Your Catacombs experience will begin at an unassuming black gate on 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy. This black gate, inevitably found with a long entrance queue, marks the entrance of the Catacombs network that is open for visitors.
Beat the queues by booking your skip the line tickets in advance.
Considering its position as one of the most visited attractions in Paris, the Catacombs usually have a long queue waiting to enter. And with only 200 visitors allowed inside at any given time, the wait only increases. On most days, the average visitor to the Catacombs will spend over an hour standing in the entrance line. One quick way to beat this queue is to book your tickets online in advance. On the day of your visit, you can skip the long ticket queue and head inside without spending over an hour standing and inching towards the entrance.
Once you’ve entered, 130 steps will take you over 20 metres below the streets of Paris into a maze of narrow corridors, stone sculpture galleries and a museum before you reach the Catacombs entrance. The entrance is signified by a warning carved into the door lintel that reads ‘Arrète! C’est ici L’empire de la Mort’ (Stop! This is the empire of the dead).
Inside the Paris Catacombs
Once inside the Catacombs, the first thing that visitors usually notice is the peculiar smell that lingers in the air. The smell has been described by some as a dusty scent that will remind you of old stone churches, but with it’s own flavour of underlying gloom that can only be attributed to the contents it holds.
While the number of skulls and bones on display is quite striking, what mostly leaves visitors gawking are the patterns in which the skeletal remains of millions of Parisians have been arranged. Skulls and femur bones can be found piled into towers, crosses and symmetrical patterns. These ornately designed “objects of curiosity” are over 6 feet high and on all sides of the path that winds through the tunnels.
Catacombs Entry and Exit
The Catacombs entry and exit are carefully monitored to not allow more than 200 visitors inside the tunnels at any given time. This allows you to explore the Catacombs in peace and there’ll be times when you find yourself alone, sharing space with only the dead and no visitors around you. While the entry to the Catacombs is located on 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, visitors exit the tunnel network around 500 metres away at Rue Rémy Dumoncel. The trip through the tunnel is approximately 1.25 miles (2km). The exit to the Catacombs opens up in a nondescript residential alley next to a gift shop.
What to See in the Catacombs