Paris' Opera District: the 9th Arrondissement
Updated: Mar 23
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.
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 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
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.
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.
Address: 40 Boulevard Hausmann
Hours: 9:30 am to 8:30 pm
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin-Lafayette, Opera, or Trinite
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Address: 10 Boulevard Montmartre
Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, weekends open until 7:00 pm
Metro: Grand Boulevards
Address: Enter the passage at 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre and 9 Rue de la Grange-Batelière.
Hours: 7:00 am to 9:30 pm
8. South Pigalle: the 9th Arrondissment's Hipster
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.
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.
9. The Museum of the Romantic Life: A Must Do Romantic
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.”
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.
Address: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
Hours: Tues-Sun 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, closed Mon
Entry: permanent collection is free
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.
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."