Paris Catacombs


If you aren’t bothered by human bones, the Paris Catacombs are a great way to spend a few hours and come with a fascinating history lesson if you opt for the audio guide. There is normally a pretty substantial line to get into the catacombs, so I would highly recommend using the Paris Museums webpage to get appointment tickets beforehand. The audio guide costs a few dollars more, but given the interesting history, I thought was money well spent. The tickets that include audio guides came out to just about $30 USD per person.

The appointment tickets allow you to select a particular date and time, and go in without having to bother with the huge lines. This was definitely the way to go, and we enjoyed a few cocktails across the street before walking right in at the specified time. The audio guide is available in English as well as French and Spanish, and numbers on the wall tell you when to cue up which parts of the guide. I failed to notice several of the numbered signs, or they were missing, but either way, if you just keep moving on to the next portion at a reasonable clip, you should have time to hear everything.

The catacombs consist of empty quarry chambers deep under Paris that were filled with human remains when cemeteries began to fill up and facilitate the spread of disease in the late seventeen hundreds. The bones are arranged and tightly packed so that the bones of countless bodies can be fit into such a small area. Most of what you can see is femur bones and skulls, although I’m sure there are several other types of bones there that I wouldn’t have spotted or been able to identify.

They seem to do a great job of admitting the perfect number of people to the catacombs at the same time. There will certainly be plenty of other people present whenever you are there, but I never felt like it was crowded, and if you wanted a picture without other people in it, it was pretty easy to do. I spent about 45 minutes on the walk through the catacombs, but you could easily kill an hour. Because you are so deep underground, it is pretty cool and damp, and you may want to bring a jacket, even in summer when I was there.

This was a fascinating experience, and I thought was well worth the price of admittance, but I’m not sure I’d feel the same if I had to wait in a two hour line, and fork over the $30. In a city that’s spoiled for great architecture and museums, this is definitely something that will offer a little variety.