Catacombs of Paris

Paris, France

The origin of the Paris Catacombs, which it would be better to call “Municipal Ossuary”, goes back to the end of the 18th century. The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.

Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the city of Paris had in fact just completed a general inspection of the quarries, in order to strengthen the public highways undermined by them. Building work was done on the “Tombe-Issoire” quarry, using large quantities of stone, strengthening the galleries and completed by digging out a staircase, flanked by a well into which the bones could be thrown.

The transfer of the remains could begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7th 1786, and it continued until 1788, always at nightfall and following 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.

Since their creation, the Catacombs have aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court. The following year a visit from Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is mentioned. In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.

The Paris Catacombs re-opened on June 14th 2005, after several months of closure for building work. The lighting has been adjusted, the vaults strengthened and the walls of bones put back.



Your name


Founded: 1786
Category: Cemeteries, mausoleums and burial places in France


4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Danny Bridgewater (3 months ago)
Fantastic experience that I cannot recommend highly enough! We went in July right before Bastille Day. It was very busy with a line around the block so I definitely recommend getting a tour guide; they can tell you so much information and we managed to skip the huge line. It is beautiful and macabre so if you enjoy dark and twisted or eerily beautiful this is for you!
Layton J (3 months ago)
Want to realize the value of your life and all that it contains? Visit here. You can just marvel at the limited time here on Earth, and ponder what the future holds in eternity. You are literally face to face with it by the millions of bones. I highly recommend doing this. I didn’t get to it until my 2nd trip to Paris, and happy I finally did. It was a very confronting experience to gaze my eyes and heart into what eternity may hold. Miles may vary for others, but this was my takeaway as someone of faith.
Juan Quaglia (4 months ago)
Very creepy place, as you can expect. It's interesting how the skulls have been arranged following different patterns and designs. Only one section of the catacombs is accessible to the public. At the end of the visit there's a gift shop with different skull-related items.
Emily Michelle Fata (4 months ago)
Surprisingly not as eerie as I thought travelling through an underground World of the Dead would be. You adjust fairly quickly to your surroundings and it instantly becomes increasingly interesting. To see how nearly the entire city of Paris has this network of bones underneath it is equal parts shocking and impressive. You should note too, that it’s a long way down into the depths of the Catacombs, and what feels to your body like an even longer climb back up to the surface (if you’re not in the best of shape). Totally worth it, though! I’d definitely go back.
Alvaro (4 months ago)
Interesting visit, not worth it without audio guide and quite expensive, the tour is just a walk around, the first part was just a tunnel, an interesting one at that but still, the second part was through the bones. Great experience but bearing in mind it's just a walkthrough I think 15€ is more than enough. Besides the 40% of the exposition is closed due to c...d 19. I don't know why if they left visible the other 60%...
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Kraków Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).

The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.

The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.

On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.

The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.