- October 10, 2018
- All things Paris
- Rupert Comer
Parisian neighbourhoods have some amazing landmarks, but what will you discover if you look a bit further?
Centered around the imposing and impressive Palais Garnier, one of the world’s most renowned opera houses and the setting for the famous book and musical The Phantom of the Opera, Opéra is a must-see neighbourhood in Paris’ culturally rich and chic 9th arrondissement. Whether you are looking to grab some food, see a show, or have a shop, Opéra has it all. The old stomping ground for a young Edward VII, who back then had a reputation for being a notorious womaniser and playboy, there is a theatre in the area which now bears his name. Once home to seedy brothels and bars frequented by the young soon-to-be king, the neighbourhood has changed greatly over the years and is now an important centre for Parisian nightlife. The Opéra neighbourhood of Paris certainly has come a long way, and is not one of the most chic and bustling centers of the City of Lights, the place to see and be seen! Opéra is also known for being a multicultural area, and is the perfect place to discover different cuisines from all over the world, and discover some amazing French delicacies of course. Let’s take a look then at everything this exciting area has to offer, our official list of best things to do near Opéra in Paris.
Prepare to be wowed at the Opéra Garnier
No list about the Opéra neighbourhood could start with anything other than the Opéra Garnier, also known as the Palais Garnier. This opulent opera house used to be the main home of the Paris Opera company, but it now mostly hosts ballet performances after the opening of Opera Bastille in 1989. The building’s facade features various statues, busts and symbols of famous composers, such as Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Right at the top of the building there is even a statue of the Greek god of music and poetry, Apollo. It is also well worth a look inside to see the impressive chandeliers of the Grand Foyer, as well as the ceiling painted by Paul Baudry, displaying key moments in the history of music.
Go for an adventure around the world at rue Saint-Anne: Paris’ Little Tokyo
This narrow little street has a rich and constantly evolving history. In the early 19th Century it was home to the Nicolas wine shop, the first to sell wine from bottles (before then, wine could only be bought in bars and cabaret houses). Later on in the 1960s Rue Saint-Anne became the epicentre for Paris’ underground gay nightclub scene, right up until the LGBT community began to move to the Marias in the late 1970s. Now the street and surrounding area houses some of Paris’ best Japanese restaurants and has become Paris’ own Little Tokyo. Stroll up Rue Saint-Anne and you will discover places offering dishes ranging from ramen to Japanese-style tapas. A special mention has to go to the restaurant Takara. Just off Rue Saint-Anne on 14 Rue Molière, it is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Paris and has beautiful traditional decor.
Get your shopping on at Paris' celebrated Galeries Lafayette
What can only be described as Paris’ response to London’s Harrods, the Galeries Lafayette is a massive upmarket department store on Boulevard Haussmann, just a few minutes walk away from the Palais Garnier. Now a huge chain with various stores across the world, the original Galeries Lafayette has still kept its unique charm with its art nouveau architecture, striking dome ceiling, and panoramic view of the city. Although most of its products may be a little expensive, it is still worth the visit to see the impressive building, and you can even book a ticket for the store’s weekly fashion show.
Duck into the Paris covered passageways, our pick is the Passage des Panoramas
One of Paris’ most charming oddities, is its array of covered passages, which are small, decorated, indoor shopping galleries. In short, much older French versions of the modern American shopping mall. Passage des Panoramas is the oldest of the covered passages in Paris today and sits between the Montmarte boulevard and Rue Saint-Marc. Built in 1800, it was one of the first places in Paris where you could participate in the newly emerging stamp collection trade! Nowadays, it keeps its beautiful old architecture and alongside the stamps you can find restaurants, artist studios and craftsmen. Passage des Panoramas is the perfect way to pass a rainy day in Paris.
See a show with the locals at the Théâtre Édouard VII
Tucked away in a small pedestrian courtyard moments away from the Palais Garnier, Théâtre Édouard VII was opened by the English King Edward VII in the early 20th century as a performance hall for both English and French productions. The venue continues this spirit of English-French collaboration today, offering a diverse programme of modern French comedies, all of which are subtitled in English. To see what is being put on today, you can follow the link here. Aside from these brilliant shows, the theatre has also recently renovated its restaurant. Now named Froufrou, it offers traditional French large plates encouraging sharing and the opportunity to try a variety of dishes. Its very own Bar-Cancan also puts on after-show performances ranging from DJ sets to burlesque dancing, an atmosphere not to be missed!
Check out Hemingway's Parisian waterhole Harry’s New York Bar
In the early 20th Century a star American jockey, realising that more and more American tourists and intellectuals were heading to Paris, decided to dismantle a bar he owned in Manhattan and ship it straight to the City of Light. It would later pass hands and came to be known as Harry’s New York Bar, hosting a number of famous American immigrants and international celebrities throughout the years. George Gershwin composed his famous An American in Paris at the piano bar at Harry’s, it was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite waterhole, and was even frequented by Edward VIII, another hedonistic British king. Although likely not serving the same celebrity clientele today, the bar still retains its atmosphere. It even continues to conduct a straw poll before every US presidential election, almost always predicting the correct result.
Learn everything you didn't know you didn't know about perfume at the Musée du Parfum Fragonard
Set up by one of Paris’ most loved parfumeries, the Musée du Parfum Fragonard presents its visitors with a history of perfume, from Ancient Egypt to the present day. Maison Fragonard is a family parfumerie founded in 1926 and therefore the perfect curator for this unique museum experience. Entry and a guided tour of the museum are absolutely free. On display are attractive copper containers used to distill liquids, all sorts of perfume bottles, and the essential ingredients used in the making of perfumes. There may be many free testers but if that is not enough there is the opportunity to buy high quality perfume in the museum shop, and you can even book a “Perfumer’s Apprentice Workshop”, to create your own Eau de Cologne.
Meet some international superstars at Paris' own wax museum, the Musée Grévin
Modelled after its famous London counterpart, Madame Tussauds, Musée Grévin is one of Europe’s oldest wax museums. A wonderful way to get to know French history, the museum offers an immersive history of the country from Charlemagne to the French Revolution, through scenes featuring its wax figures. One scene depicting the assassination of French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat while he takes a bath, uses the actual knife and bath from the 1793 incident. Alongside history, the museum also displays wax figures of more contemporary celebrities, ranging from Zinedine Zidane to Bollywood stars.
See a concert on the legendary stage of the Olympia Concert Hall
Founded by the co-creators of the iconic Moulin Rouge, the Olympia concert hall opened in 1888 as venue for theatre, ballet and music. After a short spell as a cinema it established itself from the 1950s as one of Paris’ most popular music venues. Its famous red neon sign has welcomed a diverse range of performers, particularly stars of French chanson such as Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, and also rock groups like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Nowadays, its programme offers a mix between rising stars and old greats, of all different styles of music.
A truly French meal at one of the oldest brasseries in Paris, the Bouillon Chartier
While French haute cuisine can be pretentious, inaccessible and expensive for most, there are still ways to taste good, inexpensive French food in Paris. Spacious restaurants known as ‘bouillons’ (referring to a broth they often serve) started appearing in Paris in the late 19th century, with the intention of serving high quality food at affordable prices. Bouillon Chartier still continues to do so today, with main courses of around €10 and starters and desserts for even less. Alongside the food, Bouillon Chartier is also known for its impressive art nouveau decor, with huge wood framed mirrors and artwork by Germont, it is sure to impress.
There you have it, all our favorite spots in the Paris Opéra neighbourhood, there's so much more to see than just the opera house! Care to explore some other Parisian neighbourhoods?