Indianapolis' Historic City Market dates to 1821, when it served as the city's community center. Thanks to tons of redevelopment in recent decades, the vibrant marketplace now includes food vendors, a taproom showcasing Indiana beers and a sunny mezzanine with table seating. Every Wednesday from spring through fall, the stretch of Market Street outside the building hosts a well-attended farmers market, moving inside on Saturday mornings for winter.
For decades, the catacombs running underneath the market have been something of an urban legend. Few people knew about them, and fewer had ever seen them. That's all changing thanks to an Indiana Landmarks tour that started in 2012. The creepy catacombs' precise rows of brick and limestone archways, built sometime around the 1880s, span 20,000 square feet beneath open-air Whistler Plaza. Though we know the catacombs were used at various points for storage, vendor booths and a homeless shelter, there's not much info on record about them, and theories run rampant as to their original purpose and history. The 25-minute guided tours lead visitors around the perimeter of the big, square subterranean space. Temperatures fluctuate with the weather, the ground is a rough dirt-sand composite (closed-toed shoes are a good idea), and the air is dank and dusty. The overall vibe is eerie, and certain rooms call to mind The Blair Witch Project.
While the tour is interesting, it's slightly underwhelming—mostly because guides know so little about the place and don't have a great grip on what to say. Until that improves, the $10 admission seems a little steep. The tour is a decent add-on to an overall City Market visit that includes lunch in the main hall and a stroll through the farmers market, but isn't really a stand-alone attraction. Public tours take place on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m. Reservations aren't necessary.