In 1810, the Montrouge stone quarries became catacombs. Because of a lack of space in the graveyards of Paris, it is here, 20 ... More
Catacombs of Paris
In 1810, the Montrouge stone quarries became catacombs. Because of a lack of space in the graveyards of Paris, it is here, 20 meters (65 feet) underground, that the remains of six million Parisians are exhibited. These ossuaries, illustrated by texts, create a chilling atmosphere and describe some of the events in the history of Paris, giving visitors substance for meditation. During World War II, this network of galleries was used as a hideaway for the Resistance movement; its vastness and the discretion of its entrances were great assets indeed. Today, these subterranean passages allow visitors to explore the true underground of Paris; a must-visit!
There is no guide. Being early meant no crowds. No flash photography is allowed as it is bad for the bones so used video camera which does well in low light. Many others had flashlights. The ceilings dripped water in places which freaked me out. They laid out the bones in different designs but if you look at the top of the pile you know they tossed the left overs up there and I do not mean that with disrespect. You will see empty spots which make you wonder what happened to the skull. It took us about 45 minutes with photo stops but moving quickly. At the end they will check bags as apparently bones have been taken away which explains those empty spots. In all it is a rare, unusual historical monument and I would rate it higher than the long lines and view from the Eiffle Tower.
When you first hear the word catacombes, do you at once think of death, mold and claustrophobic tunnels? That is exactly what you will see when visiting the Parisian Catacombes. It is a wonderful sight to visit. When in the dark damp tunnels with only a small lamp to light your way, the bones become more than just 'bones', they become something real, a story. Although I truly believe visiting the Catacombes changed my perspective on humans, it may not be the best place to visit with as a family. It is very crowded, and with less people in your group it makes for a more amazing tour. If you do decide to venture out to the Catacombes however, you may want to account a few down sides to this. It is a very popular sight for tourists. So, naturally it is crowded. Very long lines form before the next rush of people allowed into the Catacombes. (Make sure you are very early) Also, the tunnels are very narrow that for many people is uncomfortable. My visit to the catacombes was an amazing learning experience and would love to go back. I would strongly advise people to see this site.
One of the first attractions I wanted to see once I got to Paris is the catacombes. I love history and this was something I could not miss. It was weird yet exciting to walk through the tunnels and see human remains which are over 230 years old. I just wish they would have translates some of the scribes in english! It is a must see.
It is an interesting sight to see, but it all starts to look the same after a while, and being around 6 million people's bones just starts to creep you out. However, there's only one way out, so you just have to keep moving forward.
The entrance itself is a nondescript green metal hut, so look hard or you'll miss it!
Note: If you are claustrophobic or over 6'1", this tour is not for you--low ceilings and narrow paths don't make for inviting conditions. Also, it's true about the narrow spiral staircase. You're going 60 feet down into the earth, so there's quite a few steps. Once you're on "ground level" you'll do a bit of walking--a mile or two--so being in shape really helps.
Also, make sure to bring a flashlight (so you can look into dark nooks and crannies and illuminate the path in the otherwise dim lighting) and a sweater (it gets COLD that far down), and DO NOT wear flip-flops. There's water dripping from the ceiling in spots and the general dampness of being 60 feet underground makes the limestone paths quite slippery. Shoes with good traction are a must.
The steps could pose a big problem if you are out of shape or older. It's more like 80+ going down and almost 200 coming back up in a very small spiral. There is a long stretch of tunnel before you get to the part with the bones, and the passageway is very narrow and seemingly unending. Another warning for the claustrophobic, don't even think about it if you are afraid of confined spaces.
We thought it was very cool, and got some awesome pictures, but after a while the novelty wore off and it was like, tons of bones, I get it. It had to be a mile or two of tunnels and no exit except the one at the end, at the top of two hundred stairs.
They check bags and backpacks at the end, so don�t even think about collecting a souvenir. The bones are somewhat cemented in place, although they are coming loose in some places.
The catacombs are amazing; they are unlike anything else I have ever seen. They are a maze of underground tunnels with alcoves that go back up to 20 feet that are full of bones. The sides of the bone piles have designs made from arranging skulls in patterns. It's weird, but really amazing.
I highly recommend this, although I would add the caution that you have (I'd guess) about 80 steps of spiral stone staircase to go down and up, as well as qiute a bit of walking once you are down there.
This was a totally fascinating experience and one that I don't think the average person really knows about. It is awesome (in a weird sort of way)to walk underground past rows and rows and rows of bones from the Revolution.