As many of you may know visiting sights in Europe, and I’m sure in other parts of the world also, you are often greeted with a line long enough to make you question every single one of your life choices that has lead you to this specific point in time.
Let me set the scene for you, it’s a lovely summers mid-morning in Paris, you’ve had a reasonably early wake up and breakfast – after all you were planning a visit to the catacombs today and you knew that was often notoriously busy there- you’ve had a straight forward trip on the underground, you’re striding up the stairs from the underground, see a rather large group of people standing and you think it’s pretty bad but manageable, then you realise that oh sweet Jesus the line snakes almost entirely around the block and that small line was the priority entry line. No matter, no matter I’m sure once they let the first people in it’ll be a breeze, we’ll stand here and see how fast the line moves.
In short the answer to that is slowly, very slowly.
For the people who may not know much about the history of the catacombs (much like me before I went, the extent of my knowledge was I knew they existed and there were skeletons) let me give you a bit of history. Around the 15th century there were underground gypsum, limestone and chalk quarries under the city of Paris, which were eventually abandoned. This would become the site for the catacombs in time as the Saint-Innocents Cemetery was closed in 1780 due to concerns about public safety and over time the limestone quarries housed the large majority of the bones from central Paris. Today when you visit only 200 people are permitted into the site at a time which is why the line proves to be so long. You can expect temperatures to be very cool and dark, obviously as you’re underground. It can be a bit claustrophobic walking down small tunnels and maybe unsettling for some with walls filled with thousands and thousands of human bones but if I can do it – and I don’t particularly enjoy being trapped underground – then I’m sure you will be fine also.
One thing I learnt from this experience was ALWAYS, always if you can buy an advance ticket to all of the big sights in Europe. We were pretty lucky with all of the lines we had to wait in to see the sights but this line well and truly made up for all of the others.
Secondly everyone is just as committed as you are to lining up for hours on end. In the four and a half hours stood in lines didn’t see a single person leave the line. The length of the line and the commitment of people from all over the world to wait for hours in line to go down to the catacombs should be an indication of how important this sight is to see in Paris.
So my final advice. Buy a ticket online in advance, stand in a significantly shorter line than I did and go and explore. A visit to the catacombs in my opinion is well worth it and in fact I’d say it was my favourite place I visited in Paris this visit.
P.S while we are speaking about tips on lines in Paris if you want to visit the Louvre and why wouldn’t you really, try to avoid entering via the iconic pyramid. I confess going through the pyramid does make you feel like you’re Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code but I can also tell you will be waiting in line possibly (read highly likely) hours longer than those entering through the other entrances. I stumbled upon my entrance by pure accident when getting off the metro but I was happily surprised that the line I waited in was significantly quicker than the last time I had visited Paris. If you take the underground to the Louvre you can enter almost directly from the station itself by going through a shopping centre known as carousel du Louvre, buy your ticket at a souvenir shop and stand in line to go through metal detectors and voila you are in.
Nina – Adventuring Life Away