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Underneath the, you’ll find a honeycomb of tunnels. The tunnel system is a giant maze and no one knows quite how many tunnels or chambers there are out there. Paris is, after all, a very old city that has been built and rebuilt many times. It’s what is left of rock quarries built an expanded over the center.
Yet, in this maze of tunnels, one part open to the public – the famous “Catacombs” of Paris. The Catacombs of Paris were created at the end of the 18th century. Situated twenty meters below ground, this ossuary contains the remains of millions of Parisians transferred gradually between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries as graveyards were being closed and moved outside the city center. The bones were always moved at night to a ceremony made up of a procession of priests who sang along the way to the Catacombs.
Since the first day they were complete, the Catacombs have been an object of curiosity, even for royalty. In 1787, Lord of d’Artois, who became King Charles 10, went down there with the ladies from the Court. In 1814, François 1st, Emperor of Austria, went to visit and explore them while he was in Paris. In 1860, Napoleon III went there with his son. The catacomb walls are also covered in graffiti dating from the eighteenth century. Everyone has left their mark on this place. Towards the end of the 18th century, the catacombs became a tourist attraction and have been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867.
In the dark galleries and narrow passages, you’ll see bones arranged in a macabre display. Catacombs are eerie. They are quiet, dark, damp, and a bit downright depressing. There are lots of bones around and most of them are just stacked up on each other. You’ll never know who is who – that skull you are looking at could be someone who died from the plague or from a wealthy aristocrat. You never know.
I’ve visited this site multiple times and I always find it super creepy yet super interesing. The history here is incredible and you can see markings on the walls from the centuries of visitors here. it is one of the best things to see and do in Paris and should not be missed!
Some interesting facts and figures:
- The depth of the Catacombs is equivalent to a five-story building.
- The area is 2 kilometers long.
- It takes 45 minutes to see it.
- The constant temperature in the Catacombs is 14 Celsius.
- The surface area of the ossuary is 11,000 square meters.
To get to the Catacombs of Paris, you can take the subway and the RER to Denfert-Rochereau or use Bus 38 and 68. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day except Monday. Visitors are limited to 200 at a time so the ling can get really long as people get backed up. I highly recommend resereving your space in advance to avoid the line. Tickets cost 13 Euros. Theere are audio guides available in English, French, German and Spanish for an extra 5 Euros.
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For more in-depth information, check out my guidebook to Paris written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!!
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