With a history stretching back over 2,000 years, the Archaeological Crypt lying beneath the square of Paris's famed Notre Dame Cathedral offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich and tumultuous history of the French capital.
Comprising remains discovered during archaeological excavations between 1965 and 1972, the archaeological crypt (Crypte Archaeologique du Parvis de Notre Dame) was inaugurated as a museum in 1980, to the delight of history and archaeology buffs. A visit to the crypt allows you to explore successive layers of Parisian history, featuring parts of structures dating from the Antiquity to the 20th century, and admire ruins that date from Antiquity to the medieval period.
Location and Contact Information:
The crypt is located under the square or "Parvis" at Notre Dame Cathedral, situated on the Ile de la Cite in the central and elegant 4th arrondissement (district) of Paris, not far from the Latin Quarter.
7, place Jean-Paul II, Parvis Notre-Dame.
Tel.: : +33 (0)1 55 42 50 10
Metro: Cite or Saint Michel (line 4), or RER Line C (Saint-Michel Notre Dame)
Opening Hours and Tickets:
The crypt is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, excepting Mondays and French public holidays. Final admissions are at 5:30 pm, so make sure to purchase your ticket a few minutes in advance to ensure you get in.
Tickets: The current full admission price is 4 Euros, plus 3 Euros for an audioguide (recommended to get a full appreciation of the history of the crypt). Audioguides are available in English, French, or Spanish. Please note that, while accurate at the time of publication, these prices may change at any time.
Sights and Attractions Nearby the Crypt:
- Ile St Louis
- Musee d'Orsay
- Marais Neighborhood: Its medieval history is as riveting as its luxury boutiques, delicious street food and pleasant outdoor terraces.
- Tour Saint-Jacques: The recently renovated tower is all that remains of a 16th century church that once stood in central Paris. Now it looms impressively over the bustling area known as Chatelet-les-Halles.
Visiting the crypt will take you through Paris' varied historical layers, quite literally. Ruins and artifacts correspond to the following periods and civilizations (Source: official website):
The Gallo-Romans and the Parisii
Paris was first settled by a Gaulish tribe called the Parisii. Archaeological digs in the area in recent years have recovered coins etched with the names of the Parisii. During the reign of the Emperor Augustus, around 27 BC, the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia, occupying the left bank (rive gauche) of the Seine. The present-day island known as the Ile de la Cite was formed when several smaller islands were artificially joined during the First century AD.
The Germanic Invasions
Paris's tumultuous history might be said to have really begun when Germanic invasions threatened Lutetia, bringing chaos and instability to the urban development for nearly two centuries, from the middle of the 3rd century AD to the fifth century AD. In response to these waves of invasions, the Roman Empire moved to build a fortified wall around the city (on the Ile de la Cite) in 308. This was now the de facto center of the city, with the left-bank development left in disarray and partly abandoned.
The Medieval Period
It may be considered "the dark ages" in modern thinking, but the medieval period saw Paris rise to the status of a great city with the development of Notre Dame Cathedral. Construction commenced in 1163.(see more about the cathedral's fascinating history here). New streets were created in the area and buildings and churches sprang up, giving rise to the new medieval "cite".
Read related: 6 Remarkable Medieval Sites in Paris Open to Tourists
The Eighteenth Century
By the eighteenth century, however, the medieval structures were judged unsanitary, cramped, and too vulnerable to fire and other hazards. Many of these were subsequently destroyed to give way to buildings then considered to embody the height of modern urban development. The "parvis" was made bigger, as were several adjoining streets.
The Nineteenth Century
Modernization efforts peaked in the 19th century, when the Baron Haussmann enacted an overhaul of medieval Paris, destroying and replacing countless structures and streets. What you see now on the square and surrounds is the result of this overhaul.
In addition to the permanent exhibition at the museum, the Crypte Archaeologique holds regular temporary exhibits. Find out more at this page.