Paris trip journal: inside the Opéra Garnier

Long before I ever visited, my friend and guest poster Janet (read her A to Z!) visited Paris and shot this amazing photo outside of the Opéra Garnier (also known as the Palais Garnier) in Paris.

It became one of those things I had to see to see for myself. For all kinds of reasons, it wasn’t meant to be until my trip to Paris in April. The first time I visited, the entire building was being refurbished and I couldn’t get it to the auditorium. The second time I visited, it was in the middle of the night and it wasn’t open. The third time I visited, the auditorium was closed for rehearsal. The fourth, and most recent, time I visited: success. I hedged my bets that, even in Paris, the Opéra would not likely be rehearsing at 10h on a Saturday, and my gamble paid off.

Go early and be patient. The weather was nice, so a small crowd formed waiting for the Palais to open. Be prepared to queue again inside to have your bag searched, then queue again to pay €9 to be overwhelmed by opulence. Walking through the corridor, I turned the corner and saw this:

Paris Opera Garnier

When I see such opulence, my default reaction is: “I could never afford this,” like there was a realistic possibility I could buy the building. Head up the marble grand escalier slowly:

Paris Opera Garnier

Into the auditorium:

Paris Opera Garnier

And take in the sumptuous red velvet seating and golden interior.

Paris Opera Garnier

Then, look up. Marc Chagall painted this ceiling mural in the 1960s, depicting scenes around Paris, performances within the Opéra, and the odd cello-playing animal.

Paris Opera Garnier Marc Chagall

I could have very easily looked at this all day. The amount of detail – on a ceiling, no less – is more than enough to keep me occupied for hours.

Paris Opera Garnier Marc Chagall

Paris Opera Garnier Marc Chagall

Paris Opera Garnier Marc Chagall

Paris Opera Garnier Marc Chagall

After the main performance hall, there is plenty to see at the Opéra. Head toward the museum to see a collection of paintings depicting performances and individual performers. My favourite part of the museum was the collection of miniature set designs from early productions. It’s a short visit, definitely enough time to fit it in before dashing off to your next Paris destination. Next mission: be in town when there’s actually a performance!



  1. Beautiful post!! Marc Chagall’s work is amazing. I always weep whenever I spot it. Great tips!! Theadora (A few years, I got to see Nijinsky’s L’après-midi d’un faune at the Opéra Garnier. The box seat was worth every penny. Off now to play a little Debussy!!)

    • I was there in between productions, it was very disappointing. The set for the Barber of Seville looks *amazing* on their site. After seeing the box seats up close, I’d happily pay!

    • Again, great tip! I’ve never toured the place in between productions. I’m adding it to my list. Thanks for the push. Again, beautiful shots! T. (It’s a great area. While I’m there, I also check out the free Musée du Parfum Fragonard on Scribe and window-shop at Repetto ballet shop. Saving my pennies!)

    • Don’t miss the mini sets from the days of yore, they’re incredible! I’ve missed Fragonard twice now, I can’t let it happen a third time!

    • The museum is worth the trek! And it’s free. In the lobby, you’ll find an old bottle of “Sleeping” by Schiaparelli. It’s gorgeous! T. (There’s also a gift shop on the ground level.)


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