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Paris Catacombs

Hi all,
Visiting Paris for this first time in October. There's something that really appeals to me about seeing a city from below. Have any of you visited the Catacombs? And on a 3 day trip is it worth it?

Posted by
98 posts

I descended into the catacombs years ago (2007). It was interesting, but--for me--it did not top the Luxembourg Gardens, Versailles (the Queen's Hamlet), the nightlife of the Latin Quarter (and the day life!), the museums, Notre Dame, walking the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, etc. But why not do visit the Catacombs and ... assume you will return to visit the other sites later? 😊

Posted by
4132 posts

They were a priority for my daughter on a visit last year. I would not rate them high in a 3-day stay, but if they call to you then go.

They are full of the bones from cemeteries demolished to make way for Haussmann's Paris. The bones are grouped by cemetery. This must have made it easier, somehow, for the city to move all those bones. Bugt today the people, and their graves, and their cemeteries, are all but forgotten.

Posted by
29 posts

Planning on doing Notre Dame, saint Chapelle, and the Louvre. Was just wondering if you all thought the Catacombs were worth it. For the last poster, are they forgotten though? We are still talking about and visiting them 300 years later 😊

Posted by
29 posts

Ooohhh... And taking my last day to visit versialles. Some people say it's not worth visiting if you only have 3 days, but for me it's a must!

Posted by
333 posts

I really enjoy the catacombs! They are incredible as an art display (for lack of a better term) and also as a historical memorial. Some of the reasons for the removal of the bones in the first place is because the cemeteries were not only overcrowded, but flooding on a regular basis and not only unearthing the bones, but contaminating the water supply. The bones had to be moved. The catacombs also have the history of being a hiding place for all kinds of people- including the Nazis. I found the whole place fascinating. It helped me too that I had a french speaking friend with me who could translate the many signs throughout the tunnels. You can also download a translator app on most phones that allow you to hold up your phone camera to the signs and it will translate them for you.

If you decide to go, know that the tunnels are wet and drippy and chilly and dress accordingly. There are also tons of stairs and narrow spiraling staircases. Splurge and buy skip the line tickets and get there early. The rest of your itinerary sounds great too. I'll be making my 3rd trip to Paris in a few weeks and this time I'll be visiting Versailles too! Can't wait!
Have a great time in Paris!
Lisa

Posted by
1172 posts

We actually quite enjoyed the catacombs. Buy your tickets ahead of time and get there at least 15 minutes prior to opening time. Saved us 1 hour of waiting by doing it this way

Versailles was a big let down for me... Hope you enjoy you trip!

Posted by
2023 posts

We have toured the Catacombs twice and thought it was worth it--but that was quite a few years ago. We took our tween girls to Paris in April and the line to get into Catacombs was unbelievable--had to give up after a very long wait. Did not know tickets could be reserved online. It takes about an hour to go through and they admit about 45 people at one time. But since this is your first visit to Paris it may not be worth it. Our trip with the girls was 4 days and it was a challenge to see what we thought would appeal to them--kept it kid oriented and grouped sights to avoid back tracking. They did enjoy Deyrolle Taxidermy.

Posted by
8164 posts

If you are taking a day for Versailes then definitely don't spend time waiting in line for the Catacombs It is expensive to get reserved tickets, but your time is the most important thing and if you have only 4 nights/3 days you have little time. (and if it is 3 nights 2 full day then even less time. I don't know why it is so popular; we did it a number of years ago in November.
https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/catacombs-a-creepy-paris-stroll/
As you can see there was no line at all then; we even had trouble finding the entrance because I use the lines as a guide to where to go in. There were few people in the Catacombs themselves. But now every time in the last few years we have walked by (and we are usually in Paris for the month of October) the line has been blocks long. So get a reservation if you decide this is a priority. It would not be with me, but everyone should have their own trip.

Posted by
2145 posts

Hi Lauren, sorry if this confuses you more... We visited the Catacombs Oct 2016. Really enjoyed it, my BF still talks about it at least once a week! We did not have advance tickets but arrived 1 hour before opening. By opening time there were about 600 people (no kidding) in the regular line and another 100 people in another line for people that already had tickets. They let some in from each line, 200 at a time. Buying a ticket took about 1 minute. I didn't see any advantage to having advance tickets but you do need to get there early.

Think you'll do fine with the sites you have planned. Don't forget to see the Eiffel Tower illuminated. If you have time, I also like the 1 hour boat tour on the Seine. Love Paris, you will have a great time!

Posted by
4132 posts

@lauren: We visit the Catacombs, sure, for the spectacle, but we do not visit the dead to leave flowers on Grandmere's grave, or Edith Piaf's in Pere Lachaise.

Posted by
8164 posts

I thought they sold timed reservations for a fairly high price and those got to go in at their reserved time; is this not so?

Posted by
15977 posts

From one of your previous posts, Lauren:

Traveling to Paris for 3 days 2 nights in October.

I'm trying to figure how you're figuring 3 days of sighting? if one of those nights is arrival day, realistically you're looking at only one FULL day and part of arrival day; maybe a scrap of a departure day, depending on what time you fly/train out. It's your trip but honestly? I wouldn't go to Versailles with as little time as you'll have for Paris itself, and wouldn't do the Catacombs either. There is a LOT of ground to cover in the city, and I fear you'll miss so much of what it has to offer.

Really, I would save Versailles and the Catacombs for another trip.
What else is on your wish list for the city itself?
Also, are you coming off an International flight on arrival day?

Posted by
1172 posts

I thought they sold timed reservations for a fairly high price and those got to go in at their reserved time; is this not so?

We bought our times tickets online for the same price as we would have if buying, and waiting inline on site. It is done through the Musee Paris web site

Posted by
29 posts

@kathy I am arriving in Paris at 11am on a Thursday, and leaving Paris Saturday at 720 pm. So I figure I'll have Thursday night to do the Notre Dame, Saint Chapelle and perhaps a river cruise depending on time. Friday visit the Musee de Orsay & spend the rest of the day wandering. Friday night do the Louvre as they are opened late (my hotel is right across from the Louvre). And Saturday take the earliest train to Versailles, be back in Paris by 2pm... And it's off to Venice! What do you think? Was going to substitute one of the things for catacombs

Posted by
15977 posts

Lauren, I wouldn't do Versailles but that's just me. There's so much more to see in the city that you're going to miss.

I'm curious? You mentioned buying the Paris Museum Pass, and I thought that was good idea until I realized how little time you intended to spend in Paris. I assume you intend to buy the 2-day pass? This is all you have on your first day and 1/2 that it will cover, and their individual entry fees:

Louvre: €15 or €17 in advance
d'Orsay: €12
Saint-Chapelle: €10

The 2-day pass is €48, and you only have €37 or so worth of attractions on your list. The pass won't be good for Versailles as, if you activate on Day 1 for Saint-Chapelle, it expires at midnight on Day 2. I'd probably do your walking around on Day 1, hit Notre Dame and some others of the free sites - especially outdoor spots to stay awake - and activate your pass early on Day 2. I'd plan to see a few more sites in Paris on Day 2 and Day 3 to make good on the pass.

If dead set on seeing Versailles (20 € entry or 27 € on Musical Fountain or Garden weekends) then again, don't activate the pass until Day 2 and pay the entry fee for Saint-Chapelle separately if you see it on Day 1. The pass doesn't cover extra fees for Musical Fountain or Garden days at Versailles so you will have to ante up the extra cost if landing in on one of those. Transport will be extra as well.

http://en.parismuseumpass.com/rub-faq-16.htm

Posted by
14157 posts

I am very risk averse when it comes to departure transportation. Are you flying out on Saturday night or taking a train?

If it's a flight and you have to figure in transport to the airport and the standard time you need to get thru security thus I would probably not be comfortable being out at Versailles for that day. If you must do Versailles, do it Friday. Getting the metro to the RER train, taking the RER there and back plus seeing things at Versailles will probably take longer than you think.

Everyone needs to do their own trip and if Versailles is your #1 priority of things to see in the Paris area, then go. For myself neither Versailles or Catacombs would be priorities for 1 full day and 2 partial days in one of my favorite cities!

Posted by
29 posts

@Pam How long would you recommend for leaving for the airport? I'm staying by the Musee de Orsay stop. So for a 720 pm flight, what time do you recommend I leave the city? Also how is security at CDG? I am flying into Venice if it makes a difference

Posted by
8164 posts

You would need to leave for the airport 3 hours before a Schengen flight which gives you two hours for security. CDG is notorious for being inefficient and having long lines. You might need less time but we have needed every minute of the 3 hours recommended for flights to the US. Note also that some budget airlines stop check in 45 minutes before the flight and so you particularly don't want to cut it close with those.

Posted by
15977 posts

@Kathy what other sites do you recommend? I'd love some suggestions
for my itinerary!!

Jardin du Luxembourg (free):
https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71393/Jardin-du-Luxembourg

http://www.aviewoncities.com/paris/jardinduluxembourg.htm

Arc de Triomphe (Museum Pass):
http://www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en

Jardin des Tuileries (in front of the Louvre: free):
https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71304/Jardin-des-Tuileries

http://www.louvre.fr/en/departments/tuileries-and-carrousel-gardens
The outdoor cafes are nice places for an alfresco lunch or casual early dinner.

Musee de l'Orangerie (in the Tuileries: museum pass):
A small but very nice museum with the star attraction being Monet's "Water Lilies".
http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en

Conciergerie: close to Saint-Chapelle and a very old piece of Paris' history (Museum Pass):
http://www.paris-conciergerie.fr/en/

Père Lachaise Cemetery: Paris' largest cemetery and a fascinating walk (free):
https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71470/Cimetiere-du-Pere-Lachaise

Panthéon (Museum Pass):
Patriotic temple and burial place of some of France's "most illustrious figures.": Marie Curie, Victor Hugo (his little novel saved a deteriorating Notre Dame), Alexandre Dumas, Emile Zola, Louis Braille and others.

http://www.paris-pantheon.fr/en/

Dome Church ( Eglise du Dôme): tomb of Napoleon (museum pass):
http://www.musee-armee.fr/en/collections/museum-spaces/dome-des-invalides-tomb-of-napoleon-i.html

After-dark view of the Eiffel from the Trocadero (free)

Lastly, what was one of my favorite museums, Musée de Cluny/Moyen Âge (museum pass):
https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71363/Musee-de-Cluny-Le-monde-medievad

Just a few (HA!) and obviously you can't do all of them but there's a lot to see in Paris!