Visiting the opera house in Paris: Palais Garnier

Visiting the opera house in Paris is a truly unique experience. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in a city that’s full of beautiful buildings.

There are two opera houses in Paris: the older one is Palais Garnier and the newer one is the Bastille Opera.

This is a guide to visiting the gorgeous Palais Garnier opera house.

How to visit the opera house in Paris

opera house in Paris

To visit the opera and see its interior, you’ll need a ticket, even if you’re visiting without a guide. Here are your options:

1. The easiest way to visit the opera house is on a self-guided tour. You’ll be free to explore at your own pace. You can either get an audio guide at the entrance at a small extra cost or just use this blog post as your guide. You’ll need a ticket for a self-guided tour – check availability here.

2. If you prefer a tour that you can customise to fit your own interests, take a private guided tour of the opera house with a professional guide.

3. You can also take a public guided tour of the opera house. These tours are available in different languages and take place several times a day. You can buy your ticket at the opera house itself or reserve a spot in advance.

4. Another great way to see the opera house interior is by seeing a performance. Check the programme of events on the official site here.

Tickets for the Paris opera house + other Paris attractions

You can also book an entrance ticket to the opera house in combination with other attractions in Paris.

These packages can save you money, compared to booking each attraction separately.

When you plan your trip to Paris, check the availability of these options:

Virtual tours of Palais Garnier

Finally, if you’re not in Paris yet and want to see the opera house online, take a virtual tour on Google Arts & Culture.

For a more extensive virtual tour of Paris that includes the opera house, take this highly rated The Right Bank from City Hall to Opera virtual tour.

This video on YouTube will also give your a great online tour:

Inside the Palais Garnier opera house

The interior of the Palais Garnier is quite outstanding in every way.

If you’re taking a self-guided tour, you can wander around freely and take your time visiting each room.

You’ll enter at the ground level and then go up the grand staircase.

The Grand Staircase

Opera house in Paris - Grand Staircase

The Grand Escalier was designed to astonish, and it does.

It is a massive construction made of marble and decorated in gold.

Charles Garnier, the architect who designed the building and gave it its name, said that “The opera is the staircase”.

Back in the 19th century, it was the place to “make an entrance” in your most elegant attire; these days it’s the place to take endless selfies.

The Grand Foyer

Paris opera Grand Foyer

The most luxurious room in this superbly lavish building, the Grand Foyer, has the richest and most flamboyant decorations

I loved the ceiling fresco depicting the history of music, the gold decorations, the chandeliers and just the sense of how unashamedly opulent and hedonistic this place is.

It felt a lot like visiting a Royal palace and some consider this room comparable to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Similarly to the Grand Staircase, it was the place to see and be seen, used mostly during intermissions and at the end of performances.

If you like, you can step outside from this room directly onto the balcony for some views of the city, though you just might find that everything is a bit underwhelming after spending time in the Grand Foyer…

The Salons

The Salon du Soleil (Sun Salon) and the Salon de la Lune (Moon Salon) are the two rooms at each end of the Grand Foyer.

Their decor may be slightly more modest, compared to other parts of the building, but they are still very impressive.

The Sun Salon has warm colours and was intended to serve as a smoking room; the Moon Salon is designed in darker tones and was meant to be the room where visitors would have their sorbet.

However, the decorator confused the two themes and so the rooms’ intended uses were reversed.

Luckily for us, we can still enjoy the elegant beauty of these rooms today regardless of that historic mix-up.

The Auditorium

Marc Chagall paiting at the opera house in Paris

The auditorium has all the red velvet and gold leaf you might expect to see at an opera house, but its ceiling holds a unique surprise.

I took a self-guided tour, which didn’t include access to the auditorium itself, but we could see all of it through the boxes on the second level.

When you look up you’ll see the massive chandelier and the painted ceiling.

The style of this painted ceiling may look a bit out of place, a little too modern for this kind of building.

It is indeed a controversial ceiling, created by Marc Chagall in his signature, dreamy style.

The main themes of this mural are music, dancing and love, and it also includes some well-known Parisian landmarks.

The opera house exterior

The statues on the opera house in Paris

Viewing the Palais Garnier from the outside, you’ll appreciate the artistry, creativity and careful design of this imposing building.

Architect Charles Garnier won a competition to design this building and it was built between 1861 and 1875.

The style is eclectic, with arches supported by columns. These are decorated with statues. Some represent various arts, such as music, dance, theatre, architecture, painting and sculpture. Others are statues of great composers, including Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini.

The two golden statues at the top of the facade are Harmony and Poetry and in the centre, you’ll see a statue of Apollo with a lyre.

How to get to Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is located on the Place de l’Opéra, at the intersection of the rue de la Paix and the rue Auber.

To get there by public transport, use the metro, buses or the RER train:

  • Metro: Lines 3, 7 and 8 to Opéra station.
  • RER train: Line A to Auber station.
  • Bus lines: 20, 21, 27, 29, 32, 45, 52, 66, 68, 95.

You can also walk to the opera house from the Louvre along the Avenue de l’Opéra.

If you prefer to stay close to the opera house, the InterContinental Paris – Le Grand hotel is just across the street.

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