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Palais Garnier: Book a show or a tour?

Bonjour Francophiles!

I am taking my sister to France for her first time (we're both in our 30s) and we only have 3 days and 4 nights in Paris.
I love the Palais Garnier building, but have never seen a show there.

We are debating buying tickets to a ballet at the Garnier (3 hrs long) or buying tickets to a tour (either guided or self-guided), and are having a hard time weighing the time spent in the ballet against the experience of the show over another tour.

2 of our other 3 nights are already spoken for (evening trip to the Louvre and night at pachamama), and I am sensitive to overbooking, especially in Paris (where, imo, the best thing to do is wander, walk, and eat).

Any thoughts? Opinions?

Posted by
422 posts

I love ballet, work at a school of dance, and used to have season tickets to the Boston Ballet. So for me it's a no-brainer. But consider your own interests. If you think you may be bored, and wishing you spent the time doing something else, you're likely right. However, you also just may get hooked, as I did 30 years ago. My next trip to Paris is outside of the ballet performance calendar. But I def plan on doing the tour to see this magnificent building.

Posted by
761 posts

I've done both and prefer the scene lively with a crowd. I always prefer to see a venue in use. However, if you go to the ballet, splurge for good seats because there are some with bad sight lines.

Posted by
287 posts

As much as I love the ballet, I would suggest that you skip a performance, and spend your time taking in glories of the Garnier. It is stand alone magnificent.

Posted by
13787 posts

Years ago, when I visited, the tour did not include the concert hall itself if there was a rehearsal. Performance tickets are expensive, and what I most wanted to see was the Chagall ceiling. I bought a ticket to a relatively short and inexpensive concert (Richard Strauss, sigh) and endured the music. I got one of the cheapest seats, near the top, and had great views of the ceiling.

In the meantime I've toured other opera venues and in at least one, the tour did include the hall (and about 15 minutes of a rehearsal - truly a treat). That's something to check before you decide.

I would only go to a ballet if I were a fan and it was a ballet I expected to enjoy.

Posted by
465 posts

I love opera, and definitely harbor the same desires to see a performance in an amazing old venue like Garnier. Yet, I continue to find reasons to not. I think it’s a tough trade off for an entire evening inside when an array of options awaits you outside. In a way, you can see a performance like that in any major city, but there’s only one Paris...

I would definitely recommend just doing the tour (self guided is fine.) I thought the building itself was just incredible, and had plenty of time to wander through it. You may not get that same time or access at a performance. At my time, they had a few opera boxes open so you could view the Chagall ceiling as well.

Posted by
132 posts

As much as I love the ballet, with such a short time in Paris, I’d opt for the tour. First of all I think you’ll have more flexibility to roam about and see what you want to see than you will while in a performance/running to the bathroom or to get drinks during the interval/etc. Second of all, if I were you I’d want to block off an evening to spend sipping champagne with a view of the Eiffel Tower - it’s at its most magical at night!