6 million people down into the catacombs. During the French Revolution, dead bodies were taken directly to the catacombs. They last bodies ever taken down into the catacombs were in the year 1860.

While walking through the ossuary, it can be a bit shocking to see to the bones stacked and arranged in a peculiar way. The bones are displayed in stacks from the ground to ceiling. Some of the bones are arranged in designs such as hearts or crosses.




Amongst the bones of the deceased in the underground world of Paris, you will experience history first hand. Visiting the Catacombs of Paris can be an exhilarating adventure and we highly recommend planning a trip down into the dark tunnels during your trip to Paris.

When exiting the museum, you will find the museums gift shop. This is a great place to find souvenirs for your skull loving friends. It is also important to note that the exit is not at the same address as the entrance. Not far from place Denfert-Rochereau, you exit the catacombs around the corner at 21 bis avenue René Coty Paris, France 75014.



Author and photographer: Claire WILMINK