Afraid of the Dark? Tips for the Paris Catacombs

Catacombs Paris Tips

With Halloween coming up, I couldn’t help but think about the time when I journeyed to the darkest, dankest part of Paris—the Catacombs. Yes, I have a history of finding pitch-black places kind of fun (including the recent adventure of climbing through volcanic lava tubes in Iceland), but strolling through an underground tomb holding millions of bodies’ worth of bones is quite a different story.

If you are thinking about braving the Catacombs, here are a few tips I have…if you dare.

Watch your step.

This is not your typical half-an-hour tourist exhibition. I was surprised to find how long it took to get through it—expect an hour if you take time to stop and read some of the information provided. You will end up walking down several stairs and ramps, so keep in mind that you should watch your step and look where you’re going, no matter how tempting it is to stare at the rows and rows of skulls and femurs stacked.

Claustrophobics, think twice.

It may seem like a good idea to head down underground, but if you have a fear of somewhat crowded places (and to be warned: you will be quite a ways underground), then you might want to think again before paying the 3 euro fee. The positive news? It is well-lit, and there are staff members located throughout the area, so if you are in need of some assistance, it’s easy to find someone who can help you.

Do a bit of research beforehand.

Though it’s exciting enough just to see layers and layers of bones stretching for seemingly miles (well, fun for some), it’s a whole lot more interesting to read about some of the history surrounding the Catacombs. They’ve been a tourist destination for centuries and hold bones from several different time periods. Knowing a little bit about the history of Paris can help you a lot once you are underneath the city.

It does end…eventually.

If you find yourself down there, well, freaking out a bit, it’s good to know that you can zip through the exhibition fairly quickly. Ask to pass others politely—they’ll be happy to step aside for you. You’ll have to climb another set of stairs before you reach the top, but seeing that first ray of sunlight after being underground for so long is completely worth it—and you can say that you made it out alive!

Have you ever been to the Catacombs? Which other places would you recommend for a scarier experience?

Image courtesy of Will White.

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