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The Paris Catacombes are known for their long lines to get in. No one likes wasting time in lines, right? Before Covid, people without tickets would try and get there first thing in the morning to avoid lines. But, like many popular Parisian sites, today it’s only possible to visit the Catacombes with a pre-paid ticket for entry at a specific time. The biggest risk now is purchasing an expensive (or worse, counterfeit) “skip-the-line” ticket through a third-party reseller. To avoid headaches, the best way to visit the Paris Catacombes is by purchasing your timed entry ticket directly through the official website.
Where to Purchase Your Tickets
I almost ALWAYS recommend purchasing tickets for museums and monuments directly through the official website. The first reason is that it’s usually the cheapest option. The second reason is that you don’t have to go through any middlemen if there’s a problem (like strikes closing down the monument the day of your visit). And this summer there have been so many counterfeit tickets being sold by both fraudulent online websites and in person by scammers looking for clueless tourists who showed up without reserving tickets in advance that the Paris Catacombes website now only sells tickets up to one week in advance, so you’ll have to put a reminder on your calendar before your visit. In low season, basically anytime outside of summer, you can also check their website for last-minute, discount tickets for a visit on the same day (using your smartphone if you don’t have access to a computer).
As of August 2022, the official “skip the line” tickets (including an audio guide in multiple languages) are €29 for adults, €27 for students 18-26, and €5 for kids 4-17 with an adult (they don’t get an audioguide). In theory kids under 18 are always free, but not when tickets are pre-purchased, and in high season they can only be pre-purchased. The last-minute tickets sold online in the off-season are €13-€15, plus €5 for an audio guide, and free for kids under 18 if they are with an adult who has a ticket.
Note that kids under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Guided Tours of the Catacombes: Worth it?
There are official guided tours of the Catacombes, but only in French. You can find many guides online who will do tours of the Catacombes for €75-€95/person for groups of 15-20 people.
It’s up to you if it’s worth the extra cost and time to take a guided tour, but honestly, it’s one of the places I recommend simply reading up on in advance (or downloading your favorite audio tour to your phone), because there’s only one route that everyone follows, so it’s not like you’re going to miss anything or get “lost” on your own. Some of the guided tours being sold online use scare tactics in their marketing, implying you need a guide to avoid getting lost or to skip the lines: “Learn why the bones of more than six million people were deposited under the city in a complex maze of tunnels that you definitely need a guide to navigate.” Er…no, the parts open to the public are gated off so that you can only go one way. Another says “The lines at the Catacombs are very long and are known to make people wait for up to 3 hours.” This is no longer true since everyone now needs timed entry tickets. Even if you do shell out for a guided tour, as one site mentions in the fine print, you might still end up waiting if there’s a bottleneck of visitors: “Please be aware that at busy times there may be a long queue to enter the Catacombs.”
If, once you’ve read up on the history and think you’d like to spend more than an hour down there, and possibly see a few of the extra corners that are usually behind locked gates, then go ahead and splurge on a guided tour (preferably a private guide if you want to be able to ask lots of questions and get the personalized attention you wouldn’t have with a group of people you don’t know). There are several local tour companies offering reasonably-priced small-group and private tours of the Catacombes by licensed guides in English, such as Memories France.
Practical Tips for Visiting the Catacombes
There’s one entrance at the Place Denfert Rochereau (specifically 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy) right across the street from the Liberation of Paris Museum and the main entrance to the Denfert-Rochereau metro station. The exit and boutique are actually a few blocks down the street, at 21bis Avenue René-Coty.
- There are 131 spiral steps going down at the entrance and another 112 stairs going back up at the end. The Catacombes are not wheelchair accessible, nor adapted for anyone with mobility issues. The official website also says the site is not recommended if you’re pregnant, have claustrophobia, or suffer from cardiac or respiratory conditions.
- Normally the 1.5-kilometer circuit of the Catacombes takes about 45-minutes to walk through while listening to the official audio guide, unless you’re taking your time on lots of photos or listening to anecdotes on your own audio tour. The guided tours are usually about two hours. It’s a one-way circuit, so you can’t just wander around (or, as mentioned above, get “lost”).
- It’s usually quite cool down there, 14°C/57°F.
- The lighting is quite dim in many places. Seeing eye dogs are allowed, but not white canes.
- There are no bathrooms until you reach the end of the visit, and there is no coat check nor baggage storage. Strollers, bags larger than 40cmx30cmx20cm, motorcycle helmets, and tripods are not allowed.
- You’re not allowed to eat, drink, or smoke in the Catacombes. You’re also not allowed to touch anything, but I hope none of the Secrets of Paris readers need to be told that. 😉
- Even though you have to purchase a timed-entry ticket, you’ll find the Catacombes the least crowded in the first and last hours of the day (so don’t hesitate getting the 7pm entry ticket if that time works for your schedule).
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (Place Denfert-Rochereau), 14th
Opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday 9:45am-8:30pm (last entry 7:30pm).
Closed Mondays and on January 1, May 1, and December 25.
What About the “Secret” Catacombe Tunnels?
Finally, a short note to remind readers that even though there are tunnels extending much further under Paris (and many people who love to share stories of sneaking into them for “parties”), it’s only legal to visit the ones that are open to the public or with an official guide. I don’t recommend participating in illegal “tours” of them any more than I advocate breaking into museums or shoplifting. If you’re curious about them, however, you can learn more in Scott Carpenter’s article, Creeping Beneath Paris.