Garnier Opera House in Paris

When Chris and I were in Paris at the end of December, he mentioned that he’d love to go take a tour of the Garnier Opera House – or the Palais Garnier, as it’s called in French. “Opera??” I said, giving him a “since when do we go to the opera??” look. He said it was supposed to be just about the most beautiful building in the world and that if it weren’t the holidays, making prices jump, he would have bought tickets to see a show. “Alright, let’s go see the opera house,” I said. Not really knowing what to expect.

Chris bought tickets for a tour online the day before we went. We had already seen the outside of the building from the roof of the Galeries Lafayette and were already impressed.


When we got to the opera house, we were given an earpiece and told to wait in the lobby with our group for the tour to start. Our guide was a French woman who spoke English very well (with an awesome French accent!).

At the beginning of our tour, the guide told us about how the opera house was commissioned by the emperor, Napoleon III. He loved going to see opera, but an assassination attempt was made on his life when he was attending a show at another opera house in the city, so he decided to have one built closer to his home.

In 1860, Napoleon III held a design competition to find a skilled architect who could build the new opera house and eventually, a young French architect named Charles Garnier was hired for the job.

Apparently Charles Garnier “signed” his name in this part of the lobby ceiling!

The guide led us all over the opera house, pointing out the extravagant details crafted into every marvelous corner of the building. I especially loved the main entrance area with the elegant staircases, made all the more dramatic with the stunning pink flower arrangements they had displayed!


As we continued our tour, the guide explained that this was the opera house that inspired the story of The Phantom of The Opera. Eventually, she led us into the theater itself, explaining that if we looked to the left, we could see the phantom’s box seat… (Are you singing the theme song yet? ‘Cuz I am…)


…But I had a hard time focusing on the box seat. I couldn’t stop staring at the ceiling! The colorful painting above us was so… unexpected… and the crystal chandelier was simply beautiful. Apparently, going to the opera had been going out of style in the 1960s, so the ceiling was repainted (in a very scandalous and “modern” style) as a way to attract visitors once again. It worked! Everyone came to see it!


Towards the end of our tour, our guide brought us into a magnificent room covered from floor to ceiling in gold. She said only men were allowed in this room back when the opera house first opened, but that later on, women were allowed access.


We had an amazing time exploring the Garnier Opera House. As I told Chris that day, I got some pretty excellent home decorating tips! 😉


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