Paris is easily one of the most visited city in the world, and it’s no wonder why. It’s home to some of the most legendary art museums, charming architecture, delicious food – not to mention its culture and history.
Most of us tend to equate Paris with opulence, fashion, and art, but did you know that just under the surface lies over 200 miles of tunnels holding the remains of over 6 million people?
When Paris started exploding in popularity and becoming the cultural hub that it is today, there simply wasn’t enough space in the cemeteries, requiring the government to come up with an alternative.
While much of it is unsafe to explore, we are here to bring you the top catacombs tours in Paris available!
Top Paris Catacombs Tours
The 5 Best Rated Tours of the Paris Catacombs for 2023
- Skip-the-Line: Paris Catacombs Tour
- Catacombs Tour with VIP Access to Restricted Areas
- Catacombs Skip-the-Ticket-Line Ticket and Audio Guide
- Catacombs Skip The Line Walking Guided Tour
- Catacombs of Paris Semi-Private VIP Restricted Access Tour
Now lets take a closer look at the catacomb tours in Paris so you can find the right one for you!
Paris Catacomb Tour Reviews
- Departure: Catacombs entrance
- Duration: 2 hours
- Includes: Paris Catacombs guided tour, access to Paris Catacombs, live tour guide
- Other: Comprehensive tour with educated guides
The Paris Catacombs Tour is a 2-hour excursion down into this dark labyrinth. If you’ve been to Paris before, you’ll know that there’s oftentimes a pretty lengthy line to get in on the regular tours. One of the biggest upsides to this tour, is that you get to skip that line and head straight into the mazes of tunnels which lie beneath the city streets.
Beforehand, make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate clothing.
Even in the summertime, it still doesn’t get above 57 or so degrees Fahrenheit down there. Also, the tunnels can get slippery so boots are definitely your friend, or other shoes with a nice grip to them.
The tour starts out at the entrance of the catacombs, where you’ll meet your guide. They have extensive experience in touring the catacombs and know exactly where to go and the history behind it. The tunnels already existed as they were there from miners looking for limestone. You’ll follow the guide throughout different passageways and little rooms.
- We particularly enjoyed their anecdotes, along with the stories from many others who’d worked or visited there.
Of course, there are over 6 million bodies laid to rest here, so we appreciated the stories that were told about some of them as well.
The guide spoke English very well, was friendly, and knew a ton about the history of not only the catacombs, but the entire city of Paris. Trust us when we say that these 2 hours are definitely a very intriguing experience.
- Departure: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris
- Duration: 2 hours
- Includes: Skip-the-line access, visit to the Parisian catacombs, small group , local English-speaking expert guide, special access to restricted areas closed to general public
- Other: Fast access, excellent guide very well-versed in history of Paris and catacombs
Next up, we have the Skip-the-Line: Paris Catacombs Tour with VIP Access to Restricted Areas selection. The title alone is pretty attention-catching, being able to see many restricted areas of the catacombs that so many people would love to have access to!
This 2-hour tour is definitely a bit more “exclusive”, no matter how odd that may be referring to this macabre place like a nightclub. Your tour begins essentially at the entrance of the catacombs.
No need to wait in line – you’ll go with your guide straight past them and into the depths below. You should know that you will need to be physically able to descend and climb various stairs in and out of the tunnels.
So while you’ll have your tickets just like everyone else on the tours, your guide will take you off of the “main” paths. You’ll learn about the stories of how they came to be, and all of the “regular” tales.
However, you’ll also see “famous” remains such as the hidden Gilbert’s Tomb, and many monuments dedicated to those who actually lived from working inside these tombs.
- The Port Mahon Gallery is another interesting section, adorned with 18th-century sculptures made by a quarry worker who spent years chiseling them out of the walls.
The Quarryman’s Footbath and Sepulchral Lamp are some other highlights, and have very interesting significance.
While the catacombs may be a relatively “bizarre” place, they’re anything but unkempt. In fact, they’re organized down to the millimeter! Make sure to go at an easy pace, as the stairs back up can be a bit of a challenge if you’re not used to working out!
- Departure: Catacombs entrance
- Duration: 1 hour
- Includes: Pre-booked ticket for the Paris Catacombs, audio guide
- Other: Quick yet comprehensive tour
Perhaps you may not be feeling up for spending a whole 2 hours in the catacombs. Maybe you simply need a shorter tour in order to comfortably fit it into your schedule for the day. Whatever the case may be, the Paris: Catacombs Skip-the-Ticket-Line Ticket and Audio Guide tour is right up your alley!
Lasting just 1 hour, this is a great way to experience this truly interesting landmark and learning a lot in a short period of time.
Thanks to the skip-the-line ticket, it’s quick and easy to go in once you arrive. You’ll simply be escorted inside by polite, professional staff members.
We should tell you, that this tour does not come with an actual human guide – rather, an audio guide to tell you the history and important things to look out for while touring the depths of these tunnels.
Available in 4 languages, it is quite convenient for many who don’t have time for the longer tours. This also means that you’ll probably want to bring someone along for the ride, because sometimes there may not be other groups around you.
- Just because these were audio guides doesn’t mean that they aren’t informative. The audio was very captivating, educational, and really provided a great understanding of what you’re seeing in that moment.
It’s another excellent choice if you’re on a budget, as this is one of the most affordable ways of seeing the catacombs along with a “guide” to teach you about them. The history, along with the scale of everything is quite impressive!
- Departure: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris
- Duration: 1.5 hours
- Includes: Professional guide, entrance tickets are included
- Other: No queuing, narrated tour
The next tour is just a little bit longer than the one we just covered, at 1.5 hours long. However, one of the biggest differences between the two, is that this one does include a tour guide to teach you about the catacombs and answer any questions you may have.
If that sounds interesting to you, keep on reading about the Paris Catacombs Skip The Line Walking Guided Tour! You’ll head straight to the entrance of the catacombs, where you’ll meet with your guide.
They’ll then take you past the lines, where you’ll waste no time and get straight into the interesting history of this labyrinthian network where millions of Parisians found their final resting place.
The guide will start off by telling you the general history of the tunnels, and how they existed before being used as an alternative “cemetery”. They were used for stones used to build the exquisite buildings we still see around Paris today, and as the space was not likely going to be used any further.
It was a great alternative as the explosion in population and consequentially, greater need for more cemeteries, was become a health issue in the city. In the end of the 17th beginning of the 18th century, the dead were then transported from existing cemeteries down here.
- You’ll also learn about individual stories of workers who made their mark in one way or another in the catacombs. Some passed away doing this work, as well, and it was no easy task.
Another interesting point is seeing the galleries of sculptures which were made from the walls! Any questions you may have, the guides are happy to answer.
- Departure: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris
- Duration: 2 hours
- Includes: Guided visit of the Catacombs, special access to parts of the Catacombs closed to the publics, expert, English-speaking tour guide, VIP small groups of 6 people or fewer
- Other: Very small groups
This is one of the most popular catacombs tour out there, and as such, is often sold out. So, let’s do this quickly because you’ll want to get booked in time! The Catacombs of Paris Semi-Private VIP Restricted Access Tour is yet another 2-hour exclusive excursion that will take you to places most people will never get to see.
Limited to just 7 people max, this is a very small group, which allows you time to ask your guide any questions you may have and also be able to easily navigate through the tunnels.
Thanks to the skip-the-line admission ticket, you and the rest of your group get to pass and go straight to the entrance with your guide. This VIP-style service is one of the best ways to see this historical spot!
While any of the tours on our guide have proven to be excellent, we have to say that it quite fascinating to see some of these “private” locations around the catacombs. Walking over 20 meters below the bustling streets of Paris, your guide will lead you through this maze of seemingly endless tunnels adorned with countless bones.
- One of the most exciting parts of the tour is when the guide unlocks the gates that are typically closed off to the general public! You’ll get the chance to see all kinds of dark rooms full of interesting artwork, and other “surprises”.
We found the guide to be so knowledgeable about French history, as well as the catacombs, in particular. The way they present the information as well as different possible perspectives on this historical place is a wonderful experience.
Paris Tour Guide
Getting There –
Paris is luckily a pretty easy city to get to from the United States, as it’s the second most-visited European capital. It has three airports: Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Orly, and Beauvais. However, the two that you really have to deal with are either CDG and Orly. Beauvais typically is only used by budget airlines, and is much further from the city center than the other two.
Not only that, CDG and Orly are very easy to get to Paris to by the RER trains. Some of the most popular airlines to take to Paris from the US are: Norwegian, American, United, and Air France. However, most major airlines offer flights directly from the US to France. If you don’t feel like taking the train/metro into the city from the airports, a taxi or Uber into the city will take around half an hour (depending on traffic).
Getting Around –
Getting around Paris is luckily incredibly easy to do, even if you’ve never been there before or don’t speak a word of French. However, we recommend going on foot and by metro. These are the cheapest, most efficient ways (and oftentimes the fastest ways to get from point A to point B!).
Walking – It’s no secret that Paris is an absolutely breathtaking city, from its architecture, meticulously-maintained trees, and even the streets. While every massive city has areas you probably don’t want to be walking around late at night in, the touristy areas are generally quite safe at any hour. Not to mention, the main sidewalks and streets are wide and clearly designed for pedestrians. If you’re staying around most tourist hotspots, you could realistically rely just on walking.
Metro – Realistically, though, you’re going to want to mix in walking and taking the metro. There are metro stations everywhere around the city. It’s affordable, easy to see the stations with their large signs and entrances, and operate a whopping 16 routes. Each route is pretty lengthy, too, and you can get from one far end of the city to the other in less than an hour, realistically.
You can purchase a single ticket for about 2 bucks, but it’s probably a better idea to get a book of 10 tickets or a Mobilis day pass. If you get the book of tickets, you do get a discount, and once you ride the metro once you’re going to realize what a cool experience it is and want to do it again. The windows are large, and oftentimes offer some of the best views of Paris! Not to mention, they’re overall very clean, and people tend to read or keep to themselves on the metro. Running from about 6 am to 12:30 am every day, this is a great way to get around.
Train – The Reseau Express Regional (RER) trains have 5 routes (letters A through E) from the city center to the suburbs surrounding it. These are what you’ll take to and from the airports if you don’t want to take a taxi or Uber (or drive). They’re also a great way to see some of the towns outside of the city, and tickets can be purchased at any RER or metro station. Keep in mind that ticket prices won’t always be the same, as they’re based off of which stations you’re traveling to.
Bus – RATP has an impressive 59 bus lines which go through Paris’ city center and suburbs. The T+ tickets and metro passes can also be used for bus trips as they do cost the same as a metro ride. Running from 7am to 8:30pm Monday to Saturday (some like the Noctilien bus operate at night to cover the gap until 4 am) they can be scenic. However, if you do take the bus late at night, we noticed it’s not quite as clean or calm as the metro sometimes.
Taxi or Rideshare – Paris has taxis just about everywhere, especially near tourist attractions and the city center. You’ll see the taxis designated with a “Taxi Parisien” sign on the roof. When it’s available, the sign is green, and when it’s red it’s occupied. You can hail one from the street, but it’s more convenient to wait in line at a taxi rank. Uber does operate here as well. Just keep in mind that traffic can get very heavy at times in Paris.
Where to Stay –
n Paris, the easiest way to refer to the different areas are by “arrondissements”. An arrondissement is an administrative area within Paris, which include various neighborhoods or certain historical places. In Paris, there are 20, and each have their own mayor! The 1st arrondissement is in the very city center. They go all the way to the 20th, in a spiral clockwise motion, going outward from the center. Let’s talk about the best to stay in.
Paris 3 and 4/Le Marais – Located right next to the city center, half of Le Marais is in the 3rd and half is in the 4th. If it’s your first time in Paris, it’s perfect due to how close it is to massive attractions and being central. Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Place des Vosges, Centre George Pompidou, and more are all here. It’s definitely a fun-loving, free-spirited area full of beautiful gardens, bistros, cafes, and bars.
Paris 5/Latin Quarter – This area is also close to Notre Dame, breathtaking medieval churches, plazas, the Pantheon, Roman Arena, and Jardin des Plantes. The Luxembourg Gardens are nearby, and are perfect for taking a coffee and going for a morning stroll. Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg and Hotel des Grandes Ecoles are both located here, and are some of our favorites.
Paris 1 – Of course if you’re looking to sightsee, really nothing compares to the 1st arrondissement. You’ll find the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, the Royal Palace, and much more here. You can walk around easily, due to the large streets and walkways, however there are going to be quite a few tourists after 9am. Lots of tour companies operate out of this arrondissement so you will oftentimes see large groups of people walking through. However, you have tons of food, markets, and shopping to choose from. The Champs Elysees is right there!
Restaurants and Eating Out –
As you probably already know, Paris is a city very much renowned for its cuisine. There are plenty of local markets with fresh produce where you can grab something quick to eat or some ingredients to cook back at your apartment or hotel (if a kitchen is included). There are also plenty of food tours that perfectly combine sightseeing and eating! If you’re a chocolate fan, we highly recommend one of these!
Breakfast – For breakfast, we opt for the classic pastry and coffee (or tartine). These are just about at any Parisian café. They are fresh, flavorful, and usually easy on the wallet. Bistro Vivienne, Café St Regis, and Le Pain Retrove are all great spots.
Brunch – Brunch always seems to be delicious in Paris. However, it can get pretty busy, so be prepared for a wait if reservations aren’t available. Echo is often considered to be the best brunch in the city, but for Americans it may seem a bit too familiar. Les Marronniers in Le Marais has a legendary hot chocolate, fresh juices, delicious mini-pastries and a fantastic Eggs Benedict. Café Mirabelle is a charming little spot with Alsatian cuisine you’re sure to fall in love with.
Lunch – L’Ami Jean is a bustling bistro with fantastic desserts. Girafe has some of the best Eiffel Tower views with fresh, Mediterranean eats that are great if you’re trying to keep things light. If you’re going to be near (or in) the Musee d’Art Moderne, check out “Forest” on the roof! Behind the Louvre, you’ll find Le Luli, which has a great prix fixe meal.
Dinner – If you’re looking for one of the hottest restaurants to dine at, check out La Poule Au Pot. The dollhouse-like building is certainly eye-catching, and has an excellent wine list and rich mains. Bistro Paul Bert is a very classically French dinner spot, with an incredible cheese plate! If you’re going to be near the Champs-Elysee, check out Chez Andre, which has a very romantic, “old-school” Paris. If you are looking for something a little different, try a Siene River Dinner cruise.
Nightlife and Entertainment –
If you’re looking to go out to some clubs or in an area that has a rich nightlife, check out Le Marais. It’s more of a high-energy neighborhood with all kinds of music, from electronic to rock. If you want a more relaxed evening with a glass of wine or a nice beer, try the Latin Quarter. Saint Germain is another nice option, but it does have higher prices.
Another excellent, high-energy nightclub spot is on Champs Elysees. This massive avenue is going to be where you want to be if you want to dance all night long. Bastille is a popular tourist spot for going out at night, too. Of course, if you want to go full Paris, you have to check out a cabaret! The Moulin Rouge is the most iconic, but Le Lido and Paradis Latin are other prime selections.
Cruise – If you are on the hunt for nighttime adventures other than bars or clubs, why not try a Seine River night cruise? These are lovely on summer nights, and you’re sure to love the way the water lights up with the lights on the avenues.
Take a Walk – Walking around Paris at night is almost more delightful than in the daytime – particularly around the Eiffel Tower. The massive structure lights up at night, to where you can see it almost anywhere in the city. At every hour until 1 or 2 am it also glitters for 5 minutes, which adds a whole other level of charm. At this time, there will be street vendors out selling things like pastries and drinks, too.
Opera – If you’re into opera or have ever expressed the tiniest interest in it, take an evening and head over to Opera Garnier. The architecture and decoration alone is impressive, and at the interlude you can grab a glass of champagne and admire the gallery. The Mysteries of The Opera Night Tour is also fascinating and covers The Phantom of The Opera, where you can actually visit his reserved balcony #5, which is only possible during the night tours!
Night Tour – Night sightseeing tours are fun! You can cruise through the lit streets in a classic Citroen 2CV, sip on a glass of champagne, and admire the illuminated attractions such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and more.
At the same altitude as London, Paris does tend to be pretty grey and rainy a good portion of the year. We highly recommend going between June and August or September to October for the best weather. During summer, you can expect it to be around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though there are going to be much larger crowds! The wintertime is always charming and beautiful with a layer of snow on the ground, but it’s definitely cold and not exactly ideal for sightseeing!
Well, you probably already know the must-sees: the Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, the Louvre, and the Catacombs. However, there are many others that we highly recommend.
Museums – The Louvre is by far the largest and has iconic pieces of art, including the Mona Lisa. It definitely will take more than a day to adequately see everything but even going for a couple of hours is worth it. Musee d’Orsay is a must if you like Impressionist painters such as Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, and/or Toulouse-Lautrec. Musee de l’Orangerie is another incredible museum if you’re into Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso.
Chateau de Versailles – Versailles lies about 30 minutes from the Paris city center, but is also worth seeing. The definition of opulence lies here, though it was once just a modest hunting lodge! Louix XIV changed things, commissioning most of the lavish refurbishments like the famous Hall of Mirrors. The gardens are absolutely incredible as well, with sculptures and fountains that “sing”.
Galeries Lafayette – If you’re into shopping, you can’t pass Galeries Lafayette up! This is most likely the most majestic department store in the world, with wrought iron ceiling domes and latticed glasswork, along with the top brands and delicious food sold here.
Jardin des Tuileries – We recommend visiting this park, as you’re likely going to be in the area anyway, but also because it’s beautiful and so calming to take a stroll in. Perfectly manicured trees, beautiful flowers, and the fact that it’s always quiet makes it easy to clear the mind here.
Sacre-Coeur – With a Romano-Byzantine edifice, it looks quite a bit different from many other pieces of Parisian architecture. While it’s great to check out, there are quite a bit of people trying to sell things and they can get a bit pushy so be prepared.
Notre-Dame Cathedral – Unfortunately, Notre-Dame is currently closed due to the fire that occurred in 2019. It isn’t supposed to reopen until April of 2024, but it’s still worth going to see the exterior.
- Try to visit in the summer or early fall. Even though the crowds will be bigger due to the fact that most Europeans vacation around July, it’s worth it. It’s just not as fun walking around or hopping on and off metros in the slippery snow.
- Beware of pickpockets here. As Paris is such a tourist-heavy city, there are also plenty of people looking to scam you. Always keep your belongings close to you and keep eyes on them at all times – especially if you’re in the middle of a crowd or on the metro.
- Use public transportation. The metro is so incredibly affordable and convenient, there’s just no excuse not to unless you really want to take a taxi or Uber. Even then, a lot of the time there’s going to be heavy traffic unless it’s late at night or early in the morning.
- Try to learn at least a few basic words of French. To be completely honest, the French will respect you a lot more and tend to be much friendlier if you at least make an attempt to communicate with them first in French.