• Leslie

Paris' Opera District: the 9th Arrondissement

Updated: Mar 23


the Opera Garnier, an unmissable site in Paris


Here's my guide to the glamorous 9th arrondissement in Paris. The 9th extends from the Opera Garnier in the south to the foot of Montmartre in the north. The arrondissement is a Belle Epoque beauty, dating from the early 1900s. It's a stately area, but not without its bohemian charms. It should definitely be on your itinerary for Paris.


Many people default to Paris' Left Bank instead to experience the "je ne sais quoi" of Paris. It's not an uncommon course of action, especially for Americans it seems. With its cobbled lanes and fabled history, the Left Bank is quaint and artsy, a place for thinkers, dreamers, and revolutionaries.


The Right Bank always seems more buttoned up and manicured -- a place for the lovers of the Haussmann's grand boulevards. And it is. But the 9th arrondissement is also crammed with secret museums and quirky galleries, a trendy micro neighborhood, and some super concentrated shopping. It's got creative juice along with the glitz.


Let's take a tour.



facade of the Opera Garnier, designed by Charles Garnier


15 Highlights of Paris' 9th Arrondissement:


Here's my guide to the must see sights in Paris' 9th Arrondissement, commonly called the Opera District.



1. Opera Garnier: the Phantom's Lair


Visiting Paris' Opera Garnier is a dual-purpose immersive experience. You can enjoy the incredibly sumptuous palace, designed by Charles Garnier. And you can re-live the Gothic potboiler, the Phantom of the Opera.


If you don't want to trek to Versailles and suffer through the awful lines -- who does? -- come here instead. The Opera Garnier's just as lavish, maybe more so. It's is a great alternative to Versailles.




the beautiful 1964 Chagall ceiling in the Opera Garnier


The opera house is designed in what Garnier dubbed the "Napoleon Style" with eclectic Neo-Baroque elements. Between the facade's grand columns are niched busts of accomplished composers. The facade is crowned by two gilded figures, Harmony and Poetry, and topped by Apollo proudly brandishing a golden lyre.


The interior was designed in four segments: the entrance, the auditorium, the stage, and the administrative offices. It’s almost a crescendo effect. Each room exceeds the next in grandeur. The highlights are the Grand Staircase, the Grand Foyer, and the luminous 1964 Chagall ceiling mural.



Address: 8 Rue de Scribe, Place de l'Opera 75009 Paris

Hours: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, Guide tours in English are at 11:00 am and 2:30 pm

Entry fee: Not included in Paris Museum Pass

Metro: Line 3, 7, or 8 to Opera



Paris' grand magasin Printemps


2. Upscale Shopping at Galeries Lafayette & Printemps


If you want to shop till you drop, the 9th arrondissement is de rigeur. There, you'll two of Paris' "grand magazines" or department stores. Fair warning, they'll be crowded.


Located on Boulevard Haussmann, near the Paris Opera house, is the Galeries Lafayette. Inaugurated in 1893, Galleries Lafayette is basically a luxury bazaar for upscale fashion and goods. It's presented in an exceedingly gorgeous Art Nouveau setting, with a stunning dome.


The Galeries Lafayette also boasts a splendid rooftop terrace on the 7th floor. It's free to visit, weather permitting. It offers one of the best panoramic views of Paris. There are other Galeries Lafayette sprinkled through France, including one in Toulouse, with a similarly enviable view.



the stunning art nouveau dome of Galeries Lafayette in Paris

View from the rooftop terrace of Galeries Lafayette. On the left you can see the golden dome of Les Invalides and on the right the Eiffel Tower.


Right next door is Printemps. Printemps is the word for spring in French. It's also the name of another luxury department store. Aside from showcasing the best in Paris fashion, it has a delightful rooftop café with views, Deli-Cieux. Compared to other popular Paris viewpoints, it's still a relative secret.


Like Galeries Lafayette, Printemps has a beautiful dome. Printemps' dome is made of stained glass. If you're hungry, sit down at the Brasserie Primtemps and gaze at the stunning dome. In 1975, Printemps facade and dome were registered as historical monuments.



stained glass cupola in Printemps department store -- installed in 1923, removed in 1939 to avoid bombings, and restored in 1973


Galeries Lafayette

Address: 40 Boulevard Hausmann

Hours: 9:30 am to 8:30 pm

Metro: Chaussée d’Antin-Lafayette, Opera, or Trinite


Printemps

Address: 64 Boulevard Haussmann

Hours: Daily 9:30 am to 8:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm

Metro: Metro Line 9 to Havre-Caumartin station






3. Eglise Madeleine: Napoleon's Military Church


Like many grand churches, the Madeline Church has been through many incarnations. The church you see today dates from 1806. That year, Napoleon took charge. He sought to build a "Temple to the Glory of the Great Army."


As a result, Madeleine has a military feel and is different than other churches you'll see in Paris. It's based on a Greco-Roman temple design, with 52 massive Corinthian columns. On the pediment, there's a sculpture of the last judgment. The bronze door reliefs represent the 10 commandments.


The interior of the church is dark. It seems foreboding.



the interior nave and domes of La Madeleine Church


There's a single nave with three domes. There are very few decorative elements, although there is a nice statue of Joan of Arc. La Madeline has one of the best church organs in Paris, designed by Aristide Cavaille-Coll.


The church regularly holds classical music concerts.



Address: Place de la Madeleine, at the end of Rue Royale

Hours: Daily 9:30 am to 7:00 pm

Entry fee: free

Metro: Madeline, line 8, 12, and 14



Passage des Panoramas


4. Passage des Panoramas: Paris' Oldest Covered Passage



In the heart of the 9th arrondissement, the Passage des Panormas is meant for flaneurs. Filled with boutiques, it's the perfect place to spend a rainy day in Paris. And it's the oldest covered passage in Paris, dating from 1799.


In 1861, the Passage also became the first illuminated passage of Paris when gas lamps were installed. Thankfully, the passage survived the Haussmann transformation. It's been listed as a historic building since 1974.





Look for the gluten free Noglu restaurant, the Théâtre des Variétés, Chocolatier Marquis, vintagey Prins Patrick, the Phillipe Starck decorated Caffè Stern, and Coinstat Vino wine bar.



Address: 13 Boulevard Montmartre, 75009 Paris

Hours: Daily 6:00 am to midnight

Pro tip: entrances at 11 Boulevard Montmartre and 158 rue Montmartre



Harry's New York Bar in Paris @ Harry's New York Bar


5. Harry's New York Bar: Have a James Bond Themed Cocktail


If you want to re-live history and channel James Bond, Harry's New York Bar is the best spot for a strong cocktail.


Already popular for 50 years, Ian Fleming immortalized the bar in A View to Kill. And it wasn't just James Bond who got his fix at the legendary watering hole. Expat drinkers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Dempsey, Thornton Wilder, and most famously, Ernest Hemingway also imbibed there.


Harry's New York Bar has been around since 1911, without changes. It's an old time bar, boasting gleaming mahogany woodwork, a tin ceiling imported from New York, and throwback waiters in white vests. Here, in 1921, the Bloody Mary was invented.


There's no TV. Thankfully, for conversational purposes, all you'll hear, above patron's voices, is a piano bar tinkling downstairs.



Address: 5 Rue Daunou, between the Avenue de l'Opéra and the Rue de la Paix

Hours: 12:00 pm to 2:00 am

Metro: Quatre Septembre, Opéra



Fragonard Perfume Museum in Paris


6. Fragonard Perfume Museum: Scented History


The Fragonard Perfume Museum is nestled in the heart of Paris, a half block from the Opéra Garnier. The museum opened in 1983. It couldn't be more romantic.


Housed in an ornate 19th century Napoleon III townhouse, you won't find a touch of modernity. It's meant to be an old world sensory voyage.


The townhouse was built in 1860 by Joseph Lesoufaché, a student of Garnier. The decor is sensuous and alluring with painted ceilings, stucco decoration, old fireplaces, and crystal chandeliers -- everything you'd expect from a luxury brand in a luxury setting.



a perfume organ at the Fragonard Museum, an instrument in which the keys activate a different scent


The tiny museum is unique and rather magical. The collection of precious objects traces the history of perfume from antiquity to the present day.


Visitors will find cabinets of curiosities, including ancient artifacts, perfume "organs," scent boxes, test tubes, blown glass bottles that look like precious jewels, and potpourri used at the court of the Louis XIV.



Address: 3-5 square Louis Jouvet, 75009. The entrance to the museum is to the back, off Rue Bruno Coquatrix.

Entry fee: Free, 30 minute guided tours starting every 20 minutes in French and English. The museum also offers some lengthier paid tours.

Hours: Open Mon to Sat from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Sundays. Last visit is at 5:00 pm

Metro: Opera (Line 3, Line 7, Line 8), Chausée d’Antin La Fayette (Line 7, Line 9), Auber on RER line A (Red)





7. Musee Grevin & Passage Jouffrey


Inaugurated in 1882, the Grévin Museum is a veritable Parisian institution. It's not a museum that many tourists frequent. It's a fantastical wax museum. Sacré bleu!


The museum was the brainchild of prominent La Galoise newspaperman Arthur Meyer. In the pre-photography era, he dreamt of giving his loyal readers real life versions of the people they admired.



the Grevin Museum in Paris



Using Madame Tussauds in London as a model, he hired Alfred Grévin, a sculptor and designer of theater costumes to create wax figures. Grévin did such a fantastic job that the museum bears his name.


In the museum's themed rooms, visitors can relive French and world history. There are over 500 replicas of famous entertainers, politicians, historical figures, and painters. Luminaries include Albert Einstein, Louis XIV, Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock, Marie Antoinette, Michael Jackson, Mick Jager, Auguste Rodin, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.


The Grevin Museum is located in the historic Passage Jouffroy. It's one of the most popular covered passages in Paris because of its sheer beauty. It has gorgeous marble flooring, a glass ceiling, and intricate wrought iron.



the Hall of Mirrors at the Grevin Museum


Grevin Museum

Address: 10 Boulevard Montmartre

Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, weekends open until 7:00 pm

Metro: Grand Boulevards

Entry fees

Website


Passage Jouffrey

Address: Enter the passage at 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre and 9 Rue de la Grange-Batelière.

Hours: 7:00 am to 9:30 pm



the bustling Rue des Martyrs in South Pigalle Paris


8. South Pigalle: the 9th Arrondissment's Hipster

Neighborhood


South Pigalle, or SoPi as it's affectionately known, has swiped the hipster mantel from the Marais on the Right Bank.


In fin de siècle Paris, SoPi was a scandalous red light district, filled with black sheep brothels and absinthe addled artists. It was a naughty neighborhood, which the middle class assiduously avoided. After WWII, SoPi was nicknamed "Pig Alley" for its raunchy neon-lit nightlife.


It's not Pig Alley anymore. But it's not completely nice either.



Place Saint-Georges in South Pigalle

Avenue Frochot -- Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo lived here at one time. Toulouse-Lautrec had a studio at no. 15


SoPi has smartened up and become a hotbed for Paris' "bobos," or bourgeoise bohemians. It's a must see Paris neighborhood if you like buzzy culture, gourmet snacks, and vintage speakeasies. In fact, SoPi has seen a dramatic uptick in hip restaurants and bars, many of which are housed in former brothels


In contrast to Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, SoPi offers a boutique shopping experience. Fans of trendy threads, designer objects, and interior decoration will be in seventh heaven. If you must pick one street, make it Rue Henry Monnier. Or perhaps Rue Caluzel.



Hôtel Scheffer-Renan, home to Paris' Museum of the Romantic Life


9. The Museum of the Romantic Life: A Must Do Romantic

Detour


The 9th arrondissement also has a lovely museum dedicated to Romanticism called the Musée de la Vie Romantique, or the Museum of the Romantic Life. In the lexicon of swoonful museums names, this museum wins top prize.


Opened in 1987, the museum is housed in the Italianate style Hôtel Scheffer-Renan at the foot of Montmartre Hill. It's hidden down a picturesque cobblestone alley and wrought iron gate.


With Bobos having transformed SoPi from a grit to glamor hotspot, the museum's seen a uptick in visitors. The museum's spokesperson Catherine Sorel, has said, “We’re seeing a whole new population coming to the museum. There’s almost a kind of neo-dandyism– it’s fashionable to be interested in the 19th century and these artists.”



a cast of Sand's arm and Chopin's hand in the Musee de la vie Romantique


The intimate little museum is widely regarded as one of Paris’ most beautiful and quaint museums. It celebrates the lives and works of George Sand, who was a writer, libertine, and femme fatale, and Ary Scheffer, a Romantic Period Dutch painter.


With its creaking floors and curios, you can almost imagine yourself in the 19th century. If hunger calls, there's a cafe onsite, Rose's Bakery. It's a satellite store of the famous bakery on Rue des Martyrs.



Rose Bakery, a lovely cafe on site at the Museum of the Romantic Life


Address: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris

Hours: Tues-Sun 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mon

Entry: permanent collection is free

Metro: Pigalle



the bustling and charming Rue des Martyrs


10. Rue des Martyrs: Paris' Foodie Street


Speaking of Rue des Martyrs, it's one of my favorite Parisian streets. It's a half mile of magic in trendy SoPi. It stretches from the southern edge of Montmartre towards the city center.


Rue des Martyrs is a serious street with some serious history. In the 3rd century, France's most famuos Cephalophoric (head caarrying) saint, Saint Denis walked up the street to Montmartre with his severed head in hand.


Now the Rue des Martyrs has over 200 shops, cafes, restaurants, and museums. There's a great book about the street, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino. It may inspire you to visit SoPi to see what all the fuss is about.



Place des Martyrs


Sciolino describes the street this way:


"For me, it is the last real street in Paris, a half-mile celebration of the city in all its diversity - its rituals and routines, its permanence and transience, its quirky old family-owned shops and pretty young boutiques. This street represents what is left of the intimate, human side of Paris."



a lovely neoclassical gem, Elise Notre Dame-de-Lorette


11. Église Notre-Dame-de-Lorette: A Neoclassical Gem



At the bottom of the Rue des Martyrs is a neoclassical gem, the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church. Built between 1822-36, it was classified as a historic monument in 1984.


If you walk down Rue Laffitte, you'll see Notre Dame-de-Lorette with the Sacre Coeur as a backdrop. It's a gorgeous view.


Notre Dame-de-Lorette is sober and monumental on the outside. But on the inside it's richly decorated and beautiful. It has a sumptuous dome and a highly detailed ceiling with floral accents.



view of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and the Sacre Coeur from Lafitte Street

interior of the Notre Dame-de-Lorette

ceiling in Notre Dame-de-Lorette


The Bapistry Chapel is filled with paintings by Adolphe Roger, created between 1833 and 1840. They were recently restored and unveiled at an inauguration event in January 2017.



Address: 18 bis Rue de Chateaudun 75009

Hours: Mon-Fri 9:30 am to 7:30 pm, Sat & Sun 9:00 am to 7:00 pm

Entry fee: free

Metro: line 12 to Notre Dame-de-Lorette or line 7 to Le Peletier



interior of the Gustave Moreau Museum


12. Gustave Moreau Museum: Symbolist Haven


If you like quirky atelier-museums, the Gustave Moreau Museum is another utterly uncrowded Parisian art spot. It's a great small museum in Paris.


Gustave Moreau was a prolific 19th century French Symbolist painter. He was an art school dropout inspired by Delacroix. Some consider his oeuvre a precursor to Surrealism.


The museum was Moreau's family home. He transformed it into an studio and kept the first floor as his apartment. It's absolutely stuffed with his sometimes macabre paintings and drawings.



Gustave Moreau, Chimera, 1884, at the Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris

my friend on the gorgeous spiral staircase in the Gustave Moreau Museum, designed by architect Albert Lafon in 1895


There are almost 7,000 paintings, watercolors and sketches of mythological, biblical, and literary subjects. There's not much curation. That allows you to adopt your own narrative.


Once you head up the gorgeous spiral staircase, you'll find Moreau's bright well-lit studio. Many drawings are behind curtains and some have to slid from drawers to be viewed. Don't be lazy, take a peak.



Address: 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld

Entry fee: € 6, reduced rate: € 4, Under 18 free

Guided tour: one Thursday a month at 6:00 pm € 8, reduced rate: € 6, duration: 1 hour

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 12:45 pm & from 2:00 pm to 5:15 pm, closed Tuesdays

Metro: Trinité d’Estienne d’Orves (line 12) or Pigalle (line 2)



Edouard Manet, Bar at the Folies-Bergère ,1882 -- Manet immortalized the bar in his famous painting


13. Folies Bergère: Bawdy Entertainment


If you want old school cabaret entertainment, visit this legendary music hall. Opened in 1869, the Folies Bergère was originally built as an opera house. It was based on the Alhambra music hall in London.


By the 1890s, the courtesan striptease gained popularity. Eventually, the Folies Bergère became known for its bawdy shows featuring naked girls, who may have turned tricks on the side.


It's seen performances by Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, French writer Collette, and Maurice Chevalier.



Josephine Baker, French Walery, 1926. Public domain.


The lobby is currently decked out with Jean Paul Gaultier decorations. The decor's in the style of anti-elitist tacky flamboyant, but you know that going in.



Address: 32 rue Richer 75009

Hours: Vary according to showtimes

Metro: Grands Boulevards or Cadet



the magnificent Palais Royal


14. Palais-Royal: Gardens, Art & Boutiques


Just a short walk from the Louvre is the gorgeous Palais Royal. It was built in 1633-39 by French architect Jacques Lemercier. Initially, it was the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu.


After Richelieu's death in 1642, the palace was bequeathed to King Louis XIII. It was renamed "Palais Royal" instead of "Palais Cardinal." The following year, the King died, leaving the Palace to the Queen Mother. She lived there with her children, one of whom became the vaunted Sun King, Louis XIV.





The Palais Royal thereafter became the main residence of the House of Orléans. In the 1780s, columns and arcaded passages were installed to enclose the gardens. Upscale boutiques were added.


The palace itself houses the Constitutional Council and Ministry of Culture among other things. It's closed to the public. But the elegant boutiques and Palais Royal Gardens are free to visit and usually open during daylight hours.



Address: 2 Galerie de Montpensier, 75001 Paris

Hours: Oct-March: daily 8:00 am to 8:30pm. Apr-Sept: daily 8:00 am to 10:30 pm.

Metro: lines 1 or 7 to Palais Royal-Museé du Louvre



vanishing point and symmetry of the Colonnes de Buren


15. The Colonnes de Buren, a Controversial Art Installation


The inner courtyard of the Palais Royal, called the Cour d'Honneur, is the site of a futuristic art installation. Created by acclaimed French conceptual artist Daniel Buren in 1985-86, the art installation is titled Les Deux Plateaux. But it's commonly referred to as the Colonnes de Buren.


The Colonnes were initially controversial, deliberately presenting a jarring contrast to the classically designed palace. The installation's a dizzying walk in structure of 260 black and white candy striped columns of varying heights.


The columns are made of white Carrara marble from Italy and black marble from the French Pyrénées. They were actually created for a functional purpose -- to disguise ventilation shafts for an underground extension of the culture ministry’s premises.






But with function, came art. Buren intends his work to be critical of the hierarchies of power and museumifying. He likes it to disrupt revered public spaces. I loved the subversive intent of the striking Colonnes. And they struck me as a modern day Stonehenge.



Address: 2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris

Hours: open 24/7

Entry: free

Metro: lines 1 or 7 to Palais Royal-Museé du Louvre



Enjoy the opera district. It abounds with culture and sophistication, with an appealing mix of glamor and on trend hidden gems.


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