One of the most interesting and certainly the most different places that we visited while in Paris were the “Catacombes de Paris“. If you want to see this complex of tunnels, you need to get there early because the lines build up quickly. We arrived at 9:30am for a 10am opening and still had to wait an hour. By the time we got in, the lines were at least 4 times longer than when we arrived.
The tunnels forming the catacombs were created through quarrying for limestone beneath the city. Many of the buildings you see above ground in Paris were built using stone dug from underneath the city. When the quarrying activity went a bit too far and neighbourhoods started disappearing into sinkholes, the old quarries were shored up to become tunnels and, in an attempt to reclaim land, these tunnels were then reused to store exhumed remains from the city’s cemeteries.
In the mid 1800s, an entrepreneur decided that there were some tourist dollars to be had so he hired labour to neatly stack the bones and started charging for tours of the tunnels.
Although the idea sounds pretty gruesome, the catacombs are absolutely fascinating. Part geology lesson, part general Paris history and part “I see dead people”, this is definitely a tour you should try to take if you are in the city.
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