Temperatures have begun to drop and the leaves are starting to change their colors which means one thing, it’s spook season baby! If you’re looking for a spot to explore that will send shivers down your spine, a trip underground into a bone-filled catacomb is sure to do the trick. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit claustrophobic and very easily spooked, but I still love exploring catacombs! Today, I’m sharing some of the most unique and spooky catacombs in Europe that you should add on to your next adventure. Let’s dive in!
What Is A Catacomb?
A catacomb is an underground burial site, typically consisting of tunnels, corridors, and chambers. These underground spaces have historically been used to inter the deceased, reflecting a distinctive blend of cultural, historical, and religious significance. The catacombs offer a unique glimpse into the past, revealing various civilizations' customs, traditions, and practices.
What Should You Wear To Visit A Catacomb?
Before you head underground to explore winding tunnels of mysterious catacombs, you will want to make sure you are dressed for the adventure. As many catacombs are below ground, you’ll want to wear layers to stay warm while exploring. Additionally, opt for sturdy and comfortable footwear, as you may encounter uneven surfaces and stairs. Depending on where you are exploring, you will want to bring a reliable flashlight to illuminate the dim passages and chambers.
What Are The Best Catacombs In Europe?
Europe is home to an array of captivating catacombs. If you’re looking for a spooky spot to explore, look no further than the following spots.
Catacombs of Paris, France
The Catacombs of Paris are a renowned underground ossuary located in the heart of Paris, France. These catacombs hold the remains of approximately six million people, transferred here from overcrowded Parisian cemeteries during the late 18th and 19th centuries. The ossuary is an eerie and fascinating journey through a network of tunnels and chambers, offering a somber reminder of the city's complex history.
To visit the Catacombs of Paris, you typically need to join a guided tour. The catacombs are a popular tourist attraction, and due to their historical and cultural significance, access is regulated to ensure the preservation of the site and the safety of visitors. You can book your tour on the website. But beware, if you’re like me, this place will send shivers down your spine. The Paris Catacombs are not for the faint of heart!
✈️ Pro Tip: Planning a Parisian adventure? Use the Jessi’s Journey guide on How To Spend 48 Hours In Paris.
Catacombs Of San Sebastiano, Rome
The Catacombs of San Sebastiano are some of the most extensive catacombs in Rome. These catacombs are named after Saint Sebastian and date back to the 2nd century AD. The labyrinthine tunnels house numerous early Christian tombs and frescoes, providing valuable insights into ancient Christian burial practices and religious beliefs. You can reserve a ticket ahead of your visit online to go on a 40-minute guided tour of the site.
Chapel Of Bones In Evora, Portugal
Evora wasn’t high up on my list of places to visit while I was doing my master’s in Portugal, but I’m glad I ended up going and getting to visit the impressive Chapel of Bones. The Chapel of Bones was constructed in the 16th century. The chapel has human bones and skulls built into the walls and pillars, creating quite a unique atmosphere. Additionally, there is a museum you can explore on-site to learn more about the history of the church.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Sicily
Anyone who has traveled to Sicily or watched The White Lotus knows Palermo has a bit of a rough around the edges feel to it. So naturally, it has one of the spookiest sites in all of Italy. The Catacombe dei Cappuccini, found in Palermo, Sicily, is an impressive catacomb that has mummified bodies and skeletal remains. The catacombs were actively used by Capuchin monks and aristocratic families for burials from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The preserved bodies, arranged in various poses, offer a haunting glimpse into the past and religious practices of the time.
Znojmo Catacombs, Czech Republic
I first started my digital nomad career living in the Czech Republic, and during my time I visited many spooky bone-filled sites. After visiting the famous Bone Church in Kutna Hora, head to the Znojmo Catacombs in Znojmo, Czech Republic. These catacombs contain an intricate network of tunnels and chambers located beneath the city's historic center. The Znojmo Catacombs have historical significance dating back to the medieval period but were repurposed as shelters and storage during times of conflict.
✈️ Pro Tip: Traveling to the Czech Republic? Use the Jessi’s Journey Ultimate Guide To Visiting Prague.
Catacombs of Saint Callixtus, Rome
The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus are located in Rome, Italy, and are one of the most significant Christian catacombs in the world. Dating back to the 3rd century AD, these catacombs served as burial grounds for early Christians, including several popes. The elaborate underground galleries contain countless tombs, epitaphs, and religious symbols, shedding light on early Christian burial practices and beliefs.
Skull Tower, Nis, Serbia
The Skull Tower, situated in Niš, Serbia, is a haunting historical structure built in the early 19th century. It was created by the Ottomans to commemorate the Serbian rebels who perished during an uprising. The tower contains the skulls of the fallen rebels embedded within its walls, serving as a solemn reminder of the struggle for independence and the cost of resistance.
The Bone House, Hallstatt, Austria
There’s lots to see and do in Hallstatt, and visiting The Bone House in Hallstatt, Austria is a must. It is a small chapel adorned with the remains of over 1,200 individuals. Due to limited space in the local cemetery, bones and skulls were exhumed and carefully arranged within the chapel. This bone-filled chapel offers a contemplative atmosphere, inviting reflection on mortality and the cycle of life and death.
Are You Feeling Brave?
Embarking on a journey through catacombs is not for the faint-hearted. It requires a curious spirit and a keen sense of adventure. As you prepare to descend into these subterranean realms, remember to embrace the mystery and immerse yourself in the cryptic tales these catacombs have to offer. Happy exploring!