Report - Paris catacombs - June 2017

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
May 31, 2012
The Paris catacombs; sought after, fantasized and known world wide.

This being my first trip to Paris we had to make a visit to the catacombs something I have wanted to do since I was a kid and long before I started exploring. The history has been done to death on previous reports so here is a wikipedia paragraph:

"The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network. Located south of the former city gate "Barrière d’Enfer" (Gate of Hell) beneath Rue de la Tombe-Issoire, the ossuary was founded when city officials had two simultaneous problems: a series of cave-ins beginning 1774, and overflowing cemeteries, particularly Saint Innocents. Nightly processions of bones from 1786 to 1788 transferred remains from cemeteries to the reinforced tunnels, and more remains were added during later years. The underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis since 1874 with surface access from a building at Place Denfert-Rochereau in the extreme southern part of the city of Paris."

After a short walk from our access, short broken french/English conversations with locals along the way we arrived at the entrance to the catas. We changed into some more appropriate footwear, got our map out and descended into the tunnels.


Straight away we were crouch-walking and getting wet socks, within minutes we forgot about the outside world and were fully immersed in the mystical nature of these ancient tunnels. I was thinking about some history I had read before the trip in which the historian mentions the smuggling that happened using the tunnels, I could almost visualise the smugglers carrying crates of contraband deep beneath the streets lit only by carbide lamps and candles. This histiorical mirage was quickly dissapated when we saw the remains of two city bikes covered in thick dust.

The map was brought out again and we were planing our next move. As this was a Friday afternoon, traffic in the catas was low and we were largely on our own apart from a small light coming towards us. The sound of french EDM was getting louder as the light was getting closer; if David Guetta was ever to direct a horror film, this would be it.

Our new friend was kitted out with a bluetooth speaker, waders and an intense knowledge of the tunnels; so much so he had no map with him. He agreed to show us the castle room and some other famous rooms on the way but warned us of the water and to move our phones from our pockets into our bags. Next thing we knew we were wading through thigh deep cold water providing a refresging cool down from the 35C temperatures above ground.


Our guide was moving fast and occasionally telling us to mind our heads on low sections of rock, french EDM providing the soundtrack to our adventure. We arrived at our first stop, the Castle room, and it was everything I imagined it to be. We got some food and drink out and sat on the carved stone benches while our guide lit his cigarette and we swapped snacks as a sign of appreciation for his help. A few torch lit photos later our guide gave us some of his candles and a lighter to help the ambiance of our pictures while telling us not to spend too much time in this room, gesturing to the large cracks in the rock ceiling.


We took our pictures, packed up and got ready to leave. Our guide told us of a shaft near where he was 'working' where it was possible to get phone signal, so we followed him through more tunnels, passing nobody else as we ventured north through the network. We came to a dead-end, thinking our guide had taken a wrong turn I was about to turn around and retrace our steps until he shone his torch to a small hole in the wall and threw his speaker into the opening, then with speed he crawled through and dragged his bag through with him. I was next and we passed each others bags through the squeeze and emerged into a room mostly untouched by graffiti with a large metal shaft in the middle.


Mobile phone signal was not something I expected to get down here but it was a welcome break from being cut off from the outside world, probably showing how dependent we all are on them in this age. We swapped details with our guide in the hope of meeting with him again on our next trip across the water. He showed us how to make a lantern out of an empty can and a candle as well as showing us on our map how to get out. He accompanied us to the squeeze section, we said out goodbyes and got walking again, the sound of the french electronica slowly fading. Smiles on our faces our next stop was the cellar. Back on our bellies we were making our way into the famous room.


As soon as we were in the room we were awestruck at the quality of some of the art and spent a long time weaving in and out of the pillars looking at the amazing pieces. We were in this room for a long time trying to get good lighting and stay out of each others photographs as much as possible. But time wasn't waiting for us and it was soon time to move on.


As the night was drawing in the traffic in the tunnels increased, one of the most enjoyable parts of this adventure was the friendly party atmosphere in the catacombs. We passed a small room on our way out that was filled with people drinking, eating and smoking, we said hello in passing but were soon called back for a chat which was nice so we tried our best in french but the language barrier was strong so we said goodbye and continued on our path out.


Back into the cold water we pushed on, washing the dirt from our legs as we waded. We passed a well leading down to the lower levels and joked about getting scuba gear one day. Once out of the water we passed a group that had their dog with them, another thing I didn't expect to see in the tunnels. Close to our exit we saw a passage leading off to our right, and decided to have a look. Shin deep water this time we saw several wells leading down as well as an empty one that seemed to be around 10 meters deep. We saw stalactites and took a moment to admire them.


This was our final stretch to the exit now and a small wave of relief washed over me, especially after seeing a news report a few days before our trip about a group of teens who got lost for 3 days in the catas. Nevertheless, this will not my last trip into the catacombs and I look forward to going back underground. Until next time...


A massive thanks to the two I went on the trip with, the memories of the good laughs, microwave food, and badly pronounced french will stay with me forever.


And a big thanks to our guide who, without him, the trip would have been a lot shorter i'm sure.



Bespectacled & irrelevant
Regular User
Dec 11, 2008
North Yorkshire
Nice. You got to see some good stuff! Looks like a wet one though!

I don't know about the ceiling in the castle room, but last time we were there we slept in quite a new room just off the map, some time later I was woken up by a slab the size of a labrador dropping and landing about 10cm away from my head. Do not recommend.
Likes: Stitches


28DL Full Member
Jun 16, 2017
An enjoyable read juxtaposed by some brilliant photography! Need to start saving up and get a flight over there! Move my exploring up a notch...


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
May 31, 2012
Nice. You got to see some good stuff! Looks like a wet one though!

I don't know about the ceiling in the castle room, but last time we were there we slept in quite a new room just off the map, some time later I was woken up by a slab the size of a labrador dropping and landing about 10cm away from my head. Do not recommend.
Nah I dont fancy sleeping in there any time soon haha, sounds like you had a close one


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nov 12, 2016
Aarhus, Denmark
Nice report. Looks like you guys had a great first time underground!

I'm yet to experience this myself - would like to go someday. I can only imagine what a special experience it will be, especially the first time.
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