Visit the Opéra Garnier in Paris: tickets, prices, opening hours

Visiter l'Opéra Garnier à Paris

The Opéra Garnier, one of the capital’s most historic landmarks, is one of the highlights of French culture. A must-see

to visit during your stay in Paris!

It tells part of the story of Paris. The artistic face of the capital with its Haussmannian features, the Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier symbolizes the theatrical scene and Parisian luxury. The signature of a spectacular project conceived and realized by the designer whose name it bears, it is one of France’s most popular cultural landmarks. A charisma and presence that resonate beyond the stage… Behind its architecturally splendid walls, the Opéra Garnier has played a leading role in French cinema, as in « Le fantôme de l’Opéra » and « La Grande Vadrouille ».

Now a listed historic monument, it remains a must-see for tourists from all over the world, and an address for lovers of opera and choreography. So what can you see and do at the Palais Garnier in Paris? How do you get there, and how much does it cost? Find out everything you need to know about visiting the Opéra Garnier in Paris, a historic monument in the City of Light.

History of the Opéra Garnier

Histoire de l'Opéra Garnier à Paris

Photo credit: From Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock.com

Like so many of the stories that have shaped French culture, that of the Opéra Garnier began long before its birth. In 1793, the first theater, built by actress and troupe director Monsantier, opened its doors opposite the Bibliothèque Nationale. With a capacity of 1,600, the venue was designed to showcase the local scene. About a year after inauguration, Monsantier was accused of trying to set fire to the Bibliothèque Nationale, and management of the theater was handed over to the Opéra. Although shows continued to be staged, the future of the Monsantier theater took a completely different turn when, in 1820, a duke was murdered as he left a performance, prompting Louis XVIII to order the theater’s demolition.

Moved by this symbolic act for culture, architect François Debret took charge of a reconstruction project: in just a few months, the Opéra Peletier was born. Inaugurated in 1821, it was seen as a temporary performance space until a new opera house could be built to house a permanent stage for opera and choreography. In 1858, an attempt on Napoleon III’s life was carried out at the Opéra, prompting the emperor to relocate the building to provide a safer venue for the national haute bourgeoisie.

Two years later, in 1860, the project for the  » Imperial Academy of Music and Dance  » was launched. Napoleon III began by inviting architects to take part in a major competition: a total of 171 candidates responded! Among them were such luminaries as Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and George Eugène Haussmann. In the end, and to everyone’s surprise, Charles Garnier, a young 35-year-old architect, was chosen by the jury, who unanimously entrusted him with the management of the project. Work then began, and the foundation stone was laid on July 21, 1862 by Count Walewski.

All in all, construction of the Opéra took several long years: during the Franco-Prussian war, it was halted, only to resume at the end of the conflict, with the fall of the Second Empire. However, work resumed under the Toisième République, even though the project struggled to see the light of day… And for good reason: the cost of construction proved greater than initially granted under Napoleon III, yet the funds needed to complete the work were in the meantime allocated to other building projects, such as the Hôtel-Dieu. Until the night of October 28 to 29, 1873, when the Peletier Opera House was ravaged by fire: a tragic event, or rather a blessing in disguise for our architect, who was granted six million nine hundred thousand francs to complete construction of the new Opera House as quickly as possible.

On January 5, 1875, the Opéra Garnier was finally inaugurated with great pomp and ceremony, in the presence of French President Patrice de Mac-Mahon. A symbol of the Paris of the Second Empire, the Opéra Garnier established itself as a landmark of luxury, and became what it is today: a mecca of French culture.

What to see and do at the Opéra Garnier in Paris?

Que voir et que faire à l'Opéra Garnier de Paris ?

Photo credit: From Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com

The exterior

While the Opéra Garnier houses many treasures within its walls, it’s worth remembering that its exterior is also well worth a look! An architectural masterpiece, the façade alone sets the tone for the visit. From  » L’harmonie  » to  » La poésie « , both sculpted by Gumery, to the busts of Rossini, Mozart and Beethoven carved by Evrard and Chabaud, every detail, down to the smallest column, is the work of a master. A word of advice: take the time to observe the walls that adorn the Opera House.

Pythia

The welcoming figure of the monument,  » La Pythie  » (Duchesse de Castiglione-Colonna) is a statue by Adèle d’Affry(Marcello), chosen by Garnier in 1870. Installed beneath the Grand Escalier, she represents the patron saint of artists and symbolizes the one who shows the way.

The Grand Staircase

After crossing the Pythian Basin, head for the Grand Staircase. At its foot, female allegories holding bouquets of light welcome visitors, while the balconies and superb marble nave overhang the great steps of the double-revolution staircase 30 meters above. Higher still, the sumptuous ceiling invites reverie, with works by Isidore Pils such as  » Le charme de la musique  » and  » Le triomphe d’Appollon  » offering a veritable spectacle. An emblematic social venue in its day, it allowed new arrivals to be observed from the balconies.

The showroom

Built in the tradition of Italian-style theaters, the auditorium was designed so that all spectators could see the stage as well as the auditorium. In other words, the seats have been arranged so that you can see and be seen. In addition to its design, the auditorium is also home to a number of wonders. Its ceiling, a majestic 220m² canvas painted by Chagall as a tribute to fourteen choreographers and composers, is the most remarkable of these. The 340-light bronze and crystal chandelier (equivalent in size to a two-storey house), like the stage curtain, makes it even more majestic. Elsewhere, gilding, velvet and marble sublimate the beauty of the room down to the smallest detail.

Le Grand Foyer

Inspired by the Galerie des Glaces the Grand Foyer tends to turn heads! And with good reason: every sculpture, painting, gilding, mirror and window symbolizes the place as much as it magnifies it. Anecdotally, the Grand Foyer was a meeting place for spectators during the intermission, a place for exchanging ideas, initially reserved for men (women remained in the dressing rooms).

The Library-Museum

On two levels, the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra presents permanent collections of paintings, drawings, photographs and sets spanning nearly three centuries of theater. The reading room on the second level is reserved for researchers.

The Orchestra Gallery

Among the monument’s latest must-sees, the Galerie de l’Orchestre offers a different perspective on the Opera, with an audiovisual documentary retracing its history.

Secret places

Although not all are accessible to the general public, the Opéra Garnier is home to other, more secret places. These include the backstage areas, once reserved for subscribers only during intermission, and the famous « Opera Lake », an underground pool beneath the main stage where firefighters and frogmen train.

How do I get to the Opéra Garnier in Paris?

  • On foot: Corner of rue Scribe and rue Auber, 75009 Paris
  • By metro: Opéra station, lines 3, 7, 8
  • By RER: Auber station, line A
  • By bus: routes 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81, 95
  • By car: Q-Park Edouard VII – Rue Bruno Coquatrix 75009 Paris (opposite 23 Rue de Caumartin)

Opéra Garnier opening times and prices

Horaires é tarifs de l'Opéra Garnier à Paris

Photo credit: De Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

SCHEDULES

The Opéra Garnier is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and closed on January 1 and May 1.

  • Guided tours: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
  • In July and August, an additional tour is offered at 2 p.m.
  • Please note exceptional closures at 1pm (variable throughout the year).

RATES

  • Adults : €12 (outside exhibition period)
  • Young people aged 12-25: €10
  • Free for children under 12, accompanied disabled persons and the unemployed.
  • Audioguide: +€5