Underground Paris: Seven cool things to find beneath the City of Light

This week on The Earful Tower we ventured down, down, down, deep beneath Paris. We rode the Metro, went through the sewers, and ventured into the (illegal) part of the Catacombs.

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on underneath Paris. But first, here’s the medley podcast episode, which we recorded underground, featuring the voices of:

1) Hold your nose at the Paris Sewer museum

The Paris Sewers (the Musée des Egouts de Paris) is the “the noble sister of the Catacombs”, as Amber Minogue said on the podcast. This stinky museum opened to the public during the World Fair of 1867. Curious to visit? It’s open every day except Mondays at Esplanade Habib Bourguiba, Pont de l’Alma, 75007 Paris. Find out more here.

Have a listen to the full episode we recorded while in the sewers, with Amber Minogue, from the 2017 archives.

Did you know they once found a crocodile in the Paris sewers? Read more about Eleanore the crocodile here.

2) Explore the famed Paris Metro

Of course, the easiest way to go underground is to take the famed Paris Metro. The Metro opened in 1900, making it one of the oldest metro systems in Europe (read some fun facts about the Paris Metro here). It carries, on average, 4 million passengers a day. If you’re interested in the future of the Metro, the Cité de l’Architecture is running an exhibition on the expansion of the Metro, which runs until June 2024.

If you’re looking for some beautiful and unique stations, seek out Concorde (pictured below), Arts et Metiers, Bastille, and the Louvre.

Have a listen to the full episode we recorded while on the Metro, with Luke Thompson, from the 2017 archives.

3) Tackle the legal Catacombs

The Catacombs, an extensive underground tunnel network in southern Paris, house the bones of over 6 million people. Initially mined for limestone to construct buildings above ground, these tunnels transformed into the Catacombs in the late 18th century, as urban development made central cemeteries impractical. The bones from these cemeteries were relocated to the underground network. There is a small section which is open to the public, learn more here.

4) Learn about the illegal Catacombs

So you have the legal Catacombs, but what about the other 300 kilometres of tunnels, deep below the streets of Paris? The parts where only the experts – the cataphiles – know how to get in, and know how to get out.

Well, you absolutely shouldn’t ever go there, it’s dangerous and illegal. But for the sake of research, The Earful Tower went for a five-and-a-half hour descent into these illegal catacombs, with two guides, two headlamps, thigh-high boots, and a microphone. Have a listen to the full episode from 2021 here:

Here’s a YouTube video from the big day so you can experience it in safety, with dry feet. Subscribe to The Earful Tower on YouTube for more like this.

5) Find the bunker at the Liberation Museum

Check out the Musée de la Libération de Paris and its WW2 bunker. Head to this museum if you’re into WW2 history, you’ll surely love it. It features the defence shelter where French Resistance fighters planned the liberation of Paris from German Nazi occupation.

There are relics of the past including gas masks and old posters – but be warned: it’s absolutely impossible to visit with a wheelchair or stroller, it’s about 100 steps to get down there. Address: 4 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014

6) Enjoy jazz at the Le Caveau de la Huchette

You may recognize this jazz club from the smash hit Hollywood film La La Land. This place is a fun surprise and full of energy. Go through the front door, past the bar, and then down, down, down to the cave with the lively jazz scene and the dancers putting on a show. Address: 5 Rue de la Huchette, 75005

More to find in the 5th arrondissement.

7) Experience virtual reality at Notre Dame

The Éternelle Notre-Dame is nothing short of exceptional. The exhibit opened under parvis of the Notre Dame cathedral in January 2023. This virtual reality experience takes you on a journey through the 850 years of Notre Dame’s history. Yes, you are technically just standing still in a room, but it feels like you are rising up around the building. 10/10, highly rated by the Earful Tower. Tickets cost 20.99€ and can be booked here. Don’t forget the Notre Dame crypte just around the corner, too.

And that’s it! Do you like this channel? Become a Patreon member of The Earful Tower here to support this show and get extras.

Want to do a walking tour of Paris? Book directly here.

Keen for more things to do in Paris? Here are ten Paris museums that are criminally underrated.

One thought on “Underground Paris: Seven cool things to find beneath the City of Light

  1. Arts et Métiers metro is my stop when I am there… I remember seeing it for the first time way back when and was enthralled… can’t wait to see it again

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