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Paris Catacombs

This chilling underground graveyard opened as a tourist attraction in 1874, and houses the remains of more than 6 million Parisians.

With its eerily ornate bone formations, the Paris Catacombs seems like some macabre artwork but it actually spawned from practicality. Overcrowded graveyards in the late 1700s were causing health problems in the city, including the spread of disease through contaminated water. From 1786 to 1814, the exhumed bones from the city’s cemeteries were transferred to the abandoned underground limestone quarries, and the result is the haunting catacombs. The passageways are more than a mile long (1.6 kilometers), with wall-to-wall skeletal remains neatly arranged around memorial plaques. The bones are arranged according to bone type – skulls, femurs, tibias. Some bones are more than a century old, with some that date back to the French Revolution. 

Visitors enter in the 14th arrondissement, descend underground via 130 steps and then wind through the low-ceilinged, dimly lit tunnels. The walls feature intricate carvings, known as the Sculptures of Decure. Dating back to 1777, the works were created by Decure, an army veteran and quarry inspector, who perished when a sinkhole opened on an upper level of the tunnel.

Rent a personalized audio tour, which walks you through the winding passages and provide background on some of the ossuary’s highlights. These include the Fountain of Samaritan, a small spring encircled by a wall of bones. The oldest artifact in the catacombs is the Sepulchral Lamp, which was lit by quarrymen working in the corridors.

Allow an hour to wander through the tunnels, which are open every day except Mondays. Adults must accompany children under the age of 14. 

The entrance to the Paris Catacombs is nondescript, tucked away in a patch of trees on the Place Denfert-Rochereau. Be prepared to wait an hour or more in line to enter the catacombs. Take a sweater as it gets cold underground even in summer. It can also be slippery so take care, especially on the many stairs in and out of the tunnels. Stay on track, as you don’t want to find yourself lost in the further 180 miles (290 kilometers) of quarry tunnels. There is paid parking nearby, and public transportation stops nearby as well.

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Best Lodging Options Near Paris Catacombs

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Hôtel Vacances Bleues Villa Modigliani ¥7,844
Hôtel Vacances Bleues Villa Modigliani

Hôtel Vacances Bleues Villa Modigliani

13 rue Delambre, Paris, Paris
     
    3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Paris City Centre, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art and Tour Montparnasse. Paris Catacombs and Luxembourg Palace are also within 15 minutes. Vavin Metro Station is only a 2-minute walk and Edgar Quinet Metro Station is 3 minutes.

    Hôtel Concorde Montparnasse ¥10,415
    Hôtel Concorde Montparnasse

    Hôtel Concorde Montparnasse

    40, rue du Commandant Mouchotte, Paris, Paris
       
      4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in 14th Arrondissement, this spa hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Tour Montparnasse, Bourdelle Museum, and Paris Catacombs. Eiffel Tower and Galeries Lafayette are also within 3 mi (5 km). Pernety Station and Paris Montparnasse-Pasteur Station are within a 5-minute walk.

      Best Western Nouvel Orléans Montparnasse ¥10,617
      Best Western Nouvel Orléans Montparnasse

      Best Western Nouvel Orléans Montparnasse

      25 Avenue Du General Leclerc, Paris, Paris
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in 14th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Paris Catacombs and Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Luxembourg Gardens and Tour Montparnasse are also within 1 mi (2 km). Mouton-Duvernet Station is only a 2-minute walk and Denfert-Rochereau Station is 4 minutes.

        Citadines Apart'hotel Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris ¥21,341
        Citadines Apart'hotel Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris

        Citadines Apart'hotel Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris

        53 Ter Quai des Grands Augustins, Paris, Paris
           
          4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          This family-friendly Paris residence is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Pont Neuf, Sainte Chapelle, and Les Halles. Notre-Dame and Rue de Rivoli are also within 10 minutes. Paris Saint-Michel - Notre Dame Station and Pont Neuf Station are within a 5-minute walk.

          Hôtel du Midi Paris Montparnasse ¥8,204
          Hôtel du Midi Paris Montparnasse

          Hôtel du Midi Paris Montparnasse

          4 Avenue René Coty, Paris, Paris
             
            3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in 14th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Paris Catacombs and Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Luxembourg Gardens and Tour Montparnasse are also within 1 mi (2 km). Denfert-Rochereau Station and Paris Denfert-Rochereau Station are within a 2-minute walk.

            Hôtel du Lion ¥7,794
            Hôtel du Lion

            Hôtel du Lion

            1 Avenue du General Leclerc, Paris, Paris
               
              3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in 14th Arrondissement, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Paris Catacombs and Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Luxembourg Gardens and Tour Montparnasse are also within 1 mi (2 km). Denfert-Rochereau Station and Paris Denfert-Rochereau Station are within a 2-minute walk.

              Villa Montparnasse ¥12,183
              Villa Montparnasse

              Villa Montparnasse

              2 Rue Boulard, Paris, Paris
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Montparnasse, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Paris Catacombs and Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Tour Montparnasse and Luxembourg Gardens are also within 1 mi (2 km). Denfert-Rochereau Station and Paris Denfert-Rochereau Station are within a 5-minute walk.

                Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center ¥17,050
                Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center

                Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center

                17 Boulevard Saint Jacques, Paris, Paris
                   
                  4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in 14th Arrondissement, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Paris Catacombs, Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, and Parc Montsouris. Jardin des Plantes and Place d'Italie are also within 1 mi (2 km). Saint-Jacques Station and Glaciere Station are within a 5-minute walk.