One of the great ironic pleasures of supping cafés crèmes in the coffee parlours of Montparnasse is knowing that right beneath you lie the bones of six million Parisians. Six million. This is the City of Light and Love, but just like all of us, it has a dark side.
Like many attractions, the Paris Catacombs – former underground quarries that were reused as burial chambers following the French Revolution – are closed to the public right now. But if you do fancy a slice of gothic escapism, you can still head on down thanks to a very good free virtual tour available on the Catacombs’ own website.
Ignore the entrance sign that reads, ‘Stop! This is the empire of death’, and for the full effect, dim the lights and turn the heating down to about 14C. Then get exploring these damp, cramped and insanely spooky underground passages.
There are more than 3,000km of tunnels running beneath the Left Bank, but creepiest of all must be the Alcôve de l’Ossuaire. Here the bones of Revolutionary leaders Jean-Paul Marat, Maximilien Robespierre and their cronies are packed in with wall upon wall of fellow citizens who couldn’t fit in the city’s overflowing burial pits. Femurs here, tibias over there. Skulls? Pretty much everywhere.
If you’re out of horror films – though the excellent ‘Midsommar’ is on Amazon Prime right now, fyi – then here’s a pretty decent alternative. Just remember to take the tour after your lunch break, yeah?
More things to do at home?