“Arrête ! C’est ici l’empire de la mort”
Have you already visited the labyrinth under the city that is the Catacombs of Paris?
The Empire of Death is a tour not to be missed.
But what is it exactly?
Back in the late 18th century there were major public health problems that were discovered to be tied to the city’s cemeteries. The decision was made to excavate all of the bones and transfer them to an underground quarry. The 11,000m2 space used to store the bones was transformed into an ossuary aka The Empire of Death.
What can I see there?
Follow the maze of pathways and discover the final resting places of over 6 million bones.
At the entrance to the tunnels you will find sign posts and history boards giving you more information about the catacombs.
Before opening to the public in 1809, Inspector Héricart de Thury decided to do an extensive decorative rearrangement. The bones, previously just piled up, were organised into walls (like in the picture above). He added monuments such as columns, altars and tombs along the pathway and plaques with religious and poetic texts.
Why would I want to go there?
Navigating one of the world’s largest underground ossuaries is an interesting way to learn about the history of Paris.
It is a moving experience, the sheer quantity of skulls and bones make you consider the past and such events as the plague, epidemics, famines.
We would recommend the audio guide, available at the entrance for 5euros, as it provides explanations of the inscriptions on the walls and many interesting facts.
Is it suitable for my children?
It is creepy, yes. Skulls upon skulls upon skulls.
The official site advises against taking children under the age of 10.
Trust your parental judgement. Your child will be confronted with the concept of death, will be in close proximity to real bones but will also learn a lot.
I feel like a visit to the catacombs could be a good introductory point to get the kids asking questions about historical events.
The catacombs are located 20meters below the ground, this means that you need to descend 131 steps on a spiral staircase to enter and climb 112 steps at the other end.
The route is 1.5km total and will take you about 1 hour.
The average temperature is 14degrees and it can be very humid down there so dress appropriately!
The Catacombs of Paris can be found at 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol Tanguy 75014 (place Denfert-Rochereau)
Opening Hours : Tuesday – Sunday 10h – 20h30
Official Website ( English Version)
There is a limited capacity in the catacombes, so often there is a long wait time to get in. We recommend you to buy your ‘skip the line’ tickets in advance here.
Check out our Out & About section to find more ideas of things to do around Paris!