When you’re planning your trip, visiting the Paris Catacombs is a must, especially for history buffs.

I went during one of my many trips to Paris last year, and let me tell you, the catacombs were incredible to see.

It was truly surreal wandering around the catacombs, imagining the lives of all the people whose bones occupy the Paris underground.

While we were there, it was also amazing hearing about the history of the Paris and the catacombs from our guide, plus seeing the ossuary, and Décure’s famous sculptures.

I’ll just get straight to the point.

Visiting the catacombs of Paris is truly one of the most unique experiences you’ll have.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip under the city.

History and Significance

paris catacombs ossuary skulls and bones

The Paris Catacombs reflect a distinctive time of Parisian history.

Basically, here’s what you need to know.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, there was a lot of overcrowding in the city’s cemeteries, posing some major public health issues.

This led to the idea of transferring bones to beneath Paris’ streets, using existing old stone quarries.

Later on, amidst the chaos of the French Revolution, the Catacombs became a place to house the remains of victims, including those from the Reign of Terror.

Years later, in the early nineteenth century, the city opened up the Catacombs for public visits.

It wasn’t long before it became a popular hidden tourist attraction, even famously attracting Napoleon Bonaparte.

Fun Fact: The last bone deposits made were in 1860 following an urban development plan undertaken by Haussmann (who changed Paris architecture in an iconic way).

Cemetery overcrowdingInitiated the creation of the Catacombs.
French RevolutionIncreased the ossuary’s use due to widespread death.
Napoleon’s visitMarked the Catacombs as a prominent Parisian landmark.

These days, the city still allows tours to through a small part of the massive Catacombs.

There’s also notorious parties and Catacomb explorers who wander into this underground labyrinth illegally.

While I love the sound of those adventures, it’s not smart to try heading in alone. It’s incredibly easy to get lost below Paris, and very dangerous.

The Catacombs extend over 200 miles, but only a small part is open to you and other visitors.

It’s amazing walking its dimly lit tunnels, realizing you’re walking through a critical piece of Parisian heritage.

This city beneath the city offers a tangible connection to past groups, spanning commoners to kings, all resting together in the silent, stone galleries.

Fun Fact: If you really want to go back far, the limestone quarries, which are now part of the Catacombs, date to Roman times.

Preparing for Your Visit

Tickets and Pricing

Entrance to Les Catacombes de Paris

Purchasing your tickets in advance is very necessary most times of the year, as the Catacombs are a popular attraction with limited entry.

Visit their official website to check various ticket options.

Prices may vary, with options for skip-the-line and last-minute tickets.

When I went, I joined Walks Tour group, which was so amazing.

We had the coolest, most knowledgeable guide, plus got skip-the-line and special access to areas not open to the public.

If you’re looking to join a tour, I highly recommend them.

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What to Wear to the Paris Catacombs

Ally inside the Paris Catacombs on a tour of the paris underground

The most important things to know are the following.

First, there’s a lot of walking. You’ll be going up and down steps. Parts of the floor can be damp and slippery.

So, the takeaway is to wear comfortable closed-toe shoes, with a good grip.

Next, because you’re heading deep underground, the temperature is going to be much cooler and humid than what you feel above ground.

It’s an average of 57°F (14°C) in the Paris Catacombs.

This means in that even in the summer you’ll want to bring at least a light jacket, and maybe pants.

I went in February of last year, and really bundled up because it was freezing outside.

Basically, I wore my sneakers, denim jeans, a black turtleneck, and a black wool coat with a small crossbody bag.

My only regret was wearing a long coat, as the style got annoying to walk in, especially anywhere with stairs.

The last major detail that you need to know when planning your outfit is that large bags and luggage are a no-go in the Catacombs because of the tight walkways.

There’s no coat check or storage room, so don’t bring them.

While I was there, I stuck everything I needed into my pockets and a small cross body bag.

Visitor Guidelines


The Catacombs are not suitable for young children, anyone with limited mobility or certain accessibility needs, or those who experience claustrophobia (trust me, there are some small passage ways).

It’s also worth noting that there’s no cloakroom, and the exit is in a different place from the entrance.

Also, just repeating what I said above, but don’t bring luggage or large bags or backpacks with you. They will not allow you to enter.

Best Times to Visit

Les Catacombes de Paris entrance

Assuming you want to avoid crowds, try to visit the Catacombs when they first open for the best experiance.

Ideally, you’ll also want to plan on going during the week, for less crowds.

Bonus points if you plan your whole Paris adventure during off-peak seasons.

You’ll also want to double check the opening hours and days prior to your visit, as they do sometimes change.

Guided vs. Self-Guided Tours

French inscription inside the paris catacombs

Depending on how much freedom you want to have when visiting Catacombs of Paris, you’ve got a few options for entry.

They offer an audio guide for a more flexible self-guided experience at your own pace.

Or you can do what I did and go with a guided group.

Normally I enjoy being solo, but was really glad I got to have my first experience in the Catacombs be with a Walks Tour.

It was wonderful having a knowingly guide who explained everything, answered questions, and even took us off the beaten path to some areas reserved for special tours.

The only frustration I had with doing a tour was that it was occasionally hard to hear the guide if you weren’t at the front of the group.

It wasn’t his fault, but some area were just too narrow for our group to all get in close enough to hear.

So, if you chose a tour (it’s what I would tell my friends to do), just make sure you stay at the front if you want to hear all the history and details.

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Exploring the Catacombs

The Journey Inside

Ally walking down the steep steps of the Paris Catacombs what to wear in the paris catacombs

After security, you’ll see posters on a bit of the history of the Catacombs, before descending a narrow spiral staircase into the depths of the Catacombs.

The dim lighting and earthy chill of the underground will quickly envelop you as you step into the vast underground labyrinth.

It’s an average of 57°F (14°C) here, so wearing comfortable shoes and a warm coat is a must.

If you’re with a group, stay close to the group leader, and then wander deeper into the Catacombs, taking note of the history, the architecture of the tunnels, and the occasional dripping of water.

The Art and Inscriptions

Paris Catacombs Decure sculpture in private section of undeground

As you navigate the passageways, you’ll encounter more than just skulls and bones, especially if you splurge for a guided tour with extra access.

You’ll discover walls adorned with poignant art and inscriptions.

A quarryman by the name of Décure left some of the most famous carvings and sculptures that are only available to view via a tour.

Besides being an artist, and a quarryman, he was also a soldier in the army of King Louis XV.

It was between 1777 and 1782 that he went in secrecy during lunch breaks and after shifts, to carve three sculptures, all memories from the Seven Years’ War.

His sculpture of Quartier de Cazerne (or Cazerne District), left me the most impressed.

His level detailing is amazing, especially when you consider he probably was working by torchlight with old unrefined tools.

Unfortunately, Décure suffered mortal wounds when a cave-in took place while he was carving a stairway to his artworks.

Over the years, especially during the French Revolution, people damaged the sculptures, but they have been restored several times.

The Ossuary and Skeletal Arrangements

Paris catacombs cross made out of skulls and bones

The heart of the Catacombs lies one of the world’s largest ossuaries.

Basically, this is the area where bones and skulls are arranged into walls and patterns, with structures made from femurs and tibias, interspersed with rows of skulls.

It’s here that you’ll find yourself lost not only pondering your own life and eventual death but also in thoughts of all the lives lived and lost existing just in this room of bones, all belonging to those long lost to time and memory.

Points of Interest


Besides the sculptures of Décure, you may also find plaques commemorating individuals or events in France, like the French Resistance fighters who used these tunnels during WWII.

Also keep an eye out for the Cross of the Carmesare landmarks and the sculpture of Jean de La Fontaine’s characters (he was a famous French poet of the 17th century).

Special Sections and Restricted Areas

Quarter de Cazerne inside the paris Catacombs tour

Restricted areas are just that, areas off-limits to the public, generally because they’re too dangerous.

These sections attract Cataphiles, or urban explorers, who are reminiscent of the days when the French Resistance used the labyrinth.

It is possible to see a bit more of the Catacombs by joining a guided tour with access to Décure’s famous sculptures.

Remember to respect the boundaries to preserve the integrity of this historical site, and to keep from accidentally getting lost below Paris.

Cultural Impact and Modern Uses

Catacombs in Literature and Film

The eerie ambiance of the Catacombs has captivated authors and filmmakers alike.

As Above, So Below, a thriller released in 2014, was the first film to film inside the Catacombs of Paris with official permission.

If you want to go on a movie marathon, you can also check out Bleu Catacombes, a French mystery film that involves the head of a famous artist with a sordid past is found in the Catacombs.

Or, for an English film, check out Catacombs, a thriller about a woman who goes to a party below Paris.

Personally, I’d avoid watching these kinds of scary movies until after I’ve seen the Catacombs, but if you want an extra thrill, then go for it!

If you prefer to read over watching something, there are lots of great books about the Paris Catacombs, though most of what I’ve found veers toward historical books over fiction.

The Catacombs of Paris: The History of the City’s Underground Ossuaries and Burial Network is one i just bought that I’m excited to start reading. The reviews were all excellent.

Oh, and don’t forget there’s always YouTube to check out, including my video (featured above).

I went down a major rabbit hole watching videos on here before my trip. It’s especially fascinating because some people even post footage from illegally entering the Catacombs.

Cataphiles and Exploration

Hall of bones in the catacombs heart shaped skulls in Paris

“Cataphiles” are what the urban explorers of the Catacombs are typically called.

These people feel a mysterious allure towards the miles of tunnels.

This dedicated group seeks the thrill of discovering hidden chambers and graffiti, and over the decades, has developed their own subculture around the Catacombs.

Their explorations contribute to the ongoing narrative and legend of the iconic Paris underground.

Additional Services

Amenities and Shops

Gift Shop at the Catacombs of Paris in France

Before delving into the underground tunnels, stop by one of the nearby cafes for a quick bathroom stop and to refill any water bottles.

It’s worth noting that there is a bathroom right before the steps down to the Catacombs, but while I was there they weren’t open for tourists.

According to our guide this tends to be a bit of a theme, so best to just go before arriving.

After exploring the underground, the gift shop to pick up a souvenir.

They’ve got everything from small items like keychains and magnets to larger items like kid’s games and books.

You can also swing by the shop without entry to the Catacombs if you just want a quick gift for someone.


How can I purchase tickets to visit the Paris Catacombs?

Ossuary inside the paris catacombs

It’s smart to purchase in advance on the official website, as there’s limited entry and is popular among tourists.

What is the best time to visit the Paris Catacombs?

cross and quote inside the paris catacombs

To avoid crowds, it’s smart to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon during the weekdays.

Keep in mind that the Catacombs are open from Tuesday to Sunday, with the last entry typically an hour before closing.

Are there any discounts available for Paris Catacombs tickets?

History of the Paris Catacombs inside the catacombs

Discounted rates are available for young visitors, students, and individuals with a disability.

Remember, it’s important to carry a valid ID to validate these concessions when purchasing your ticket.

Can I buy last-minute tickets to the Paris Catacombs?

Inside the Paris Catacombes Decure scuptures

Last-minute tickets are sometimes available, but because of high demand, it’s risky to count on this.

What is the history behind the creation of the Paris Catacombs?

paris underground ossuary in catacombs

In the 18th century, the Parisians created the Catacombs as a solution to the overcrowding of Parisian cemeteries.

They later transformed the quarries into an ossuary, which now holds the remains of millions of Parisians.

How should one dress for a visit to the Catacombs in Paris?

skulls in the shape of a heart inside the paris catacombs

Wear comfortable shoes for the uneven flooring and avoid bringing big bags and backpacks.

It’s also chilly underground, even during the summer, so bringing a jacket is a must.

Final Thoughts

French quote inside the Paris catacombs

I really hope this guide helps you plan the perfect trip to the Catacombs of Paris.

It’s truly the most unique place I’ve been in Paris, and I’ve been there almost ten times over the last decade!

Let me know in the comments below what you’re most excited about seeing while in France.


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