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On its surface, Paris is a bustling metropolis, known for romance, sparkling monuments, and breath-taking views. But below ground, another city awaits: the city of the dead!
When wandering the charming streets of Paris, it’s hard to believe that the world’s largest ossuary lies just beneath your feet. The Paris Catacombs house the remains of more than six million people, meaning there are far more passed on parisiens under the city than ones currently living here!
Open to the public since 1809, the Paris Catacombs offer an unusual sightseeing experience, one which will have you contemplating your own mortality and reflecting on the City of Love’s long and bloody history.
After passing through the beautiful and bright new visitor’s entrance, you descend some 100 steps down into the dark and chilly catacombs – it’s a constant 57°F (14°C) down there, so be sure to dress warmly.
You then walk through nearly one mile of underground galleries and tunnels filled with impressively stacked bones and interesting sculptures. The number of skulls and skeletons in the space is absolutely mind-blowing, and although it can feel a bit eerie to be surrounded piles of Parisians past, quotes and verses from famous philosophers and poets are there to guide you in your thoughts and offer other perspectives on death.
45 minutes and another 80+ steps later, you return to the daylight, exiting the underground ossuary at 21 bis Avenue René Coty to go on with your day. It’s something of a culture shock after spending nearly an hour in the city of the dead.
Urbansider Tip: The catacombs are known to have horribly long lines, so avoid the often hours-long wait by buying a ‘skip-the-line’ ticket (29€ for adults with audio-guide included, or 5€ for kids) online ahead of time.