Discover the “dark underground city” of the dead which began as Gallo-Roman quarry tunnels around 60 B.C., back when Parisii was the name of a local tribe recently pacified, and Paris was known as Lutece, a distant frontier outpost scorned by legionnaires. An arena, thermal baths, forum, and temple were built from the high-quality calcite stone, which has since supplied the building blocks for most of the modern city.
Around 1785, the government began converting 350 of these underground rock quarries into mass graves to meet desperate overcrowding in the medieval cemeteries that dotted the center of Paris. The combined bones of 400 years are neatly stacked in these tunnels which form the Catacombs of Paris.
The transfer of the remains would begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7th 1786, and it continued until 1788. Always at nightfall and followed by a ceremony whereby a procession of priests in surplices sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.
"Stop!" the sign reads, “This is the Empire of Death." When you first enter down into the guts of Paris and read this, let the tour begin!
From Tuesday - Sunday from 10 am till 8:30 pm (closed May 1 & August 15)
Last admission: 7:30 pm
Note: The catacombs can close for visits without notice. They only allow 200 visitors at a time in the site. There are also a great number of steps involved (130 to go down, 83 to go up). And of course, not suitable for children under 10 or people who suffer from claustrophobia.