As one of the most famous opera houses in the world, and a symbol of Paris, we definitely had to see the Opéra Garnier on our trips to Paris in October 2006. For a bit of history, the Opera house opened on January 5, 1875, it was originally called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. However, it soon became known as the Palais Garnier or just the Opéra.
It was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III and built between 1862 and 1875 by Architect Charles Garnier. The facade, monumental stairs, and Italian-type hall with Chagall paintings on the ceiling make it one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses. Some state that is it notoriety is due to Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, others say it was more due to the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular 1986 musical. Whatever the reason, it is unquestionably a masterpiece of art.
Another marvel of the Opera Garnier is its 1964 ceiling by Marc Chagall. The ceiling represents the arts of opera and ballet. The ceiling, controversial at the time of its creation, is now widely acclaimed and a Chagall masterpiece. However, I would have to say the highlight is the 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier which was designed by Garnier.
I love marble and one of the main features of the Opera is the large ceremonial staircase. Made of white marble with a balustrade of red and green marble, it divides into two divergent flights of stairs that lead to the Grand Foyer. It is truly amazing and beautiful. The pedestals of the staircase are decorated with female torchères, created by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, and the ceiling above the staircase was painted by Isidore Pils to depict The Triumph of Apollo.
The auditorium itself is a piece of art. To start with the stage is the largest in Europe and can accommodate as many as 450 artists, it has a traditional Italian horseshoe shape, can seat 1,979, and the canvas house curtain was painted to represent a draped curtain, complete with tassels and braid.
A note of interest: The French Post Office has issued two postage stamps on the building: The first was issued in September 1998, for the centenary of the death of Charles Garnier. It was designed by Claude Andréotto grouping elements that recall the artistic activities of the Opera Garnier: the profile of a dancer, a violin, and a red curtain. The second, drawn and engraved by Martin Mörck, is issued in June 2006 and represents, in intaglio, the main facade.
I really enjoyed visiting the Opera much better than the Palace of Versailles. We weren’t rushed, and I felt like we were able to really enjoy it. We even ate at a little restaurant right across it to enjoy the outside view a little more. I do have to mention that there were cops everywhere directing traffic (as it is a crazy intersection where it is located) and they kept blowing a whistle that was quite annoying and distracting. Other than that it was a great day and a great visit. I would love to go back someday and see some kind of performance. It is a magnificent venue. Here is a link to their website if you are interested in planning your own visit one day.
One last thing to note. If you purchase a ticket for the Opéra Garnier, you can also get discounts at Musée d’Orsay and the Musée Gustave Moreau. More information is available on the link above.
Opéra Garnier Visitor Information
Place de l’Opéra
08 92 89 90 90 and from outside France: +33 1 71 25 24 23, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.
The Paris Opera offers you the possibility to discover the treasures of the Palais Garnier’s public areas, a masterpiece of 19th-century theater art architecture. This ticket also gives you access to the current exhibitions (when available). Please note that access to the auditorium may be restricted or forbidden due to technical and/or artistic reasons.
Self Guided Tour Prices:
Over 26 Years Old – €14 (€12 outside exhibition periods)
12-25 Years Old – €10 (€8 outside exhibition periods)
Children Under 12 – Free
Self Guided Tour Hours:
Visits take place every day from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (except on days with afternoon performances, exceptional closure, and the summer period). Last entrance 45 minutes before closure.
RER: Auber station (line A)
Bus: lines 20, 21, 27, 29, 32, 45, 52, 66, 68, 95
Car park: Q-Park Edouard VII – Rue Bruno Coquatrix 75009 Paris (in front of 23 Rue de Caumartin)
If you are driving, you can reserve your parking space here.
The Palais Garnier offers safe access to persons with reduced mobility, in wheelchairs, or with visual disabilities (except places for temporary exhibitions). For more information call +33 1 40 01 18 50 (Mon to Fri, 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm) or email accessibilité@operadeparis.fr.
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