We have both been to Paris many times and absolutely love visiting this beautiful city. The is something truly special about the 'City of Lights'. Of course, there is plenty to enjoy in the culture, restaurants and bars of Paris, but for the first (or many times) visitor, there are some must-see places.
France: Paris – Palais Garnier, Opera House
The Palais Garnier is home to National Opera in Paris, and is one of the largest and most spectacular opera houses in the World. Its famously also the setting for the mysterious book (and musical) 'The Phantom of the Opera'
The exterior of the building is very imposing and grand, so were curious to see what the inside had to offer. We are also big fans of the musical Phantom of the Opera, and the book on which the musical is based is set in Palais Garnier.
On our recent visit to Paris, we decided on the spur of the moment, that it was time to go and explore the inside of the Palais Garnier. There are several ways to do this but we decided to do a self-guided tour. See below for more tour options.
A bit of history on the building itself. The Opera Garnier was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III. It was originally called “Salle des Capucines” because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th district of Paris. It was soon known as “Palais Garnier” in memory of his architect Charles Garnier. The palace was the residence of the Paris Opera until 1989 when the Bastille Opera House was built. The Paris Opera Palais Garnier is now mainly used for ballet.
BASSIN DE LA PITHYE, GRAND ESCALIER
Beyond the Rotonde des Abonnés, the Bassin de la Pythia leads to the Grand Escalier with its magnificent thirty-meter-high vault. Built of marble of various colours, it is home to the double staircase leading to the foyers and the various floors of the theatre. At the bottom of the stairs, a true theatre within the theatre, two female allegories holding torches greet spectators.
In the tradition of Italian theatre, the horseshoe-shaped “French” auditorium, so-called for the way the seats are arranged according to their category, was designed for the audience to see and to be seen. Its metallic structure, hidden by marble, stucco, velvet and gilding, supports the weight of the 8-ton bronze and crystal chandelier with its 340 lights. The house curtain was created by theatrical painters Auguste Rube (1817-1899) and Philippe Chaperon (1823-1906), following Charles Garnier’s instructions. The curtain was replaced by an identical one in both 1951 and 1996. The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall and commissioned by the Minister of Culture André Malraux was inaugurated on September 23, 1964.
SALON DU GLACIER
At the end of a long gallery is the Rotunde du Glacier, a fresh and bright rotunda with a ceiling painted by Clairin (1843-1919) and featuring dancing bacchantes and fauna, along with tapestries illustrating different refreshments as well as fishing and hunting. Completed after the opening of the Palais Garnier, this salon evokes the aesthetic of the Belle Époque.
The vault of the Avant-Foyer is covered with mosaics of shimmering colours on a gold background. The view of the Grand Staircase is spectacular. The play of light between mirrors and windows in the Grand Foyer further accentuates the latter’s vast dimensions. The ceiling painted by Paul Baudry (1828-1886) features themes from the history of music.
LIBRARY-MUSEUM OF THE OPERA
The collections of the Library-Museum of the Opera (National Library of France) conserve three centuries of the theatre’s history. The museum gallery houses a permanent exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs and set models. After the fall of the Empire, the premises were never completed: in the staircase leading to the temporary exhibition hall, remain the massive stone blocks dating from 1870. Access to the reading room, located in the Rotunde de l’Empereur, is restricted to researchers.
Planning your visit to the Palais Garnier
For more detailed information on getting to the Palais Garnier check the following link
|Address:||Pl. de l’Opéra, 75009 Paris, France|
|Telephone:||T: +33 1 71 25 24 23|
Visits are available every day from 10 am to 5 pm, except on days with afternoon performances and exceptional closures.
You can do self-guided tours, and there is an audio guide that can be rented
Alternatively, you can join a guided tour of the Palais Garnier
Full rate: €14 (€12 outside exhibition periods)
Audio guide: €6.50
Best time to visit Paris
You’ll experience crowds from May to September, but encounter the most people in July (followed closely by June and August). We’d recommend visiting between October and April if your main objective is to avoid crowds. For the warmest temperatures, October and April are the best times to visit Paris sans crowds.
Other places to visit while in Paris
1. BANKS OF THE RIVER SEINE
The banks of the River Seine through the heart of Paris are listed as UNESCO world heritage site due to the incredible architecture of buildings such as Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Grand Palais and the examples of outstanding town planning, in particular, the large squares and avenues built by Haussmann at the time of Napoleon III have influenced town planning throughout the world.
The Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape architects, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for over a century.
3. THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
The Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, is the world’s most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris, France. It is the home of some of the best-known works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. At any given point in time, approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are being exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres.
4. MUSEE D’ORSAY
Housed in a train station built for the 1900 World’s Fair, the Musée d’Orsay is known throughout the world for its rich collection of Impressionist paintings including masterpieces as iconic as the Bal au Moulin de la galette from Renoir or The room at Arles de Van Gogh. Its collections include works of architecture, decorative arts and photography in addition to traditional artistic fields (painting, sculpture, graphic arts). They thus draw a broad panorama of French and European art from 1848 to 1914.
The Sacré-Coeur, consecrated in 1919, is one of the most iconic monuments in Paris. At the top of the Butte Montmarte, it has one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the capital, from 130 metres above the ground. In a Roman-Byzantine style, the Sacré Coeur is recognizable by its white colour. Inside the building, the ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in France measuring about 480 m². The crypt is also worth a visit. And to go even higher up, visitors can access the dome where the 360° view of Paris is magnificent.
5. PÈRE LACHAISE CEMETARY
The Père Lachaise cemetery takes its name from King Louis XIV’s confessor, Father François d’Aix de La Chaise. It is the most prestigious and most visited necropolis in Paris. Here you will find the graves of such famous people as Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Jean de La Fontaine, Molière, Yves Montand, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro and Oscar Wilde are just a few.
6. CHÂTEAU DE FONTAINBLEAU
The Château de Fontainebleau is located in the small town bearing the same name and lies 40 miles (65 km) south-southeast of Paris by road. It has been the residence of 34 kings and two emperors, Fontainebleau is the only château that was lived in by every French monarch for almost eight centuries. With 1500 rooms, it is one of the biggest châteaux in France, and the most furnished in Europe.
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