Listen now 28 mins
Famously known as the City of Light, Paris is a diverse metropolis rich in architecture and steeped in history. But it has a dark alter ego that lies 30 metres under the ground, mirroring centuries of bloody wars, revolutions and riots on the surface. For Paris is porous - built on 177 miles of tunnels that were formed when limestone and gypsum were quarried to build the capital. Most people are only aware of just a tiny fraction of these tunnels - the world famous ossuary known as The Catacombs. The authorities have tried to keep a lid on the full extent of the labyrinthine remainder for hundreds of years. But there are little known entry points everywhere - in basements, in train stations, cellars and sewers. Throughout history, invaders have always found a way in, whether they were fighting Prussian soldiers, fleeing royalty of the French Revolution, the Nazis or The Resistance. Today they're home to the cataphiles - urban explorers who use the tunnels as an art space, a music venue or even a clandestine meeting point for secret societies.
The Guardian's architecture and design correspondent Jonathan Glancey investigates the underground maze of Paris, revealing a mysterious and intriguing history.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.