Palais Garnier or Opera Garnier in Paris
The Palais Garnier is the thirteenth theatre to house the Paris Opera since King Louis XIV founded it in the late 1660s, and this sumptuous place was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann and was named after the architect Charles Garnier.
The Palais Garnier was inaugurated on 5th January 1875 after taking fifteen years to complete and is known today by different names such as the Opera National de Paris, the Palais Garnier and the basic Opera Garnier, but one of the main focuses now are ballet performances, as most of the operas are performed at the newer Paris Opera House of the Opera Bastille.
About Palais Garnier
Having been renovated in the year 2000, the main facade of the Opera Garnier is just as impressive to look at now, as it was back in the 19th century, with its original rich colours and golden statue-work.
But one of the most famous features of the Palais Ganier is the Grand Staircase that was constructed in various colours of marble and at the foot of the staircase are two bronze statues, but then if you look up you can see the four different sections of the painted ceiling.
This double stairway of the Grand Staircase is an impressive 30 metres and leads to the foyers, the different levels of the auditorium and the Rotonde de l’Empereur in the west pavilion that is home to the library and Musee de l’Opera museum. Yet in fact, because the Empire fell and Napoleon died before the Palais Garnier was completed, the Rotonde de l’Empereur was never finished and you can still get to see the dressed blocks of stone as they were in the 1870s!
Then you have the large and richly decorated foyers that provide the audience with areas to stroll around in during performance intervals and the vault of the Avant foyer is covered with delightful mosaics in rich colours on a gold background, plus there is a great view of the Grand Staircase.
Charles Garnier wanted the Grand Foyer to resemble the gallery of a classical chateau with its vast dimensions of 18m high, 54m long and 13m wide. And having been fully restored in 2004 with its mirrors and windows that accentuate the vast dimensions, along with the spectacular ceiling painted by the artist Paul Jacques-Aime Baudry, which portrays themes from the history of music, this space is awe inspiring with an aristocratic luxuriousness.
There is also a copy of Charles Garnier's bust by the sculptor Carpeaux that stands in the centre of the foyer, near one of the windows, which looks down the Avenue de l'Opéra towards the Musee du Louvre museum.
The Salon du Glacier is located at the end of the bar gallery with its light and airy rotunda adorned with a ceiling painting by the artist Georges Jules-Victor Clairin and there are tapestries illustrating different drinks such as tea, coffee and champagne, as well as fishing and hunting. Completed after the opening of the opera house, this room has a very distinct 1900s flavour.
The theatre itself or auditorium, is richly decorated in red and gold in the Italian-style horseshoe-shape, with over 1,900 red velvet seats, and is illuminated by the extremely large crystal chandelier that weighs in at an incredible 8 tonnes! And this hangs below the brightly coloured ceiling by the artist Marc Chagall, that was commissioned by the Minister for Cultural Affairs and only completed in 1964.
The auditorium is an impressive size of 20m high, by 32m deep and 31m wide, yet the stage is even more impressive as it is a total of 60m high, that consists of a 45m fly tower and a 15m under-stage area.
And as of 2011, there is now a very contemporary styled restaurant located at this incredible monument in Paris called the L’Opera, which has been constructed behind glass between the columns with damaging any of the original architecture.
Visiting Palais Garnier Opera in Paris
Of course, the Opera Garnier is still a fully functioning theatre for opera performances, but also for ballet, and other types of shows like those designed more for children and you can book tickets directly online at the official website. However, there are also tour companies in Paris that offer packages as well.
There are also specific seats set aside for the physically handicapped in wheelchairs, but it is necessary to contact the public relations service at least two weeks prior to the performance you wish to book by telephone +33 (0) 1 40 01 18 50. One of the reasons is that you will have individual access via a special lift and get specially fitted front box office seats, so hence why you have to book before.
Yet there are also certain productions that are accessible to hearing impaired through a special headset, that provides a real time description of the performance, although at present this is only available in French and you would need to contact the number above to find out more.
The tickets can vary in cost quite dramatically from only around €15 up to around €150 for a seat, all depending upon the performance and what type of seat you choose, but even if you do not want an evening out with this kind of entertainment in Paris, then you can still visit the Palais Garnier and admire its beauty.
Tours of the Palais Garnier Opera House
You can opt to visit the Palais Garnier on an unaccompanied tour, where you could stand and stare in awe at the Grand Staircase and the fabulous Grand Foyer, yet also get to see the auditorium. Not forgetting you can visit the Opera Museum, known as the Bibliotheque-Musee de L’Opera National de Paris, which is where you can learn more about the history of opera in Paris, see models of old stage sets, costumes, the history of the Palais Garnier Opera and much more.
On normal days the visiting times are from 10am through to 5pm, but from mid July until the end of August, these are extended until 6pm. However, there are some days when you will not be able to visit at all, such as on National French Holidays or when a special event has been organised. In addition to this, the visiting hours are only from 10am through to 1pm when there is a Matinee performance, and the last admission time is 45 minutes before closing, although we feel that this is not long enough to appreciate the architecture, the building, its history, etc.
The normal price of an individual ticket is €9 as of 2012, however there is a reduced rate of €6 for any person under the age of 25 and it is free to children under the age of 10, to find out more you can telephone on +33 (0) 1 71 25 24 23.
Also, we would like to point out that it is beneficial to keep your tour entrance ticket, as within one week of purchasing your ticket at the Palais Garnier, you will be able to get a reduced rate ticket to visit the Musee Gustave Moreau and the Musee d’Orsay, which are both fascinating museums in Paris.
You can also have a guided tour of the Opera National de Paris Opera Garnier either in French or English, and these tours last approximately 90 minutes and include a general visit of the theatre with a presentation on the history of the Palais Garnier, its architecture and the different activities held here.
For either language, the guided tours are conducted on a Wednesday, Saturday and a Sunday at 11.30pm and again at 2.30pm for English and 3.30pm for French, yet during the school holidays and in the height of summer, these are conducted every day at 11.30am, but of course subject to availability.
You can find out more information on guided visits and even make a reservation by telephoning on +33 (0) 1 42 46 92 04, however, for individuals that would like a guided visit, the ticket office located in the Palais Garnier hall opens at 10.15am on the day of a guided tour.
The normal cost of entry including the guided tour is €13.50 as of 2012, with a reduced rate for children over the age of 10 and students, and only €6.50 for children under the age of 10, but for groups, a reservation has to be made in advance.
Access to Palais Garnier Opera in Paris
Situated in the 9th Arrondissement and located at the corner of Rue Scribe and the Rue Auber, the Opera Garnier is very easy to access via the public transport in Paris such as the RER on line A and the station Auber.
If you are travelling around Paris via Metro then you would need the Opera stop on lines 3, 7, 8 and 9 or by bus you would need the numbers 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81 or 95. Yet if you have your own vehicle, there is also a car park at the Place Vendome, but this is a little further away.