In 1788 the bodies buried in cemeteries needed to be dug up and replaced due to public diseases, and the earth decomposing in the surrounding areas. The solution was to unbury the dead and place them in an underground tunnel network, which remains under Paris today.
Walking into the Catacombs, you will wait in a line as any other exhibition here in Paris. However, after you enter, it is unlike any other experience you will find here in Paris. You will initially descend down a narrow stair case winding down, down, down 130 steps of stairs.
Once you reach the tunnels of the catacombs, you begin a thirty minute walk in silence and darkness. On the walls of the tunnels are small light lit lanterns, giving off just enough light, for you to see your way, but keeping a dark and somber tone. The path is narrow, the ceiling will rise and fall along with the floor, at times requiring you to duck through a passage way and to be cautious of your step.
After a slow eerie walk through the tunnels you turn the corner and be faced with what you are about to enter- “Arrete! C’est ici l’empire de la mort.” (Stop! This is the empire of death.) Baaa haaa haa haa haaa!
Upon entering into the halls of stacks upon stacks of bones of dead bodies from the 17th century, you will be greeted with millions of bones consisting of femurs, tibia’s and skulls intricately stacked and piled together.
Yes lots and lots of dead bodies. Essentially, wall to wall bones in stacks around five feet high. You will be tempted not to say, “I see dead people.”
While walking through you are free to take pictures (without the flash), it is quite minus a few silent whispers and the sound of water dripping. The water dripping through the ceiling added a whole new level of creepiness to our adventure. My friend and I turned to each other and said, “Um… what is that dripping on us? And is the ceiling going to collapse and pile dead bodies on top of us? Run!”
Now, walking through tunnels of dead bodies may not sound like your romantic, beautiful, Paris get away. I must admit, I was quite hesitant to check out the catacombs, but after exploring I would say this is a spot not to be missed. It is quite creepy… but with a friend can be quite fun as well. And there are element of classic touristy Paris worked into the piles of bones.
You have Art.
There are many great Photo Ops.
Then for the lovers out there, as in all places in Paris, even in the ghostly halls of the Catacombs, here too is a perfect chance for you to smooch.