This Paris Opera House tour review will help you decide if the guided tour of Opera Garnier is for you
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 give you a rundown of the pros and cons and even offer some alternatives to the standard Palais Garnier guided tour.
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Paris Opera House expert guided tour overview
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 tour 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 had 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 the 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.
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 information about the building or its history
- You can cancel your tour ticket purchase up to 24 hours ahead for a full refund.
- 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.
Why you might not want to take the guided tour of the Paris Opera House
- 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 have more flexibility for the time of day of your visit.
- The 80- or 90-minute tour time may be longer 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.
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.
And since you can cancel your tour reservation up to 24 hours ahead and still get a full refund, you don’t have anything to lose.
Paris Opera House guided tour vs. the self-guided visit
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. And 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 choose to rent a 90-minute multimedia 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 cost more than the guided tour; however, if your schedule doesn’t work with the tour times, this might be a good option for you.
FAQs about the Paris Opera House tour
Can you tour the Paris Opera House?
Yes! The Palais Garnier offers two guided tours or you can opt for a self-guided visit and save a few euros on your visit.
Hubby has done both the self-guided visit and the expert guided tour. He thoroughly enjoyed both, although he did the self-guided visit after the tour.
Can I get a refund if I need to cancel?
Absolutely. You can cancel your tour up to 24 hours ahead and get a full refund.
Which is right for me? The self-guided visit or the guided tour?
If you have any interest in the Palais Garnier building, especially as the setting of The Phantom of the Opera, you should really consider the guided tour. It’s literally only a few euros more than the self-guided visit, so you really can’t go wrong.
If you have a tight schedule for your day and the guided tour doesn’t fit into your day then the self-guided visit would probably be best for you.
Does the Palais Garnier offer any other kinds of tours?
Yes! In addition to the expert guided tour, you can also try the after-hours tour. We haven’t the privilege of trying this tour, but it looks like a lot of fun.
According to the Palais Garnier, the After Hours tour takes place after the Opera House has closed to the public and it explores the stories and myths about the famous building. It especially talks about the character of the Phantom of the Opera (in Gaston Leroux’s novel).
Final thoughts on the Opera Garnier guided tour
Regardless of how you choose to visit the Paris Opera House—whether on a self-guided visit, with the expert guided tour or the after hours 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? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
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