8 Awe-Inspiring Catacombs From Around the World

From Paris to New York, here are the world's spookiest and most awe-inspiring underground collections of bones.


Underground labyrinths that stretch for miles and miles, filled with skeletons and vast ossuaries. The very idea sounds chilling, a complete departure from ordinary reality, but that is the definition of a catacomb, and the world contains thousands of them.

While undeniably macabre, some of these catacombs have been arranged into incredibly intricate, moving, and sometimes sacred displays. A visit into their subterranean depths might just remind you how fleeting this life is, or it might connect you to some sublime force that exists beyond this mortal coil.

If you can't visit one, here's the next best thing: a list of the world's most fascinating catacombs.

1. The Paris Catacombs

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These infamous, expansive tunnels hold the remains of over six million people. They wind south from Paris's Barrière d'Enfer (Gate of Hell) for some 200 miles, though only a small portion of the labyrinth is open to the public.

Paris's grand catacombs were the project of King Louis XIV, who—in an effort to create more space and clean the streets of Paris—ordered the occupants of the city's cemeteries to be poured down mine shafts into the newly renovated tunnel system.

Since then, the tunnels have served as gathering places for secret societies, artists, and thieves, among other groups. Today, the portion that is open to the wider public is one of Paris's most popular tourist attractions.

2. Monastery of San Francisco Catacombs, Peru

This ossuary was created in the 16th century, and it was where the majority of Lima's occupants were buried up until the early 19th century. It eventually became overcrowded, leading sextons to dissolve the corpses in quicklime so only the skeletons remained. These catacombs are full of secret passages, and the bones themselves are laid out in geometric shapes, hinting at a wider metaphysical or mystical purpose to their design.

3. Capuchin Monastery, Italy

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These catacombs have to be one of the creepiest of them all. Located in Palermo, Italy, this vast tomb contains more than skeletons: Nearly 8,000 fully dressed, mummified corpses line its walls. The corpses are divided into specific rooms, dedicated to categories like religious figures, for professionals, and for women, virgins, and infants, and it is believed that the bodies were all left to mummify naturally during their time underground due to the particularly dry air.

Italy actually boasts a great deal of ossuaries, including the San Martino della Battaglia ossuary with its eerie cabinet of skulls, and the Capuchin Crypt, with its stunningly ornate spirals of bones.

Santa Maria della Concezione Capuchin Crypt, Rome

Atlas Obscura

4. Odessa, Ukraine

The Bohemian Blog

These tunnels can proudly claim to form the largest labyrinth in the world. Stretching for around 2,500 miles, they dwarf Paris and Rome's famous catacombs. Believed to date back to the 17th century, at their lowest points, the tunnels—some of which began as mines—reach 60 km below the earth's surface.

They served as hiding places for Soviet and rebel units during World War II, and today you can see vestiges of Communist presences down in their shadowy depths. Filled with cryptic markings and still largely unexplored, the tunnels have hosted parties held by Ukrainian teenagers—and are the subjects of numerous urban legends that could contain seeds of awful truths.

5. Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), Portugal

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Death and faith have long been intertwined, and nowhere is this more visible than in Portugal's Chapel of Bones, where the lines between life, death, and faith in the sublime become invisible. The chapel's walls are lined with skeletons, skulls, and crosses, and are designed to mix reverence with horror, beauty with decay. The chapel was designed by 16th century monks, who hoped that by decorating the walls with skeletons, they might remind churchgoers of their own mortality.

6. Hal Safleini Hypogeum, Malta

The Ancient Ones

This underground structure dates back to Neolithic times. Created around 3000 BC, it is typically referred to as the "Hypogeum," meaning "underground" in Greek. It was believed to have been a necropolis, and roughly 7,000 bodies are stored within its shadowy depths.

The space also contains the remnants of a mysterious shrine, and its ceilings are decorated with intricate red ocher paintings of honeycombs and spirals, which some believe represent the Tree of Life. Excavators have also discovered a beautiful clay statue of a goddess known only as the "Sleeping Lady," in a room called the Holy of Holies—a room that was designed to channel the light from the winter solstice towards its facade.

The catacombs also contain a pit likely used for animal sacrifices and a small corner called the Oracle Room, which may have hosted sacred fortune-telling ceremonies or other rites; plus, if you whisper into an indent in the wall, the sound reverberates throughout the whole structure. Consisting of three levels, each stretching deeper into the earth, the space is believed to have been a place where life, death, and spiritual transformation were each worshiped. It belies an ancient wisdom that the modern world is still completely unaware of.

7. Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

Travel Channel

This tiny chapel contains 40,000 to 70,000 skeletons, arranged into bizarre and elegant shapes such as chandeliers made from almost every bone in the human body. This chapel was designed by a single woodcarver, who was commissioned to create the display in the 19th century. Located about an hour east of Prague, the site was the subject of a surrealist short film made in the 1970s, and today the site is open to the public.

8. Green-Wood Cemetery, New York

Atlas Obscura

Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery boasts its own small array of catacombs, which typically have only been open to the public once per year. However, today the catacombs are used for artistic performances with increasing frequency. Throughout the summer of 2019, they've hosted a performance known as the "Angel's Share"—a phrase that distillers use to describe the portion of spirits that evaporates while they're being made, but which could also have some ghostlier implications. The series consists of hour-long classical music concerts, located near the tombs of the 30 New York City families buried in its shadowy depths. According to the series' creator, Andrew Ousley, "These are extraordinarily beautiful spaces, but they're also spaces where you confront your mortality. When it's paired with a beautiful performance, it enhances our appreciation for the shared experiences of life."

Of course, for those who need it, there's also plenty of booze.

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!