Paris Opera House Tour Review

It’s best known as the setting for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera; yes, it’s a real place in Paris, and you can take an expert-guided tour of this fabled and historic building. To get all the details keep reading for my full Paris Opera House tour review

Although it doesn’t often appear near the top of most people’s lists of the “must do” things to do in Paris, you should really consider taking a guided tour of the Palais Garnier

This review of the Paris Opera House guided tour will walk you through our experience there and even give you a peek inside the building through our own photos. I’ll also give you a rundown of the pros and cons. 

Guided tour overview 

Paris Opera House front exterior
Palais Garnier (the Paris Opera House). Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

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The best way to book your Paris Opera House guided tour is to purchase your tickets online ahead of time. 

Tour participants check in through the side guest entrance of the Palais Garnier. We were directed to wait with our group in a holding area. Part of check-in included turning in our photo ID (a little nerve-wracking!) but it was returned to us promptly at the end of our tour by the tour guide. 

Restrooms were available for use before the tour departure. 

At the appointed time our tour guide introduced herself and gave us all headsets to wear so we could hear her clearly even if we wandered away from the group a bit or if there were a lot of people around. 

I think that this is really a nice feature of any professional guided tour.  We all tested our headsets to make sure they were working properly and then we got the tour underway. 

Let me digress for a moment here…on the day we took our tour, the Palais Garnier was also running a Phantom of the Opera-themed escape room event for children and families. So, there were A LOT of people there that day. 

If I had taken a few minutes to check the Palais Garnier schedule of events we might have done the tour on another day. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have realized that there would be THAT many people running around. Oh well. Live and learn.  

Back to the tour! 

We really enjoyed our tour guide. She was not only an expert on the history and architecture of the building itself, she was a longtime resident of Paris. She was friendly and did a great job of answering people’s questions. 

She guided us through all of the most stunning parts of the Opera House: the Grand Staircase, the Grand Foyer, the library, the Grand Vestibule, and more. All of the building highlights were covered thoroughly. 

The only disappointment we had on our tour was that we were not able to get into the main auditorium because there was a rehearsal going on while we were there. 

I had especially wanted to see the auditorium because of the ceiling that was painted by Marc Chagall. 

Hubby did go back to the Palais Garnier later in the week to enjoy a self-guided visit because he enjoyed being inside the building so much. On that second visit, he was able to step into the auditorium and get some lovely photos. 

colorfully painted ceiling of the Paris Opera House auditorium
Marc Chagall painted the auditorium ceiling at the Paris Opera House. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Why you should consider taking the Paris Opera House Guided Tour 

  • It’s quite affordable for the access you get to such an amazingly beautiful piece of history 
  • The cost is only a few euros more than the self-guided visit which just gets you access to the building, no expert tour guide with information about the building or its history 
  • You’ll hear wonderful stories about the creation of the building from an expert on the Paris Opera House 
  • The 90-minute tour will cover everything you could possibly want to know about the Palais Garnier. 

TIP: Keep track of all of your important travel details with a digital travel planner like this.

Why you might not want to take the guided tour 

  • It costs more than the self-guided visit 
  • You are not guaranteed access to the main auditorium 
  • Tour departure times are limited, but with the self-guided visit, you may have more flexibility for the time of day of your visit. Booking ahead of time is strongly recommended even for the self-guided.
  • The 80- or 90-minute guided tour length may be more time than you want to spend there. 
  • Using the tour broadcast system requires that you bring your ID and hand it over to the Palais Garnier personnel. You will get it back once you return your headset. 
Paris Opera House tour review

The verdict: everyone should consider taking the Palais Garnier tour 

We had a great experience with the Paris Opera House guided tour and recommend it highly to anyone who has any interest at all in theatre, architecture, history or even just seeing the stunning building that is the setting for the famous Phantom of the Opera. 

We also think that the price is quite reasonable, especially considering that Paris can be an expensive city to visit. We’ve spent more for guided tours in the U.S. for far less famous sites and attractions than the Palais Garnier.

Guided tour vs. the self-guided visit 

Palais Garnier auditorium and stage
Guests on the Paris Opera House tour are not guaranteed access to the auditorium. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Hubby did both the expert guided tour (with me) and enjoyed it so much that he went back later by himself and did the self-guided visit. 

When he went back to the Opera House later, he spent some extra time taking photos of some of the exhibits of costumes and things that we didn’t get to linger over on the guided tour. As I mentioned above, he also was able to see the auditorium, which had been closed for rehearsal while we were on our tour. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and am so glad that I did it. For Hubby, it was his favorite single thing that we did on our trip to Paris. 

Full disclosure: Hubby works in theatre, so this activity was right up his alley. 

Considering the very reasonable price for the quality of the tour, it makes an excellent addition to any Paris itinerary

With the self-guided visit, you can rent a 90-minute multimedia tour device for several more euros above the regular admission price.  

At the time of this writing, the price for the self-guided visit plus the multi-media guide would be the same as the guided tour; however, if your schedule doesn’t work with the tour times, this might be a good option for you. 

Paris Opera House grand staircase
The Grand Staircase at the Palais Garnier has to be seen in person to be believed. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

The bottom line

Regardless of how you choose to visit the Paris Opera House—whether on a self-guided visit or the expert guided tour—we absolutely think that the Palais Garnier makes a great addition to your Paris itinerary. 

Have you tried one of the Palais Garnier tours? What did you think? 

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Review of the Paris Opera House tour


  1. Germaine Perry says:

    So my husband and I took the guided tour but there were no headsets at that time. We couldn’t see the auditorium because of a rehearsal but we were told we could go back another day and present our tickets which we did. Apparently, that is not usual because there was some discussion before we were let in. My only critique was that our guide stated that ballerina Marie Taglioni was a notorious prostitute which she was not. The building is incredible with barely a square inch that is not carved, gilded, or both.

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks for this! I didn’t get to see the auditorium either and I was pretty disappointed about that because I wanted to see the ceiling painting by Marc Chagall. Hubby went back to do a self-guided visit and he got to see the auditorium then. That was smart of you to ask if you could return. I found the headset really helpful. The guests can wander away from the group a bit to look around without the tour guide needing to shout.

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