An Often Overlooked Place to Visit in France: The Paris Catacombs

France was recently named the most-visited country in the world with over 84 million visitors per year — and for good reason. Millions of people go to France each year to stroll along the quays of Paris, see the Eiffel Tower, enter the Louvre Museum and visit the Palace of Versailles. Without a doubt, these are some of the best sights to be found in France but there are many other places to visit that often go overlooked – and many of these make great stops when it comes to educating your students about the history of the country.

Below the monumental architecture, world-class museums, tree-lined boulevards, public gardens and famous cafés of Paris sits a shadowland of underground tunnels and galleries 65 feet below the city streets. The Paris Catacombs represents a darker side of France no doubt but it also provides an important history lesson and amidst the darkness lies beauty. Much of the Left Bank area rests upon rich Lutetian limestone deposits that make for a fantastically macabre labyrinth that can take up to one hour to walk through. The Paris Catacombs are just as much a symbol of the city as Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower and a unique opportunity to see a side of Paris most people miss. It’s especially great for history and urban geography teachers wanting to show their students a different side of the city of lights since it has been in use since the time of the Romans, and once provided construction material for the city’s buildings, as well as contributed to the city’s growth and expansion. As you pass into the ossuary and walk under a doorway with a haunting inscription that reads: “Arrête, c’est ici l’empire de la mort!” (Stop! This is the empire of death!), you’ll know you are in for something special.

If you are looking for other places to visit in France, be sure to browse through some of the sample itineraries we’ve put together to help our clients plan their perfect trip.

Les Innocents cemetery during 1550 via Wikipedia