The Story

Quarrymen first dug these tunnels in ancient times. The stone called cliquart was used for building Paris buildings, churches monuments and sculptures. Nearly the whole Left Bank is over a labyrinth of quarry galleries and hollowed-out chambers, some of them more than twenty-five feet high.

They were later used to warehouse the remains of seven million Parisians. At the end of the 18th century, the government began converting several subterranean rooms into mass graves. This was necessary to meet desperate overcrowding in the medieval, rat infested, cemeteries in the center of Paris. From 1785 to 1786, in 15 months, millions of bones and rotting corpses were transported from the unsanitary city cemetery in Les Halles to this place.

It was a monumental project to transport the bones in huge carts at night across the city. Their skeletons are neatly stacked and aligned to form the walls of nearly one kilometer of walking passage.

 

Arrête! C'est ici, l'empire du mort

Stop! This is the empire of death.

You'll come across this quotation after descending some 20 metres under the pavements of Paris.

About two kilometres of the passages are open to the public - the way is marked with spotlights and the walk takes around 45 minutes. The rest is a vast network of underground passages where you wouldn't like to get lost unaccompanied, so don't leave the path! Take a coat with you even in summer, as the temperature is quite chilly underground and if you can, take a pocket lamp...

 

Catacombes fun facts

In XVIII century merchants used the secret tunnels to sneak into Paris and avoid paying a tax on their goods.Just before the Revolution, Charles X threw wild parties in the catacombs.

During World War II the French Resistance set up its headquarters here.

During the  wars, it is said that all the treasures of Louvre and other museums in Paris, were hidden somewhere in the catacombs.


Mushrooms (les champignons de Paris) were grown illegally in the dark tunnels, in the 1940s and 50s. Potatoes and beer have also been stored in the tunnels.

It is forbidden to go down there because it is dangerous, but there are some adventurous people, called Les Cataphiles, who go exploring the tunnels in secret. 


Modern troglodytes (cave dwellers) also have parties in the underground. There were  restaurants, cinemas and discoteques found in the catacombs. Regular patrol of the police is futile, as there are virtually hundreds of kilometers of underground tunnels.

Most of the tunnels are located at the base of the three "mountains": Montparnasse, Montrouge and Montsouris. There are approximately 300km of galleries all together, not all of them are connected.


The most extended connected system of tunnels is located under the 5th, 6th and 14th districts, and is about 100km long.

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Catacombs  in Paris

Location

Paris , France


 Address

1 av Colonel Henri Roi-Tanguy, 14e


 Getting there

Metro: Denfert Rochereau


 More information

www.catacombes.paris.fr/en


 Prices

adult/child €12/free


 Opening hours

10am-8pm Tue-Sun