What to See and Do in the Opera Neighborhood

The neighborhood’s architecture and organization is certainly one of the most beautiful legacies of urbanism in the Second Empire. This lively area in capital has succeeded in the challenge of modernizing itself all while preserving its background dating back to the 19th century and is made up of buildings from the time period that are sometimes listed. Filled with a large cultural heritage, the Opera neighborhood has little by little become a temple of shopping and fashion. It stretches over a large part of the 9th arrondissement as well as a portion of the 1st and 2nd arrondissements.

 

A bit of history: the neighborhood of Opera and Haussmann

Quartier Opéra Garnier

 

Under the reign of Napoleon III during the Second Empire (1852-1870), the French capital was in the process of urbanizing. These titanic projects affected the whole capital (except for the historic Marais neighborhood that stayed intact) to modernize a still too medieval Paris to the likes of the emperor. In fact, the too narrow and unsanitary streets didn’t allow for fluid traffic. This urbanization project was successfully completed in its entirety by Baron Haussmann, named the Prefect of the Seine by the emperor himself in 1853. The architecture and organization of avenue de l’Opéra was really representative of the aesthetic of the time period: this artery was rather large and the absence of trees let passers-by have a splendid view of the neighborhood’s gem, the Opéra Garnier.

 

The Musée Grévin

(10 Boulevard Montmartre, M9 : station Richelieu-Drouot)

Musée Grévin
Credits : Remi Jouan / Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA

For those who love wax statues, it’s a good enough reason to go down boulevard de Montmartre to find the Musée Grévin and all its personalities. Whether you are a music, film, or football lover, you’ll find your idol and enjoy this establishment. Opened in 1882, the initial goal of the museum was to let Parisians put a face to the personalities that made the newspapers there. If the evolution of technology and media makes the initiative of these creators obsolete, the museum still is full of visitors today. And for good reason, if they don’t present you Zlatan or Lady Gaga anymore, it is still impressive to admire these more than lifelike wax statues. But the museum doesn’t only have personalities and other people of the 20th and 21st century. In fact, certain residents, like Leonardo da Vinci, Louis XIV, or La Fontaine, will let you go back in time. Adults will be able to admire and pose with the statues at their leisure and how they want while the kids discover the museum through a guided tour narrated by a costumed guide. They can also benefit from a “discovery visit” to discover the behind-the-scenes of the decoration and the secrets of the statues’ and costumes’ creation.

 

The museum’s site will let you buy your (very expensive!) ticket in advance (full price for adults: 23.50 euros, reduced price for adults: 20.50 euros, full price for kids 6-14: 16.50 euros) and to know a bit more about the wax statues’ creation thanks to photos, videos, and extraordinary figures about the museum and its wax statues. If the attraction is fun, the prices are still, according to us, a bit too high.

 

 

The Hôtel Drouot

(9 rue Drouot, M8-9 : station Richelieu-Drouot, M7 : station Le Peletier)

Hôtel Drouot
Crédits : Mbzt / Wikimedia Commons sous Creative Commons 3.0

The Hôtel Drouot  is also part of the 19th century’s heritage and more particularly of the Second Empire. Built in 1852, this auction house was one of the most modern in Paris during the reign of Napoleon III. It was redesigned and modernized in the 1970’s, which explains its current contemporary architecture that is shown like a reinterpretation of the architecture of Haussmann in the original building. Today, the place is still an auction house and opens its doors daily to the public. Also, you can visit the auction halls, admire the works that will be sold and maybe even attend one of the auctions. In addition, these visits are free. Items are displayed at the end of the morning (from 11am to noon) and the auctions take place at 2pm. Art lovers or just the curious will undoubtedly be enticed by the place’s liveliness that is abuzz during auctions.

 

The Opéra Garnier (or Palais Garnier)

(M3, 7, 8: station Opéra and RER A : station Auber)

Opéra Garnier

Built during the Second Empire, this structure was designed by the architect, Charles Garnier. The old performance hall was destroyed in 1858 on the occasion of an attack targeting the imperial couple who were nevertheless saved. The day after the incident, the emperor ordered the construction of a new opera and launched a competition for the construction of an “Imperial Academy of Music and Dance”. The competition between the 71 candidates was followed very closely by the Parisians that were excited to discover this new architectural masterpiece. The winner was chosen unanimously to be Charles Garnier, a young 35-year-old architect completely unknown to the larger public. It was Baron Haussmann who decided on the site for the new structure and the construction started in 1861, it was interrupted more than once for technical reasons and the Opéra Garnier was finally completed in 1875.  Given the interest for this new work of art, the architect requested that the façades be hidden by scaffolding, and they be covered by planks and glass walls so that it would be a complete surprise for the impatient public.

The Palais Garnier’s architecture is lavish and really representative of the Second Empire’s style. This is characterized by the diverse architectural inspiration (going form a classical antiquity style to a Renaissance aesthetic) and a certain taste for all things ostentatious. The gold decoration and the many statues that decorate the façade of the Opéra Garnier are really representative of this flashy style. The main façade illustrates the disciplines practiced inside the building thanks to 4 statues representing the allegories for poetry, instrumental music, dance, and lyrical drama.  If the structure and its façades are so magnificent, the luxurious interior also is worth a detour. Today, the Opéra Garnier’s stage is mostly used for ballets, but it is nevertheless possible to visit the building without attending a show. The visitor’s ticket gives you access to the Bibliothèque-Musée du Palais, different salons and rotundas, as well as the Great (and majestic) Staircase. Ticket purchases can be made on-site or can be reserved online, and the prices are reasonable (10 euros at full price, 6 euros for students and those under 25, free for anyone under 10, handicapped individuals, and the unemployed. Prices were raised in 2014). The opera has an app available on Ipod or Ipad (and in many languages) to enjoy a personalized guided tour.

Book a private visit of the Opéra Garnier

 

Shopping in the Opéra Neighborhood

Galeries Lafayette

(M3, 7, 8: station Opéra et RER A : station Auber)

Galeries Lafayette

For the shopaholics, this neighborhood is ideal. It is, in fact, overflowing with many boutiques from big brands all brought together in the same area and it is here that you can visit the famous Galeries Lafayette.

Again, this institution of fashion dates back to the end of the 19th century and is endowed with a rich history. Opened in 1894, Galeries Lafayette is the project of two Alsatian cousins (Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn) that had the idea to compete with the other fashionable department store at the time: Le Bon Marché, which opened 40 years earlier. Soon, the site of Galeries turned out to be a good choice and the customers never stopped flocking in. At the time, the store only occupied one building at the corner of rues Lafayette and the Chaussée d’Antin, but the two brothers decided little by little to expand and acquire a building on boulevard Haussmann. With their success, the brand and the store became more developed and the stores were made more numerous and majestic. Still today, at 40, boulevard Haussmann, you can admire the immense dome, inspired by neobyzantine art dating back to 1912 and listed as a heritage sight for Art Nouveau in the city of Paris. If you have the chance to visit Paris in winter and during New Year’s celebrations in particular, it is really recommended that you brave the cold and go enjoy the lights that cover the entirety of Galeries on the boulevard. In fact, the stores are in constant change and today, Galeries and its different buildings occupy a good part of boulevard Haussmann.

This geographic diversity lets them also cover a variety of products (ranging from cooking materials to high end ready-to-wear clothing) suited for a variety of budgets.  Galeries Lafayette will delight both those with a small or large pocketbook in a lavish setting full of history.

 

Printemps Haussmann

(M3, 9: station Havre-Caumartin, RER A : station Auber, RER E : station Haussmann-Saint Lazare)

But Galeries Lafayette isn’t the only department store in the neighborhood. In fact, in the longer part of boulevard Haussmann, you can find Printemps Haussmann. Located between the Saint Lazare train station and the Opéra Garnier, this department store came before the creation of Galeries Lafayette since it had been implanted in the neighborhood in 1865 by the creators of the company Au Printemps (Jules Jaluzot and jean Alfrend Duclos). Its creators inaugurated a novel concept in France, starting in 1866: discounted sales. In fact, it was useful to hide and to discount items of an outdated fashion. This practice from Parisian stores actually made owners lose money. In 1866, Jaluzot and Duclos decided to display these products and to sell them at rock-bottom prices to raise Printemps’ business numbers and to get rid of unsold merchandise.

This commercial innovation quickly became very popular and Printemps also made itself a real name among the largest Parisian stores. And like them, Printemps grew little by little, first in height thanks to the acquisition of extra floors in the buildings they already occupied, then in breadth when the group opened a new store two steps from boulevard Haussmann, on rue Caumartin, and innovated again by installing two elevators, completely new in France at the time.

 

If Printemps Haussmann is lesser known than its competitors, the department store is still well anchored in the 9th arrondissement with its 3 buildings (Printemps Fashion, Printemps Home and Beauty, and Printemps for Men) covering, with 27 floors, a total surface of 43,500m2. The store’s exterior architecture is original and the art deco styled façade of 64 boulevard Haussmann is now listed as a historical monument. In addition to shopping in a store that offers big names in fashion, you will also be able to enjoy the panoramic terrace that lets you have a spectacular view over the entire capital.

 

Avenue de l’Opéra

Avenue de l'Opéra
Credits © Guilhem Vellut under Creative Commons 2.0

Leaving Opéra Garnier, the large opening, designed during the Second Empire, allows you to reach the Louvre Palace. This large avenue is now overflowing with little boutiques and other stores of various styles. Those with a refined taste can fill up on French specialties at Cure Gourmande or in the chocolate/pastry shop Pierre Hermé while fans of Anglo-Saxon literature stroll around Brentano’s.  You can also find new cooking gadgets with innovative styles at Bodum or maybe you’ll try out some luxury shoes at Finsbury or Albaladejo.

Locations :

La Cure Gourmande : 49, avenue de l’Opéra.

Pierre Hermé : 39, avenue de l’Opéra.

Bodum : 38, avenue de l’Opéra.

Brentano’s : 37, avenue de l’Opéra.

Finsbury : 22, avenue de l’Opéra.

Albaladejo : 4, avenue de l’Opéra.

 

Rue Sainte Anne and the Japanese neighborhood

(M3 : station Quatre Septembre, M14 : station Pyramides)

If the Opéra neighborhood is so busy, it isn’t only because of its proximity to the department stores and the Opéra Garnier. In fact, for Parisians, Opéra rhymes with Japanese cuisine. It is by going down avenue de l’Opéra, towards the Louvre Palace, that you can access rue Sainte Anne and rue des Petits Champs, the heart of the Paris’ Japanese neighborhood. And it is well known that the best restaurants and Japanese delicatessens have come together here since 1963 when Takara, the neighborhood’s first Japanese restaurant, opened its doors. To find what you’re looking for, the best way is to lose yourself in the little streets that border rue Sainte Anne and let yourself be enticed by the restaurants that may not look like much, but offer menus just as savory as the originals by clearly showing that Japanese cuisine can’t be summarized to just sushis. For a traditional Japanese ambiance, go to Yasube where you leave your shoes at the entrance to be able to kneel on the tatamis and discover the specialties of the land of the rising sun. If you are afraid to leave with numb legs, try Higuma instead, very busy with the Japanese population that can’t get enough of its specialties at low prices. If you decided to not stay away from the sushi, we recommend Matsuri, where the raw fish is paraded through on a conveyor belt.  You just have to serve yourself and pay. Just bring your empty plates to the register once your meal is over. Be careful, because the bill can quickly add up! Finally, at Yamamoto, you can admire the dexterity of the chef that cooks the dishes in from of you for a rather low price. If you want to dive into Japanese cuisine, you’ll find a large selection of products in the specialized markets in the area like at Kioko or at Ace Mart.

Finally, the fans of manga and Japanese culture will undoubtedly be delighted by the few boutiques and specialized bookstores in the neighborhood like the bookshop Junku or at Cool Japan, which offers clothing and typical Japanese accessories.

 

Locations :

Takara : 14, rue Molière.

Yasube : 9, rue Sainte Anne.

Higuma : 32 bis, rue Sainte Anne.

Matsuri : 36, rue Richelieu.

Yamamoto : 6, rue Chabanais.

Kioko: 46, rue des Petits Champs.

Ace Mart: 63, rue Sainte Anne.

Junku: 18, rue des Pyramides.

Cool Japan: 45, rue Sainte Anne.

 

Our recommended hotels in this neighborhood

5 stars:
Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal : the rooms are warm and very stylish, some have a balcony with views of the monuments of the city
Mandarin Oriental Paris : located in Paris city centre, the hotel offers high-quality services with elegantly furnished rooms and suites.
Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg : luxury rooms and suites, decorated in a refined style, 450m away from the Concorde Obelisk.

4 stars:
Best Western Premier Hôtel l’Horset Opera : in a particularly quiet street in one of the liveliest area of Paris, right in the heart of the city, not far from the Palais Royal.
Hôtel Royal Saint Honoré : the Louvre and the Tuileries are close by, making this an ideal setting for walking, the best way to discover the City of Lights.
Hôtel Therese : discreet and warm, you are invited to rediscover its chic retro charm where comfort and wellbeing remain the key elements.

3 stars:
Hôtel du Continent : each floor has a unique design, which will make you experience a once-in-a-lifetime world-round journey.
Le Relais Saint Honoré : welcomes you and assures you that your stay within its walls will be exceptional a few paces away from the Jardin des Tuileries.
Hôtel des 3 Poussins : just 150m away from the St. George station, the spacious guest rooms are individually furnished.

1 & 2 stars:
Hôtel France Albion : idealy located, this beautiful blue frontage Parisian hotel will warmly welcome you.

 

And for more activity ideas near the Louvre, check this article !

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