The 9e arrondissement is probably not at the top of most visitors’ “to see” list for Paris. It doesn’t have iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. And it’s not as steeped in history as the Latin Quarter or the Marais. But when I first came to Paris, all I wanted to see was the 9e. Specifically, I wanted to see one building in particular: the Opéra Garnier, otherwise known as the Paris Opera House. And yes, this was entirely because of my love for the musical The Phantom of the Opera. Today, there are many things that I love about the 9e arrondissement. However, my inner 12 year old will always love Opéra Garnier the most. So let’s start today’s tour stop there.
The Opéra Garnier is the grandest (and most expensive) building of the Second French Empire. It was designed by Charles Garnier, who was chosen for this honour by Napoléon III over many other more famous and established architects. Today, the building is considered to be a masterpiece of the Second Empire, and I can’t say that I disagree. It is a stunningly beautiful building, filled with grandiose staircases, galleries, and reception halls. You can visit the interior of the building during the day, or you can attend a performance of the Paris Ballet in the evening. Either way, you will find yourself marvelling at Garnier’s extravagant design.
Fun fact: The Opéra Garnier is the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera. This novel has inspired countless film and stage adaptations, including the longest running musical in Broadway history. This musical was set to finally make its Paris debut in October of 2016 at the Mogador Theatre. However, a fire mysteriously broke out in the basement of the theatre a week before previews were set to begin, and the production was subsequently cancelled. To this day, The Phantom of the Opera is still waiting for its French debut.
All the World’s a Stage…
In addition to the opera house, the 9e is home to some of the most famous performance venues in Paris. The Olympia concert hall is the oldest performance venue in the city, and has played host to the biggest names in music for decades. The aforementioned Mogador Theatre is home to big, blockbuster musicals, and has been fully restored after the 2016 fire. And the Folies Bergère is the legendary cabaret and music hall where Josephine Baker first became a star. Thousands of people are entertained every night by the stages of the 9e.
Les Grands Magasins
Just behind the Opéra Garnier are two of the most famous department stores in the world: Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Galeries Lafayette in particular is worth a visit for the architecture alone, as the Art Nouveau atrium is absolutely gorgeous. Both department stores also have rooftop terraces that are free to access and offer incredible views of the city. Finally, the holiday window displays at both Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are legendary. If you find yourself in Paris in December, be sure to add a visit to your list.
Passages Couverts de Paris
The wide boulevards and sidewalks of today’s Paris didn’t exist before Haussmann’s great renovation of Paris in the latter half of the 19th century. This meant that walking down a city street was often a dangerous affair. And dirty. And not at all appealing to the high society shoppers of the early 19th century. To get around this, hundreds of covered passageways and arcades were built all over the city. Only 25 remain accessible today, and two of the most authentic and picturesque are located in the 9e arrondissement. If you want to take a step back in time, take a stroll down Passage Jouffroy and Passage Verdeau. Their designs have remained unchanged for almost 200 years.
Musée Grévin – One of the oldest wax museums in Europe, containing hundreds of figures and an elaborate hall of mirrors.
Rue des Martyrs – One of Paris’ best market streets, with over 200 food shops and restaurants lining its sidewalks.
Bouillon Chartier – One of my favourite restaurants in Paris. The food is simple and delicious, the prices can’t be beat, the decor is amazing, and the waiters write your orders down directly on the tables. What more could you want?
Place Saint-Georges – An Instagram-perfect square surrounded by elegant townhouses. Classic Parisian chic.
Want to read more about the arrondissements of Paris? Click HERE.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.