Paris

Experience a Flavour of Parisian Opera Culture at the Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier, also known as the Opera Garnier Paris or simply the Paris Opera is an architectural jewel in Paris with a fascinating history and prime status in Paris’s ballet and classical music milieu. An ode to Parisian architecture, the Palais Garnier is an enchanting inspiration for many and undeniably one of the most distinguished and grand opera houses in the world. The Palais Garnier is home to the Paris ballet, so anyone hoping enjoy a Parisian rendition of La Traviata or Mozart's The Magic Flute, you know where to head!

Before you set off to tour the opulent Palais Garnier, here are a few quick things you’d like to know. A brief history of the Palais Garnier, how to get the best Palais Garnier tickets, whether a guided tour or self guided tour works better and other details about the location, timings and how to get there.

Palais Garnier History


Palais Garnier History

Palais Garnier’s history dates back to 1860, under the auspices of Emperor Napoleon III as a part of civic planner Baron Haussmann’s plan to renovate and transform all of Paris. A contest was organised to attract proposals for the construction of the Palais Garnier. Out of the 171 proposals submitted, Charles Garnier a little-known 35-year-old architect won the comission to build Paris’s Opera House.

Charles Garnier’s winning architectural plan devised mounting a spectacle a within a spectacle, in lieu with Napoleon III ‘s bourgeoisie tastes. The intention was to keep the Palais Garnier as a place for the wealthy and powerful where the rich would aspire to be spotted. This was keeping in mind France’s late 19th century, post-revolutionary, industrialized society. The Palais Garnier is a blend of architectural styles and the freedom endowed on Charles to experiment with a totally atypical dimension allowed this to manifest. In the late 19th century French society, one did not go to the Opera to view the mastery and grace of artists but to show off your wealth and power; to be aroused.

After 15 years of construction plagued by setbacks like the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War and Siege of Paris, the Paris Commune, ultimate fall of France’s second Empire, and an 1873 fire the Palais Garnier was inaugurated on Januray 5, 1875. At the time it opened, Palais Garnier was the world's largest theatre and opera house. The Opera Garnier was part palace, part temple, part administrative center; a space where money was the new king, the new power, the new god.

The Palais Garnier till today remains an iconic symbol of Paris, not just for its magnificent façade and lavish interior, but for the era it represents: a France that had weathered a century of disruption and revolution. Viewed through this lens, Palais Garnier sure feels like a ‘sign’ of its time.

Palais Garnier Tickets


If you're looking for discounted tickets to the Palais Garnier, simply click on the Tickets tab below and book them via Headout. You can opt for a guided tour or simply purchase entry tickets and experience the Opera culture of Paris. A definite must while in the City of Lights!

Self Guided Tour of the Opera Garnier

• The Museum of the Opera
• The sun and moon salons
• Step over the grand staircase
• Access the temporary exhibits of the Opera

Price -

Guided Tour of the Opera Garnier

• 90-minute tour of the Opera Garnier with access to the different areas.
• English guided tour with official guides allowing a more interactive and educative experience.

Price -

Inside Palais Garnier Paris


This spectacle of this crowning attraction of the Opera-Haussmann neighborhood starts long before the curtain for the ballet rises. Here’s a summary of the emblematic areas at the Palais Garnier and a short glimpse of its elegant interiors.

The Exteriors

palais garnier- Exteriors

The exteriors of Palais Garnier is your coup d'œil into the realm of pomp and refinement that Charles Garnier manifested. Every inch of the building’s facade is a unique harmony between the sculpture, painting and architecture. The building dazzles with its balconies in onyx, golden statues of Apollo, smooth marble pillars, its delicate frescoes and rich gilding. To get the best view of its exteriors, walk further from the front steps to Avenue de l’Opéra till you can consume the whole of Palais Garnier, from top to bottom in all its glory.

Grand Staircase

palais garnier- Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase is the first thing that commands your attention upon entrance. It is an exquisite piece of engineering marvel endowed in pink, green and white marble. Charles Garnier said it best when he proclaimed, “The opera is the staircase”. The staircase is flanked by 30 large single piece marble columns. Follow your eyes from the columns to the ceilings and meet the stunning fresco painted by Isidore Pils.A real high point of the visit, this staircase brings undeniable modernity to the building and contributes to making it an outstanding monument.

Auditorium

palais garnier - Auditorium

While you can’t go onto the stage, you can access the auditorium and take in a splendid views of the horseshoe shaped theatre. The Paris Opera stage is the largest in Europe and can accommodate as many as 450 artists. While the auditorium on the whole is overwhelmingly beautiful, the show stealer is the Marc Chagall ceiling and 8-ton chandelier hanging down from it.

Grand Foyer

palais garnier- Grand Foyer

The Grand Foyer boasts of an 18 meters high, 154 meters long and 13 meters wide hall, covered in gold and gold paint. A space intended to take stroll, take a break and mingle, the foyer is strategically located right outside the highest paying boxes. Amidst the gold and glitter, is an impressive ceiling fresco painted by Paul Baudry. Each of these frescos have some connection to art and music. The central painting is an allegory of Music flanked by smaller paintings in oval frames on either sides, one representing Comedy, the other Tragedy.

Those of you who have been to the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, may see a resemblance. However, the Grand Foyer is definitely more visually appealing and far less crowded than the Palace of Versailles.

Opera Library-Museum

palais garnier- Opera Library-Museum

This well stocked library holds a vast collection of items stockpiled from years even before the Palais Garnier was fully constructed. Artefacts mainly pertain to opera and dance, but you will find a fine collection of , paintings, drawings, sketches, costumes, props and 3D models of stage sets. If you’re interested in knowing about the early years of Opera in Paris, a visit to this Library Museum will take you down the history lane.

Palais Garnier Tour


Self Guided Tour

If you choose to independently tour the Palais Garnier, we’d suggest going for an audio guided tour. The audio guide will help you learn in depth about the building, with anecdotes, documents and lesser known secrets, enriching your experience better. The audio guide points out features that you may have overlooked if you were to be walking without a guide or the audio device, hence ensuring that you get the best out of the Palais Garnier tour. A few things you should know before going for the Self Guided Audio Tour.

  • The audio guide device costs an extra 5 Euros ( over and above the entry fee) but is completely worth the money ( and way cheaper than the guided tour).
  • The audio guided tour lasts for 1 hour
  • Be sure to have 5-7 Euros in cash for the audio guide as the counter accepts only cash. You are also required to leave an official photo id as a deposit while you buy the headset.
  • Note, the basic self guided tour does not give you access to the auditorium.
  • The Audio Guide is multilingual and available in French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Self Guided VIP Palais Garnier Tour

This “Behind the curtain” informative tour takes you through areas usually prohibited to the public. One can walk through the Foyer de la Danse, explore the auditorium, inspect Marc Chagall’s ceiling, the paintings in the Grand Foyer, the façade of the Palais Garnier and chart Palais Garnier’s history through the interactive timeline, all at your own pace.

  • The VIP audio tour is offered on an iPad mini.
  • The costs are higher than the basic tour. 7 Euros for a single person and 12 Euros if two tickets are bought together. This cost is over and above the entrance fee.
  • This tour lasts for 1 hour 30 minutes and is available in French, English and Spanish only.

Expert Guided Tour

These expert guides on guided tours unveil mysteries and give keen insights into the culture and history that led to the construction of the Opera Garnier Paris and are always more than happy to answer your doubts and queries. The guided tour even involves a 20 minute session in the auditorium where you will be seated while listening to stories about the ballet artists, elaborate decorations, French society elites who used to attend the Opera, design of the auditorium etc. Listen out for tales of Phantom of Opera in particular on the guided tour. Peering into his opera box is an all time highlight of the guided tour!.

  • There are daily expert English guided Palais Garnier Tours which departs at 11:00 AM and 2:30 PM.
  • The guided tour takes about 90 minutes and gives you access to all parts of Opera Garnier - the auditorium, gilded balconies, even up close the stage ( the self audio guided tour lacks access to the auditorium ).
  • If the tour group size is big, you will be given headsets in order to listen to the guide clearly.
  • Palais Garnier Guided tours in other foreign languages are available and details for its timings and departure can be checked on the official website.

All You Need To Know About Visiting Palais Garnier


Palais Garnier Hours

• The Palais Garnier is open all days of the week
- From September 10th to July 15th - 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
- From July 15th to September 10th - 10:00 AM to 5.30 PM
• The Palais Garnier remains closed on January 1st and May 1st
• The ticket office closes 30 minutes before the said day's closing time

Getting to Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier is on the corner of Rue Scribe & Rue Auber.

  • By Metro - The closest Métro station is Opéra, which you can reach via Lines 3 (pea-green on the official RATP Métro map), 7 (pink), and 8 (lavender).
  • By RER - If you're traveling by RER, the nearest RER stop is Auber on Line A.
  • By Bus - Routes 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81 and 95 stop a short walk away from the Paris Opera.

Palais Garnier Visitor Tips


  • You can take a Palais Garnier Tour for free on the 1st Sunday of each month. Note, this also happens to be the most crowded day of the month!
  • English tours are on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM. In July and August, English tours run every day at 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM.
  • If you have the Paris Pass, you can take a free English speaking tour on a first-come-first serve either at 11:00 AM or 2:30 PM.
  • Since the ticket counter selling tickets for tours and theatre is combined, the lines can be slow moving. For quick entry, we’d suggest purchasing tickets for both tours and theatre online in advance. If this is a last minute plan and you are unable to buy tickets online, there is an automated ticket machines which can help you gain entry quicker.
  • Admission to the auditorium may be restricted or forbidden at times for technical or artistic reasons. If you want guaranteed access to the auditorium, opting for the first tour in the morning is suggested. That way, you can avoid any potential rehearsal conflicts.
  • For a sedate independent tour of the Palais Garnier, keep aside 2 hours of your day. This is including the stringent security check which will take about 30 minutes on a crowded day.
  • If you're interested in seeing an Opera show, you can pre-book your tickets here. Try timing your visit such that you can squeeze in a tour and an opera show.
  • The Palais Garnier roof has a honey bee hive and over 300 kgs of honey is harvested every year. You can pick up a tiny bottle from the gift shop as you exit. No better souvenir, we say!

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Comments (2)
  1. Michelle says:

    Hello, can you provide a link or more information about the free Sunday tour? I cannot find any details. We are going to be in Paris in a few months and wonder we if should attend (or avoid it) on a Sunday.
    Thanks!

    1. Lakshmi Menon says:

      Hi Michelle!

      You can take a Palais Garnier Tour for free on the 1st Sunday of every month but since it’s free, it also happens to be really crowded. You may be rubbing shoulder with many other tourists, a not so enjoyable experience.

      I’d suggest you purchase a 90 minute guided tour for 15 Euros (https://www.headout.com/tour/2898/france/paris/opera-garnier-guided-tour) which is organized daily at 11:00 am and 2:30 pm. With this tour, you’ll be exploring the opera house with an English speaking expert guide, guaranteeing an interactive and educative experience.

      Hope this was helpful!

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