Centered around the Palais Garnier, a majestic opera house that was inaugurated in 1875 and served as the inspiration for the 1910 novel, “The Phantom of the Opera,” the Opéra and Grands Boulevards district, located in the 9th arrondissement, is also known for its shopping destinations, ritzy department stores Les Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and les passages couverts (covered passages). Fancy cafés, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues can be found throughout, as well as Paris’ Japanese quarter, the quirky Druout auction house and a host of interesting museums.
Known as the heart of Haussmanian Paris with its wide boulevards (built partly to give the French capital a greater level of prestige) the Opéra district will not disappoint those with a taste for upscale entertainment and refinery.
The Palais Garnier, center of the Opéra district
Considered by many to be the most famous opera house in the world, it is also one of the finest examples of the opulence of Second Empire Beaux-arts style. Originally called Salle des Capucines, the name simply fell by the wayside. Designed by the architect commissioned by Napoleon III to design it, Charles Garnier, the name coincidentally and appropriately also translates directly into English as “Garnished Palace”. Its legendary chandelier is comprised of over seven tons of crystal and bronze. Its auditorium holds almost 2000 people, and the Palais even has its own museum and gourmet restaurant.
Paris Department Stores: Definitive Shopping Experiences
Galeries Lafayette: Fashion and Contemporary Design
Believe it or not, the Palais Garnier is actually located right in between Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, two of Paris’ most well-known department stores. Galeries Lafayette, though it had very humble origins, was unveiled as a “luxury bazaar” in 1912. Worth visiting for its exquisite Art Nouveau design alone, the home of the world’s highest escalator will take you to everything from Zara and Baby Bjorn to Balenciaga, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, and many, many others: a list on their website shows several hundred world-famous designers and brands represented, and in keeping with the times, provides a link to a phone app you can download to help you find your way. Also located here is the Galerie des Galeries (“Gallery of Galleries”), which hosts four shows a year with the aim of introducing Galeries Lafayette visitors to fashion, fine art and design. With enough notice (usually about a month), you can, via email, phone or store visit, reserve a free spot at one of the 30-minute fashion shows at 3 p.m. most Fridays.
Printemps: Art Nouveau, Window Displays and a Grand View
Printemps literally translates from French as “springtime”, and this department store, first opened in 1865, was known for its nature-inspired motifs and, like Galeries Lafayette, its Art Nouveau style, for which many mosaic artists, stone masons, gilders and master glassmakers were called in to create. It was also the first store to implement electric lighting, to use inventive branding techniques like handing out fresh flowers every spring, and is considered the originator of using creative window displays to show the latest fashions. Like Galeries Lafayette, Printemps features literally hundreds of upscale designers and brands, as well as a 9th-floor, panoramic terrace that offers a nearly-unrivaled view of Paris: an unobstructed view from the Opéra to the Madeleine, from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre.
Hôtel Drouot: A Modern Auction House
Hôtel Drouot, one of the world’s oldest auction houses, has repurposed itself in recent years. Leaving 18th century furniture and silver sets to Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Hôtel Drouot is moving its focus to more modern art offerings, including urban art from the likes of Banksy and exquisite Asian collections. Drawing more than 5,000 people a day to its 16 display salons, the auction house, home to France’s first female auctioneer, is also host a high-end restaurant, L’Aduge (which is what French auctioneers cry when the hammer falls; it’s the equivalent of “Sold!”).
Unique Museums of the Opéra district
Musée de La Vie Romantique
Housed in a small mansion with courtyard, the Museum of the Romantics was famed for its Friday night salons, where the likes of George Sand, Chopin and Delacroix and, later, Charles Dickens and Ivan Turgueniev were in regular attendance. The first floor is dedicated to George Sand; original owner and painter Ary Sheffer’s work, as well as works from other contemporaries, are found upstairs. Romantic-era decor, in keeping with the theme, is found throughout. In warmer months, tea is served in the courtyard.
Musée de Parfum - an olfactory tour of Paris
Created by French perfume company Fragonard, the original occupies a Napoleonic town house built in 1850. Exhibits here show the history of perfume-making from ancient to modern times. A second location was opened in 2015 and houses the Fragonard collection. Admission to both is free.
Musée Grévin, Europe’s oldest wax museum
Founded in 1882, Musée Grévin is one of the oldest wax museums in Europe and is home to nearly 500 historical and contemporary events figures: a panorama of French history, including scenes from the Revolution is on view, and wax models of Napoleon, chanteuse Edith Piaf, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, Mozart, Michael Jackson and even modern pastry chef Pierre Herme have a home here, as do Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Pope Francis. A discovery tour teaches how wax figures are made, magic shows are hosted in its theater. The Palais des Mirages (“Hall of Mirrors”), first created for the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris and so admired by the president of the Grévin at that time that it was moved to the museum, hosts a modern sound and light show that make a visit here an unforgettable experience, especially if you’re traveling with older children.
Musée de La Vie Romantique
Musée de Parfum - official website is in French only, but further information in English can be found here.
La Madeleine – historic Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and built from 1764-1842
Musée d’Edith Piaf - technically in the 11th arrondissement, but within easy walking distance of Grands Boulevards, this private museum, owned by a lifelong fan, is housed in an apartment that Edith Piaf once lived in and displays photographs, clothing, correspondence and other artifacts from this famed singer’s life.
Le Rex Theater - Art Nouveau architecture; Europe’s largest cinema theatre and home to the largest movie screen in the French capital; host to the Jules Verne Adventure film festival, but otherwise features standard blockbuster fare
Le Rex Club – famous nightclub in the Opéra district (official website, in French only)
The Opéra district is central, with a number of attractions and transportation hubs that can be reached within 20 minutes walk. These include the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Moulin Rouge and Gare du Nord.
Several Métro stations are also located in and alongside this neighborhood’s borders. Most of these are served by Lines 3 and 9, and they both stop at the Havre – Caumartin station, which is located in Opéra’s northwest corner.
Line 3 trains then head to the southeast to the Opéra station before heading east-southeast and stopping at the Quatre-Septembre, Bourse, Sentier and Réaumur – Sébastopol stations before exiting the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, line 9 trains go under the Boulevards Haussmann and Poissonniere, stopping at the Chaussée d'Antin – La Fayette, Richelieu – Drouot, Grands Boulevards, Bonne Nouvelle and Strasbourg – Saint-Denis stations before making their way out of the area.
Probably the easiest way to take public transportation from Charles de Gaulle Airport into this neighborhood is to catch a Roissybus as it takes passengers to the Opéra Garnier. Buses depart every 15-20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and the trip takes about 75 minutes, depending on traffic.
Vacation rentals in the Opéra district of Paris