What is lurking under the streets of Paris?


Paris is the city of light, home of the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées, the Moulin Rouge, amongst many other hotspots; but the French capital is hiding a chilling secret.

Under the streets of Place Denfert-Rochereau is the Catacombs of Paris, a series of tunnels which are lined with the bones of over six million Parisians. Located directly beneath the Rue de la Tombe-Issorie, a short distance from the infamous city gate ‘Barrière d’Enfer’ (Gate of Hell), this underground cemetery is one of the spookier tourist attractions in the city.

In the 1700s, Paris was facing two simultaneous problems – the overcrowding of the city’s cemeteries and a number of cave-ins in its mines which started in 1774. To try this, a decision was taken to move remains from the cemeteries to the newly formed Catacombs. Nightly processions took place from 1786 to 1788 and this morbid creation became a cause of curiosity for many locals.

The Catacombs today are open to the public with regular tours available throughout the year. Tours take around 45 minutes and travel along 2 kilometres of the Catacombs. If it wasn’t eerie enough seeing the remains of so many people together in one place, it is believed that the ghosts of the dead still linger deep below the cosmopolitan city.

There have been various stories of people seeing apparitions and feeling hands on their shoulders. Then, of course, there are the tales of explorers wandering away from the tourist route and becoming lost in the huge maze that is the Catacombs, never to be seen again.

Whether you believe these stories or not, if you are brave enough to go beneath the surface of Paris’ streets, don’t stray from the tourist path.

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Cover photo: Sharat Ganapati via Flickr.