While most people have very romantic illusions of Paris, in reality throughout history it has had some serious issues with being a foul place and to be frank, still has problems with being much more dirty and smelly than is necessary. The stench of the Parisian metro system however, pales in comparison to the problems of the 1700s, where there were so many corpses that needed disposing of, and the cemetaries were so full, that water contamination and sickness were becoming huge problems.
Add to that the collapse of an entire street in 1775, into some of the 180 miles of underground mines in Paris, which lead to King Louis XVI created the Inspection Generale des Carrieres [or quarries], an agency that still exists. The Inspection Generale des Carrieres revealed that much of Paris was likely to collapse into the mines below, and spent a great deal of time strengthening and reinforcing the tunnels. As for the oversupply of bodies, it was decided that 6 million corpses would be dug up, and relocated to the now reinforced tunnels. Not content with simply shifting them, it was also decided that they should be arranged to decorate the tunnels, along with plaques with famous literary lines.
Many describe it as a beautiful way to be buried. I, however, am not too sure I would be happy with my body being dug up and turned into a tourist attraction, or even just taken apart and mixed in with the other bones…
It was also hard to know what happened to all of a body. I spotted plenty of sculls, pelvic bones and femurs, but where were all the rest? Thrown into a big pile somewhere?
Finally, a word of caution for visitors. The entrance is small, the tunnels are narrow and only a certain amount of people are allowed through at once. Which means the lines are reaaaaaaally long. We probably queued up for about 2.5 hours. I’m not sure if this is a place where you can buy tickets in advance to skip the lines either, so they could be unavoidable (if you are there in the peak of summer). Also not a good idea to get there in the last few hours that its open, I’ve heard stories of people lining up for an hour and half only to have the place close on them. Oh and one more warning, its creepy.