The Palais Garnier - Paris national Opera

Palace of Prima Ballerinas

Founded by Louis XIV in 1669, the Paris Opera Company moved to its 13th home – The Palais Garnier – on 15 January 1875.

The Palais Garnier was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project overseen by the infamous Baron Haussmann. The project for an opera house was put to tender and Charles Garnier - an unknown 35-year-old architect – won the contract. Building work, which lasted fifteen years (1860 - 1875), was interrupted by numerous incidents - including the 1870 war, the fall of the Empire, and the Paris Commune.

Architectural wonders

The main façade

In the year 2000 the main façade of the Opera was completely renovated, revealing the original rich colours and golden statue-work.The Grand Staircase, and the library-museum.

The Grand Staircase

One of the most famous features of the Palais Garnier. Built in different colour marble, the double stairway leads to the foyers and the different levels of the auditorium. The Grand Staircase is itself a theatre where, in years gone by, fashionable society ladies would mingle.

The four sections of the painted ceiling above the staircase depict different allegories of music. At the foot of the staircase stand two bronze torchères - large female figures brandishing bouquets of candles.

The library-museum is situated in the Rotonde de l’Empereur, the west pavilion adjoining the main facade, originally designed for the Emperor’s own use. Throughout the year it presents short thematic exhibitions. It also houses a permanent gallery containing paintings, sketches, photographs and scale models of set designs.

The foyers

The vast and richly decorated foyers provide the audience with areas to stroll through during intervals. The vault of the avant foyer is covered with delightful mosaics in sparkling colours set on a gold background. There is also a splendid view of the Grand Staircase from here.

Garnier intended the Grand Foyer (which was restored in 2004), to resemble the gallery of a classical chateau. The mirrors and windows accentuate its vast dimensions and the magnificent ceiling - painted by Paul Baudry - portrays themes from the history of music.

The Lyre, the dominant decorative element, is to be found on column capitals, heating grates and doorknobs alike.

A copy of Charles Garnier’s bust by the sculptor Carpeaux stands in the centre of the foyer, near one of the windows looking down the Avenue de l’Opéra towards the Louvre.

The auditorium

Red and gold furnishings and decoration are lit by the immense crystal chandelier hanging below Marc Chagall’s brightly coloured ceiling. The Italian-style, horseshoe-shaped auditorium has 1,900 red velvet seats and the magnificent painted-canvas house curtain represents a draped curtain with gold braid and pompoms.


Palais Garnier - Opéra national de Paris 8 Rue Scribe 75009 Paris


Place charles garnier, 75009 Paris