Travelers flock to Paris, France all the time. There are numerous sight-seeing attractions: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the grave of Jim Morrison, all attract thousands of visitors, but one of the biggest tourist attractions is located in the dark depths below the city streets. Paris catacombs or the quarries of Paris, is not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart.
A maze of winding tunnels lies deep beneath the Paris boulevards. Originally they were lime stone quarries. Later these quarries were turned into mass burial graves. The cemeteries in Paris downtown were rife with contamination and disease due to improper burials. The remnants from many Parisian cemeteries were moved discreetly to the quarries.
There are about 300 km of tunnels that make up the Paris catacombs. Some of them are open to the public, but many are restricted and cannot be toured. Several tunnels are extremely narrow and prone to flooding. But it does not discourage some fearless visitors from entering through hidden entrances to the tunnels dotted around Paris. One may find secret entrances through the sewers of Paris or through manholes in the street.
The main entrance to the Paris catacombs is a simple door in a small building. On entering, you climb down a long, spiral staircase and begin walking through the dark, winding tunnels. And then you will enter another chamber marked with a plaque reading: Stop! This is the empire of death.
In a few seconds after your eyes will adjust to the sight that will greet you, you may start exploring the walls that are packed with human skeletons, stacked one on top of the other. Stacks of bones and skulls are arranged inside these walls, some piles reaching as high as 5 feet (1.5 m). The depth of the spacious walls sometimes reaches 20 yards (18 m), all filled with skeletal remains.
The usual route for visitors is about a mile long (1.5km), but the burials reach much further into the Paris catacombs. Some consider that there are around six million skeletons in the Paris catacombs. All the remains are not marked, and the skeletons are mixed together chaotically. It is the place with no titles and class distinction; the bones of peasants are mixed in with those of the gentry.
If you are caught in forbidden areas of the tunnels you will face a fine, but the temptation to explore the Paris catacombs unescorted has proven too much for some people. You may hear lots of stories about catacomb parties, and there are even rumors that certain people live in the tunnels. If you have a strong constitution and do not stray from the official route, you should take a visit to catacombs safely.