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Opéra Garnier

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The Opéra Garnier (also known as Palais Garnier) was opened as the location of the Paris Opera in 1875. Even though many of the younger productions of the Paris Opera now take place in the larger and more modern Opéra Bastille, the Old Opera, where the plot of the book classic The Phantom of the Opera is set, still holds a special place in the hearts of Parisians. On a tour through the public areas of the opera house, one can learn more about the history of the building through an audioguide or tour.
Miriam DewamBy Miriam Dewam
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Book your tickets for a tour of the Palais Garnier.
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Paris: Opera Garnier Entry Ticket
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Private Opera Garnier Theater 2-Hour Tour in Paris
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2 Hour Private Opera Garnier Guided Tour
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5 tips for visiting the Opéra Garnier

The Paris Opera | Photo: Unsplash, Francesco Zivoli - CC-BY-SA 2.0
1
Book your ticket onlineAs the Opéra Garnier is probably one of the coolest places in Paris due to the high marble content in the building substance, it is particularly well visited during the summer months. During the high season, this can lead to long waiting times at the ticket counters. With an online booking, you can save yourself the queue with skip-the-line tickets.
The Opéra Garnier from above | Photo: Unsplash, Nathan Staz - CC-BY-SA 2.0
2
Don't miss anything with a guided tourAlthough there is a self-guided ticket option, you should still book a guided tour to learn more about the architecture, history, legends and secrets of Charles Garnier's masterpiece. During the classic tours of the theater, the history and architecture are brought closer to you. Thematic tours can also be booked to explore the opera outside of opening hours.
3
Try the multimedia tourAdults can book a 90-minute multimedia tour on site. A computer-assisted extension of the perception of reality makes this tour an unforgettable experience that also provides access to usually inaccessible areas of the opera such as the Foyer de la Danse and the costume room. You can explore the opera either on your own or follow one of the planned routes. There is also a one-hour interactive multimedia tour tailored for children between 6 and 13 years old.
4
Visit a performanceEven though the opera building can be visited daily during opening hours, only by attending a performance can the extent of Garnier's masterpiece be understood fully. The diverse program offers not only ballet performances and classic operas but also other presentations and can be viewed online.
5
Observe the dress codeAn elegant dress style simply belongs to a performance visit to the Opéra Garnier. For gala evenings, men are recommended a jacket, shirt and trousers, women a costume, trouser suit with blouse or dress. In shorts, flip-flops or sneakers, you might be denied entrance!
The Grand Foyer | Photo: Unsplash, Laila Gebhard - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The pompous Parisian Opera

The largest opera house in France and probably the most famous worldwide still serves as a role model for theatre construction and is under monument protection. Since 1989, the Opéra Garnier has been mainly used for ballet performances and classical operas and is subject to the state institution Opéra National de Paris. It is also the original location of the story of the Phantom of the Opera.

The creation of the opera house - for the protection of the emperor

The idea to build a new opera house goes back to the attempted assassination of Napoleon III. and his wife on January 14, 1858, in the former opera near the present Opéra Garnier. After this incident, he wanted to have an opera built that would allow him safe access to the evening social event. At that time, the approach of the selection process, who should become the architect of the building, was unusual. The Emperor launched a major competition in which 171 builders participated.

The still unknown architect

The entries in the competition were anonymized and thus the young builder and architect Charles Garnier, who had previously only built a rental house, was selected. His pompous ideas went hand in hand with the planned redesign of the city of Paris. To realize the large project and strengthen the statement, houses were even demolished to create a large access road, the Avenue de l'Opéra. The assigned building site also inevitably resulted in the structure of the building, Garnier opted for a symmetrical design. One of the two side pavilions served 200 high-ranking box subscribers, the other broke the symmetry and would have served the emperor, who could have entered the loge unnoticed.
The Grand Staircase of the Opera | Photo: Unsplash, Laila Gebhard - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Complicated Construction

Construction of the Opéra Garnier began in 1860, but it quickly became apparent that due to the high groundwater level, construction would be hampered. The project also came to a halt due to the Franco-Prussian War, with the building even serving as a food store for a time. When a fire broke out in the then opera house in 1873, it was decided that the Opéra Garnier should be completed. After 15 years of construction, the opera house could finally be opened. However, Napoleon III never saw it, as he was expelled from the country during the war and remained abroad until his death in 1873.
The staircase of the opera | Photo: Unsplash, Caleb Maxwell - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Opera in Numbers

The Opéra Garnier was inaugurated in 1875 and was once the largest theater building in the world, until it was overtaken by the Opéra Bastille in 1989. The total area of the opera amounts to 11,237 m² (221 ft²) and looks significantly smaller due to the course of the new streets. The magnificent hall can accommodate 1900 spectators. Up to 450 artists can appear on stage at the same time. The stage technology is amazingly advanced, here 15 meter high sets can be created and disappear. A special feature of the Opéra Garnier is also the adaptability of the stage, which can be extended for large sceneries. This hidden space was formerly used as a dance hall and today is mostly used as a rehearsal hall.

Garnier's attention to detail

The neo-baroque style and the luxurious furnishings were part of the program when the opera was built. The imposing extent of Garnier's planning ideas becomes clear even when you enter - the generous staircase, the Grand Foyer, or the round Salon du Glacier invite you to marvel. During a visit to the opera, the spectators became performers - seeing and being seen was the motto here. The spacious auditorium is also rich in decorations, with gold leaf, red satin and velvet creating a fantastic interplay. The crowning glory of the hall is the eight-ton chandelier.

The magnificent Grand Foyer

Rich gold embellishments, the colorful ceiling fresco and the opulent chandeliers make the Grand Foyer probably the most sumptuous room in the Opéra Garnier. This room was mainly used during intermissions and at the end of the performances. From here you can also get to the balcony, which offers a great view of the city of Paris. At the two ends of the foyer are the warmly decorated Salon du Soleil and the cool-looking Salon de la Lune. Originally, the Salon du Soleil was to serve as a foyer to the smoking room, but in the hurry of completion, the decorator swapped the two salons, with the Salon de la Lune finally serving to consume sorbet.
The ceiling painting by Marc Chagall | Photo: Unsplash, Mahdi Samadzad - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The new ceiling painting

A special feature in the auditorium is above all the 220 m² ceiling painting (2370 ft²) by Marc Chagall from 1964, to reflect a more modern style. The old ceiling painting was not painted over, but is still located behind the new canvas painting. The painting is supposed to represent the "Hymn to Music" and combines over a dozen of the most famous operas and composers of the Western world like Mozart's "Magic Flute" or Igor Strawinsky's "Firebird". The saturated colors and the round shape of the fresco give the painting movement and harmony.
The boxes of the opera | Photo: Unsplash, Gio Almonte - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Phantom of the Opera

The aforementioned myth of a phantom supposed to be living in the opera house originated from the frightening noises of the underground perceived during the first performances and an accident with a chandelier, in which a concierge was killed. This legend of the phantom of the opera was also reinforced by the existing groundwater collection basin and the labyrinthine corridors of the opera, where the phantom can hide well. The loge 5, the phantom's spectator room, can still be visited on the first floor today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Opéra Garnier accessible for people with disabilities?

The opera is barrier-free. Read more.

Can you carry bags and backpacks during the visit?

For security reasons, no items of luggage such as bags and backpacks may be taken into the opera house. Free lockers are available on the various floors during performances, but not during normal opening hours. Read more.

What is the minimum age for performances?

Children can attend the performances from the age of 5. Read more.

When does admission to the performances take place?

Evening performances usually start at 7:30 pm and matinees at 2:30 pm Arrival at least 45 minutes before the start of the performance is recommended. Please note that the doors close 15 minutes after the start of the performance. After the show has started, admission is only possible during the intermission. Read more.

Is there a souvenir shop?

The opera has a bookstore and a boutique. Read more.

Are audioguides available?

The Opéra Garnier offers an audio guide that can be borrowed for a small surcharge. It is available in the languages Chinese, German, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Read more.

Are dogs allowed to be taken into the opera?

No, animals are not allowed in the building. An exception is made only for certified assistance dogs. Read more.

Can I take photos and videos of the Opéra Garnier?

Videos and photos for personal use can be taken during the visit. Please note that the use of flash is not permitted in any of the rooms, and taking photographs, filming or recording the performance during showtime is forbidden. Read more.

General information

opening hours

The Opéra Garnier is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, from July 17th to September 3rd the opera is open until 6 pm. The last admission is 45 minutes before closing. Please note that the opening times can vary for afternoon performances and on holidays.

address

Palais Garnier
Place de l’Opéra
75009 Paris

how to get there

The Palais Garnier can easily be reached by metro via the Opéra stop, which is served by lines 3, 7, and 8. The nearest RER train station is Auber, which is served by line A. Bus lines 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81, and 95 also stop near Palais Garnier. The nearest car parks are at Q-Park Edouard VII, where paid spaces can be reserved in advance.

tickets

Self-Guided Admission tickets for adults can be purchased for a price of 15 € per person. Family tickets (consisting of at least 4 people) can also be purchased for 10 € per person, however only on site at the opera box office. Children under 12 years get free admission, visitors between 12 and 25 years as well as holders of a Bastille Opera, Musée d’Orsay or Musée Gustave Moreau ticket get reduced admission for 10 € on site. Holders of a disabled pass and their accompanying person and architecture students can visit the opera for free. Guided tours cost for adults 20.50 € and for children under 10 years 10 €. For visitors under 25 years, holders of a disabled pass, seniors over 65 years and students the reduced tour ticket costs 14.50 €. Companions of physically restricted persons and children under 4 years can participate in a guided tour for free. A tour after the official closing time costs 24 €. The Opera Garnier can be visited for free every 1st Sunday of the month.
Miriam Dewam
Written byMiriam DewamMiriam is keen on traveling and has a passion for photography, which she can enhance through her cross-media studies. She uses her knowledge as well as first hand experience from diverse travels to help other travellers as a content creator at TicketLens.
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