the catacombs of paris

These are underground catacombs (ossuaries) are located south of the Place Denfert Rochereau, the former city gate (the ‘Barrière d'Enfer’), and hold the remains of about six million people in a section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of historical stone mines.

Quartier de la caserne © DAC - Christophe Fouin

The name of ‘Catacombs’ was given to this ossuary in reference to those of Rome, a name originally given to an ancient cemetery not far from the Appian Way. 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. These disused quarries were the destination for the human remains, the transfer of which began in early April, 1786, and continued for two years, always at nightfall. Thereafter, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries in Paris.

Quartier de la caserne © DAC - Christophe Fouin


Since their creation, the ossuary has 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.


1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris (14th Arrondissement).

Open: daily from 10am to 8.30pm, except Mondays and public holidays.

Because of a restriction on visitor numbers, you may have to wait to get in. A torch would be handy.

A degree of mobility is a requirement. Two steep, cut stone, spiral staircases, circa 1800, must be negotiated. The site covers approximately 2kms. The exit is a long way from the starting point.

Conditions and accessibility

Visitor numbers are restricted to 200 at any time. Admission may be delayed for a short time during busy periods.

Distance covered: 2 km. Duration of the tour: 45 minutes.

No toilet or cloakroom facilities available.

130 steps to go down and 83 steps back up to street level.

Temperature: 14°C.

The tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of a nervous disposition and young children.

Not accessible for persons with reduced mobility.

Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

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