France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Tours of Palais Garnier, Paris, France
You can do a self-guided tour or join a group tour to visit this magnificent building.





The Palais Garnier, also referred to as the Opéra Garnier, is a magnificent building dating from 1875 and designed by Charles Garnier. Created as Paris's Opera House, since 1989 it has shared that honor with the larger Opéra Bastille.

But most people still think of the Palais Garnier as THE opera, and with good reason. Its decor is world famous and well worth seeing.

Opera Garnier Paris

A self-guided tour allows you to visit the public areas of the opera house, and, on most days, take a look into the actual concert hall. You are welcome to wander on your own, using the occasional signs to learn more about what you are seeing. You can also rent a multi-media guide, which I found very helpful. The narration was clear and interesting, and wearing headphones allowed me to filter out the conversations of the other visitors and focus on the building and the tour.

If you prefer, guided tours are also available at set times.

Note: The entrance for tours is on the left side of the Opéra Garnier building (as you face it), near the statue of Charles Garnier, at the corner of rue Auber and rue Scribe. You will have to pass through security, and then buy your ticket. The first ticket stations are for guided tours; keep going in for self-guided tour tickets.

The tour begins in the Subscribers' Rotunda on the lower level. From here you will see the Pythia of Delphi, which Charles Garnier felt portrayed "the patron of artists." It stands just under the Grand Staircase, which you will ascend to reach the foyers and the seating areas.

Most days a couple of the boxes ae open so that you can take a look at the auditorium itself. On a recent visit two young men were practicing some ballet steps on the stage as visitors respectfully watched from the boxes. (Note: This may be closed depending on rehearsal schedules.)

It's fun to imagine 19th and early 20th century patrons, dressed in their finery, examining each other from the red velvet seats in the boxes. Another highlight of being in the performance space is the chance to see the beautiful domed ceiling, with its Marc Chagall painting. Minister of Cultural Affairs André Malraux commissioned Chagall to paint the ceiling in 1964, replacing the original painted ceiling by Jules Lenepveu. Chagall honored composers from Ravel to Stravinsky to Beethoven to Wagner with his paintings.

But most of the tour is of the rest of the opera house, with its fantastic decor. You'll see the Grand Foyer, modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, with its enormous amounts of gold and lots of chandeliers; this is where patrons might mingle during intermission at performances.

One of the decorative themes throughout the Palais Garnier is the lyre, representing music broadly and much appreciated by the architect.

You can also step outside onto the loggia, or front balcony, and enjoy the view while also taking in the beautiful mosaic ceilings and inlaid floors.

The Avant-Foyer features gorgeous ceiling mosaics with lots of gold tiles, as well as a beautiful floor.

The busts around the gallery represent a range of people, from composers to architects, from singers to directors, from dancers to librettists, all being honored by Charles Garnier. And if you follow the corridor all around to the far left end, you'll see Box 5, identified as the box of the Phantom of the Opera.

Touring the Palais Garnier is a wonderful way to get a sense of the elegance of Paris and to appreciate and admire the stunning architecture and design. And if you are able to attend a performance during your time in Paris, you'll be able to appreciate even more the elegance of the setting.

For a totally different type of tour, if you speak French, consider doing a guided tour of the Opéra Bastille. This fascinating visit takes you into the great hall, and also to the immense and complex back stage area, and even to some of the workshops. You must tour with a group and a guide (easy to get lost there!) and as of now tours are only in French, except for pre-arranged groups.

Le Palais Garnier
Opéra National de Paris
Place de l'Opéra (rue Scribe & rue Auber) (map)
75009 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 71 25 24 23

Métro: Opéra, lines 3, 7, 8

RER: line A, station Auber

Bus: lines 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81, 95

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Grand Foyer, Paris Opera

Above, The luxurious Grand Foyer.

Below, As you ascend the Grand Staircase, you'll be greeted by these two as you enter the area where the orchestra seats are.


Opera Garnier, Paris

Opera Garnier ceiling, Paris
Above, The Chagall ceiling in the Opéra Garnier, Paris.


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