A golden moment at the Opéra Garnier (Palais Garnier)

We are the sort of travellers that don’t have to visit everything that can be visited. Especially the churches that all kind of look the same we usually skip. With the Palais Garnier, we were unsure whether or not to go see it. From the outside, it isn’t all that spectacular and after all, it is just an opera.

Good thing that we decided to go for it.

opera Paris

Looking back

The opera was commissioned by Napoleon III. He picked the master builder Charles Garnier. Building started in 1860 and it soon after turned out that this was not going to be an easy process. The premises that were chosen had quite a high ground-water level which made it really hard to lay down the foundation. There is also an underground lake directly underneath the building which is still monitored and regularly drained to this day. The war in 1870/71 held up the construction process even more and the building was only finally opened in 1875.

Garnier had the goal to give the interior of the opera his own signature style. In these times, visiting the opera was a social event that was all about being seen. That is why Garnier created marble stairs, the Grand Foyer and a pompous auditorium. The auditorium is horse-shoe shaped which means that the view of the stage gets worse the further on the sides one is sat. But the loges have a brilliant view of the stage. A crystal chandelier hangs from the auditorium’s ceiling. It weighs about 8 tons. The ceiling’s painting was re-designed in 1963 by Marc Chagall. The original painting is still behind the canvas that Chagall’s work is on.

A visit to Palais Garnier

A little side entrance leads into Palais Garnier. After the obligatory bag check, we continued to the very empty desk area where we purchased our tickets. We seemed to have lucked out with timing. Or is the Palais Garnier generally quieter?

A golden moment at the Opéra Garnier (Palais Garnier)

Up some stairs we go to the Grand Escalier. My breath was taken away right after the first view I caught of it. Rarely have I ever seem anything that pompous. A high ceiling, almost like in a church, crowns the space that is decorated with different kinds of marble. A big, double staircase leads to the higher levels. I feel reminded of staircases in fairytale castles, where the king and queen majestically descend to join the ball. Light is coming from crystal chandeliers, gold shimmers and sparkles all around. Some other castles that I have visited in the past could really do with some inspiration from this foyer.

stairs opera

We walk up the stairs and I don’t know what to admire first. The chandeliers, the ceiling or should I just enjoy it as a whole?

A golden moment at the Opéra Garnier (Palais Garnier)

On the first floor, visitors can step out into a loge from where the view into the auditorium is magnificent. Here, too, marble, stucco, velvet and gold plated elements dominate the interior. You can just about see the stage where theatre staff works on the set for the next show.

inside Palais Garnie

I let my eyes wander to the other loges, the rows of seats and finally to the ceiling. What a chandelier! It is made from bronze and crystal and holds 340 flames that light up the room. In the face of that piece, one could almost overlook the (I think beautiful) painting by Chagall.

Opéra Garnier

It takes me a little while to be able to take my eyes of the ensemble before we continue our tour through the Palais Garnier.

We cross the Galiere du Glacier and arrive at the Salon du Glacier. It is a room in the shape of a semi-circle with a painting on the ceiling and tapestries on the walls. Compared to what we have seen before, this room appears almost plain.

But there is more. We step into the Grand Foyer and see set tables in a room full of chandeliers, mirrors and gold plating. This room is suitable for a dinner party or a gala. The light in the room, filtered through the crystals and reflected from the gold and the mirrors, is magical. Too bad that the pictures do not do it justice.

A golden moment at the Opéra Garnier (Palais Garnier)

We exit the pompous hall through a door to the Bibliothèque-Muséede l’Opéra. Dark bookshelves hold collections from 3 centuries of theatre history.

Palais Garnier

Via some stairs and the Galerie de l’Orchestre visitors are led out of the opera.

What a tour! I am so happy that we didn’t jump to conclusions about the interior when we saw the rather unspectacular outside of the building. We would have missed a pretty epic visit.


This very opera is the location where the true story behind “The Phantom of the Opera” took place. During the first-ever show at Palais Garnier, some strange sounds from the underground were heard throughout the building. And in May 1896 a counterweight from the big chandelier in the auditorium fell down and killed the concierge Madame Chomette who used to live on Rue Rochechouar. The cause of this accident remained unknown. Occurrences like that were very unsettling for the theatre staff and the myth of an opera ghost arose who was thought to live in the labyrinth of corridors underneath the building. On his boat, the ghost was said to cross the groundwater lake underneath the building.

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8 Rue Scribe
75009 Paris

Opening Hours for tours:

September to mid-July: 10.00 – 17.00
Mid-July to September: 10.00 – 18.00

Admission for the tour:

Adults: 11€ (12€ at times with extra exhibitions in the building)
Discounted tickets are available
An audioguide is availabel at an extra cost

A golden moment at the Opéra Garnier (Palais Garnier)


  1. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions on 1. June 2019 at 14:05

    Wow, what a beautiful corner of Paris to pop into for a morning or afternoon! The entire structure looks so regal and I can just picture everyone getting all dressed up and like you said “being seen” while attending the opera. It’s also quite interesting to know that it took 15 years to complete building the hall. I like the Chagall ceiling although I would be very curious what the original looked like as well. That’s tragic that the concierge was killed here, but it’s a fitting legend to say that the ghost of the opera house has a boat in the underground lake.

  2. Mirela on 30. May 2019 at 13:04

    I knew it was gorgeous inside, even though I haven’t visited yet. However, it’s at the top of my list for wjen we finally move to Paris ❤️

  3. Ketki on 30. May 2019 at 8:57

    I missed out going to Palais Garnier when I was in Paris couple of years back. And now when I think and look at your stunning photos, I feel I was a fool to not include it. Hopefully I can visit it next time :)

  4. Rhonda Albom on 30. May 2019 at 8:10

    The Palais Garnier is very opulent and as I would expect from the era in which it was built. The opera house seems to have it all including a library! It is nice to know that high vaulted ceilings are not reserved just for the grand churches of Europe.

  5. Lara Dunning on 30. May 2019 at 6:01

    What a beautiful opera house! This is something I would totally want to see as I love history and opera. How cool it is the opera house from The Phantom of the Opera!

  6. Alison on 29. May 2019 at 16:45

    I have been to Paris so many times and still not visited the Opéra Garnier. Thanks for this -I definitely need to go, especially since I am a Phantom of the Opera fan!

  7. Heather on 29. May 2019 at 5:31

    We got to tour the opera house last summer when we were in Paris. I was so excited to get to see it this time because we didn’t have time on our first trip to Paris and I’m a huge Phantom of the Opera fan. So we did the after-hours Phantom of the Opera tour! We got to see many of the things you did and a few were different. I absolutely loved the ceiling in the auditorium. That entire place is absolutely gorgeous!

  8. Sandy N Vyjay on 28. May 2019 at 16:44

    The Palais Garnier, looks so exquisite. Absolutely spectacular. The place seems to belong to the pages of an old classic, to a painting, or a period Hollywood classic. But what really adds to the intriguing and mystical aura are the myths that are associated with it. This is one place we plan to visit when we get to Paris again. On our first visit, we could not do this owing to time constraint.

  9. Susanne Jungbluth on 27. May 2019 at 7:27

    oh, I would love to to this too!

  10. Delphine on 27. May 2019 at 2:05

    I remember going to the ballet at the Opera Garnier as a child, it was magical… We were all dressed up for the occasion and my grandmother had hired a box, and I marvelled at the ceiling painted by Chagall… An unforgettable experience!

  11. Jenn and Ed Coleman on 26. May 2019 at 14:50

    I love the gilding on the building. That makes for a golden moment indeed. I have to admit that I’m a Phantom fan so I would have taken a special themed tour.

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