The Best Time Of Day To Visit The Paris Catacombs

We didn't spend a lot of time in Paris. Truth be told, we don't love ridiculously large cities (Our favorite city thus far in Europe has been Ghent), but it didn't seem right to be traveling through Europe without seeing The Most Romantic City In The World. While we had a great time, and there will be more to come on Paris (Wait until you read about our Secret Food Tour we went on - SPOILER ALERT we ate almost a pound of cheese and lived to tell about it), we hit most of the tourist-y spots in the span of a morning and spent the rest of the time drinking wine and eating cheese. I also spent a VERY frustrating two hours trying to get a cell phone SIM card set up, but let's not dwell on that. We walked from Notre Dame, past the Louvre, through the Jardin Des Tulienes, past the Paris Eye and Concorde Square, down the Champs Elysses (whistling this song the whole time) to the Arc Du Triompf, followed the River Seine to The Eiffel Tower and as they say in France VOILA. Tourist tour finished, pictures taken, let's get some prix fixe lunch with wine. 

One of the coolest things to do in Paris that is somehow off the beaten path a little is visit the Paris Catacombs. These underground ossuaries hold the remains of almost six million Parisians, and it is one of the coolest/creepiest experiences I've ever had. "The World's Largest Grave" was originally a quarry built beneath the city in the fifth century to excavate limestone for the many palaces of Paris, but when it started to cave in in the 1700's, they needed to reinforce the underground labyrinth which was now covered over with buildings and roads and baguettes. Alexandre Lenoir decided "Let's throw a shitload of dead bodies down there while we're reinforcing the walls" (Quote Is Approximate), and the catacombs were born.

The problem with visiting the catacombs today is that the line can reach upwards of two and a half hours. Don't do what we did. We did a whole lot of research on when the line was longest, and then ignored all that advice and arrived at 11 AM, and promptly waited for two hours to see them skulls and bones. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But every time we looked at the end of the line, it was getting shorter and shorter. Here's what we realized:

The catacombs open at 10 AM. They only allow 200 guests at a time, and you can see the number of people in the actual 'combs on an LED display near the entrance (to the right of the ticket booth). When we finally got in, there were only 126 people in the actual 'combs, and the line was moving at a pretty good pace, because the amount of people exiting was approximately the same as the number going in. Tourists begin lining up at about 9:15, and when they open the doors at 10AM, letting the first 200 in takes about ninety minutes (due to the fact that tourists are slow and don't have their money ready, or decide they want to buy a postcard or a souvenir coin with a skull and crossbones on it, or debate whether or not to get an audio guide for 30 seconds each - 30 seconds x 200 people = A LONG ASS WAIT. 

So, by now we know that 200 guests are in the catacombs and it takes about 45 minutes to make your way through the scariness. So if you get in line at 11AM (like we did), you're not only waiting for the first group of 200 to enter the catacombs, you then have to wait for them to make a lot of terrible Indiana Jones references before you can start moving ahead in the line. SO. Long story long. Don't show up to the Paris Catacombs before 3PM. Hell, the place is open until 8, have a bottle of wine with lunch and then head over there. Those skull and bones jokes are going to be a lot more fun if you've had some wine. Just make sure you bring some tissues in case you start coffin. Don't get me started on these, I've got a (skele)ton.