I’ve passed by the Musée Grévin wax museum so often I’ve lost count, yet have always been in two minds about going in. It has a beautifully over the top fancy exterior and it runs a fair bit of the length of the marvellous Passage Jouffroy (in which the Hotel Chopin sits – one of the best value, most characterful hotels in Paris.)
One of the things that put me off, though, is that it’s a waxwork museum. I’ve never actually been to one. I’ve avoided Madame Tussaud’s like the plague, having absolutely no intention of ever darkening its doors. Its permanent queues snaking round the building are enough to put anyone off and I can honestly live my life without ever having seen a carved image of Kylie Minogue.
Another drawback is the price. It’s currently 22 euros (and no cheaper online) which is much more expensive than most other attractions in Paris: the Pompidou ticket price is 13 euros and the Musée du Quai Branly charges just 10. 22′s a lot, especially if you’re going in as a family (mind you, it’s cheaper than getting a view from the top of the Shard – £24.95). Even if it does feature Liza Minnelli in Cabaret:
However, the building that the museum’s housed in looked fascinating. The Grévin has been on the same spot since 1882 (newer than Tussaud’s) and I’d heard that there’s a nice gory historical section that appeals to the quirky traveller in me. If I hadn’t gone in, it would have annoyed me ever after.
The first attraction is in the slow-moving queue (what other type of queue is there in Paris?) – a mirror that makes you look fat. The young slim woman in front thought it was hilarious. Being slightly chubbier myself, it did nothing for me. There a couple more of these past the entrance. They do add to the slightly eery, carnival vibe that I felt all the way through the museum. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have a Stephen King horror clown jump out at me at any moment.
I pass up a beautifully chandeliered marble staircase which leads up to the “Mirage Palace” mirrored room in which a light show was just starting. I’m ushered into a pitch black room and told to insert myself into a circle – of what, I thought. Ghosts? Monsters of the deep? Just people, but it did take the eyes a minute to adjust.
The show is quite ingenious and computer-controlled. Indian-inspired music plays while the lights make this chandelier and mirror-filled room into an enormous lake-filled temple or a jungle or an Indian palace. An impressive spectacle and it went some way for me in making up for the extortionate entrance price.
The waxworks themselves are a strange mix of those who would pass for life-like in a dimly lit room and those that look like giant wax dolls with no resemblance to anything living, even when you’re told who they’re supposed to be. Harrison Ford, for example, would be unrecognisable if not for his Indy hat and whip.
Mika, on the other hand, isn’t bad if a bit shiny:
Elton John’s pretty poor, if a bit cheerful:
There were of course French personalities who I didn’t know. The pair of scary ladies below are a comedy duo called the Vamps. You apparently need to have spent a fair bit of time in France to really get what their humour’s about (as well as a good grasp of French).
There’s a theatre where magic shows are held although it wasn’t happening when I was there:
And a very authentic-looking mock-up of a cafe in which the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and Orson Welles are having a chat and a drink.
The most interesting part of the museum for me was the historical section in which this rather excellent scuplture of a skeleton on horseback emerging from a well symbolises the fear of death in the Dark Ages. There’s also a scene depicted where one Charlotte Corday murders one of the Jacobin leaders of the French Revolution Jean-Paul Marat. It features the actual knife and bath used in the assassination …
Would I recommend the Musée Grévin? Sort of. It passes an hour on a rainy Paris morning and it’s in a beautiful building. If you’re a waxwork fan, certainly, however I’m sure a lot of these figures also appear in the Madame Tussauds and the like – I can’t imagine it has the world’s only George Clooney. And of course, there’s the price.
I have to leave the decision up to you, but when I left and sat in a cafe writing about it afterwards, I didn’t feel like I’d been completely ripped off.
Have you been? What did you think? Would you recommend it? I’d love to know – add your comments below.
Musée Grévin Address etc
10 Boulevard Montmartre
Métro Grands Boulevards