Beneath the streets of Paris, miles of subterranean passageways are filled with stacks of human bones. Here’s how to see them.
The Paris Catacombs are both macabre and unrelentingly fascinating. Roughly six million people reside in these macabre ossuaries, after dying during famines, pestilences, riots or from natural causes. The network of tunnels is so extensive, in fact, that people have become lost down there for days. And while a small portion of the catacombs are open to visitors, a tour is a certified way of understanding the stories and significance behind the skulls and femurs. Read on for skip-the-queue tickets, audio guides and access all areas guided tours.
Paris Catacombs skip-the-line ticket and audio guide
The Catacombs are a popular attraction and long queues have been known to form at the entrance. The simplest, and best-value way to beat these queues is this skip-the-line, allocated entry time ticket. In various spots, the bones have often been arranged into artworks or very ordered piles, with some even containing the victims of a specific massacre or tragedy. As such, the audio guide is an excellent accompaniment, offering up context, as well as excerpts from the storied history of the catacombs themselves, which have witnessed all sorts of spectacles, from murder to music concerts. From €29 per person.
Paris Catacombs tour
For those who would prefer a more interactive Paris Catacombs tour, where you can ask specific questions of your guide, there’s this two-hour, skip-the-line tour. Follow a route through the tunnels and vaults, 20 meters below the ground, past the “Arrete. C’est ici l’empire de la mort” sign (meaning “Stop. Here’s the empire of death”). It’s a great way to learn about the history of these tunnels, which first served as a limestone quarry, before bones from overflowing cemeteries were gradually brought here. These tours operate only on Weds. From €79 per person.
Catacombs of Paris restricted areas access tour
One thing you quickly notice when you’re under the streets of Paris, besides the big piles of human bones of course, is that there are dozens of additional passageways blocked by locked gates. These only hint at the vast scale of the catacombs. They lead deeper into the web of tunnels beneath the city and their very restriction is what makes them so tantalizing to explore. Well now there is a special tour to allow just that. With groups capped at seven people, follow your guide and escape the crowds through gates that are locked closed to the general public. From €122 per person.