The catacombs of Paris can be an all day event but the wait is worth it. The catacombs are located in the 14th arr. and are accessible by metro lines 4, 6 and the train RER B as well as busses. The catacombs are closed Mondays. There is now a ‘skip the line’ ticket. If you don’t want to stand in line all day I recommend buying it even though it is a few extra Euros. It also comes with an audio guide. I plan to do this next time I go. To give you an idea of wait time, last time I went I got on line at 2pm and I was in the last group allowed in around 7pm. There are 131 steps down into the catacombs and 112 back to the surface.
The first time I went, I made friends with the two girls standing on line in front of me. We descended together but since I’m a slower reader we separated. After you descend the stairs and go down some slopes there is information about how, and when the catacombs were built. Then the real fun begins, especially for me being a special FX makeup artist. I do a lot of zombie make up and haunted houses. I work closely with the shape of the skull for a lot of my projects in film and theater. The second time I went, I chatted with the people all around me and when we got to the front we told them we were a group of seven.
There is more than one path in the catacombs. I have been twice and have seen some different things each time. The center path is the same but in recent years they have redone the exit and fixed up the stairs. The second time I was there they kind of pushed us through since they were getting ready to close.
The first time I went through I heard some people talking about how a guard had shown them a skull with a bullet hole. I asked and they pointed me to this older man who had a flashlight. You’re not allowed to use the flash on your camera. I asked the man to show me the skull and somehow he decided to give me a tour of some cool stuff that you wouldn’t normally notice. He walked me around and even though his English wasn’t great, he was able to get across that the water dripping from the ceiling was creating stalactites. The water was also crystallizing on a few of the skulls. He would shine his flashlight and gesture at something and we’d play some version of charades.
He even told me where to stand and gestured that he would take a picture with my camera. He used his flashlight to show me where to read a plaque. They were in French and English. He even showed me some graffiti and pointed his flash light down some corridors that weren’t open to the public at the time. A few people would stop and listen to what he was explaining.
It was an amazing experience that I am happy to share and would love to have again someday. I don’t know who this mystery guard was but i hope to see him again someday.