The creepiest place in all of Paris is only partially accessible in a legal fashion – the Catacombs of Paris. The catacombs are the underground of Paris, housing some 6 million bones and skulls dating as far back as the 18th century. With only a small section open for public tours, the rest of the catacombs are illegal to visit (for safety reasons mainly), but if you want to experience the underground of Paris and take a tour of the catacombs, you can!
“Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort!” (Stop! This is the empire of death!)
As you enter the catacombs of Paris, you will walk under a doorway with the above inscription. It’s terrifying. I will not lie to you, as we went down the spiral stairs after purchasing our tickets, I started to feel very nervous. The stairs themselves are a bit dizzying, and if you’ve read articles/watched videos/seen “As Above So Below”, you know what’s coming. You can’t stop going down though. Speaking of “As Above So Below”, this movie was almost entirely shot IN the real catacombs beneath Paris, so what you’re seeing in that film are some of the areas you cannot access on your own. It’s a good psychological thriller if you are into those.
These are the stairs right after ticket purchasing. Down, down, down you’ll go into an area that’s used for exhibitions and when we went, had some interesting history on the city and the catacombs.
I’m really not sure how some can take cute selfies and group photos while they walk through the catacombs. You can clearly see how uneasy and freaked out I was! Ha! For anyone wondering, there is no smell down there. It smells of earth. In the winter, Paris is rainy, so we could hear dripping water and the occasional small puddle, and it just smelled earthy. There is electricity in this public touring section of just over a mile of the catacomb tunnels, and they do have lights down there.
When you tour the catacombs you can take a guide, although it’s not required. You can also purchase an audio guide if you’d like, but we decided to just walk it.
It’s chilly down there, so when you go be prepared for a temperature right around 57° F.
You can get to the catacombs easily, we took the metro which took us right there in the 14th.
Catacombes de Paris (Catacombs of Paris)
1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (place Denfert-Rochereau)
So, why are there catacombs in the first place? Simple – the cemeteries became overcrowded and they ran out of room for bodies! So underneath the city, they went! A quick read about the history of the catacombs can be found here. You can also find other websites and books if you want more in-depth history.
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