Gray and rainy December days in Paris are well suited for long reading sessions, meeting friends from schooldays in a café or visiting museums.
In addition to being a good way to spend some energy while getting new inputs and ideas, the latter one comes with the benefit of closing some of my deep, gaping cultural holes. Paris being Paris though, there is always a new exposition or cultural highlight and one can but only dream of covering the entire spectrum of the city’s offerings.
I have witnessed ballet and opera performances at Palais Garnier, but never had the opportunity to take a full tour of the building. So when the opportunity to discover the majestic building during closing hours came up, I didn’t hesitate.
And here´s why this is absolutely worth the 90 minutes it takes to stroll through this architectural gem:
The visit starts in the Pavillon des Abonnés, which – back in the days – was reserved to subscribers of the Opera Garnier.
The pavillon is connected to the Grand Staircase, an impressive design of white marble. As you walk up the stairs and look up to the ceiling, representations of figures from the Greek mythology, depicting the triumph of art and harmony over brutality, abound. These representations can be found again, with numerous variances and making use of additional mythological references, in the Grand Foyer – where the social life of the Opera unfolds – for example.
Without proper explanations or a solid knowledge in ancient mythologies and art, it’s very easy to walk by these works of art and remain oblivious to all their mysteries.
Having someone at your side telling you about the origins and meanings of the eclectic pieces that form the giant puzzle of art inside the Palais is priceless and will give you access to an entirely new perspective.
One can only but remain in awe when finally getting a glimpse of the intellectual and artistic efforts that went into the realization of this jewel box.
The other major plus of such a visit during the closing hours is – of course – the feeling of privacy and intimacy. The groups of visitors being very small, it’s easy to detach from the rest and find oneself completely alone in the various sections of the Opera.
A walk through the empty Grand Foyer is quite something and akin to a passage into the illustrious past.
No wonder it’s being used by some major Haute Couture labels during the Paris Fashion Week.
The Opera Garnier is accessible to a limited number of visitors during the closing hours in the late afternoon.
Reservations can be made through Cultival – “The Mysteries of Paris”.
Due to the high demand, it is best to go about it in advance.