Palais Royal - Opéra Garnier Walk

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Welcome to Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk.Our walk will take us to the Palais Royal, through Little Tokyo, into covered passages, and to the oldest Opera house in Paris. The walk begins at the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre metro station on metro line 1. Take the place du Palais Royal exit. The walk begins just outside the metro station entrance, and the first stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the Conseil d'Etat and Cour d'Honneur of the Palais Royal. As you exit the metro, walk through the square and head towards the building with 'Conseil d'Etat' written in gold lettering.

Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk

1. Conseil d'Etat in the Palais Royal
Conseil d'Etat in the Palais Royal
1, place du Palais Royal. This part of the Palais Royal houses the Conseil d'Etat, which provides the executive branch of the French government an administrative court of last resort. While not open to the public, you can attend court hearings in the beautiful Salle de Contentieux by appointment.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the Kiosque des Noctambules coloured glass sculpture. Facing the Conseil d'Etat, turn left and head to place Colette.
2. Kiosque des Noctambules
Kiosque des Noctambules
157, rue Saint Honoré. Jean-Michel Othoniel's original glass beaded 'Kiosque of the Nightwalkers' certainly breaks up the otherwise traditional environment of the place Colette. The structure celebrated the centenary of the Paris metro and has adorned the square since its inauguration in 2000. Can you figure out which cupola, or dome, represents day and which cupola represents night?
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the Comédie Française, which is in front of the Kiosque of the Nightwalkers.
3. Comédie Française
Comédie Française
place Colette. Created in 1680 by royal decree, the Comédie Française troupe has performed plays here since 1799. The French playwright and actor Molière gave heart and soul to the French theater through famous plays such as The Misanthrope, The Imaginary Invalid, The Bourgeois Gentleman, which are performed around the world today. Molière suffered a coughing attack on stage while playing the hypochondriac Argan from The Imaginary Invalid. He finished the performance but died a few hours later from a pulmonary illness.
The next stop is Palais Royal. With the Comédie Française on your left, walk towards the café Nemours on the place Colette. The entrance to the Palais Royal palace and garden will be on your left.
4. Palais Royal
Palais Royal
place du Palais Royal. Walk past the funny black and white sculptures in the Cour d'Honneur to the Galerie de Montpensier of the Palais Royal. As you walk through the galeries of the Palais Royal, imagine attending a sumptuous feast, listening to the strains of an orchestra, and hearing the urgent whispering of lovers. It all started in 1629 when Cardinal Richelieu wanted a home with easy access to the Louvre and the royal family, and the country fields north of the Louvre seemed like the perfect spot to build a vast palace and garden. The French crown inherited the property and the Palais Royal became the periodic residence and playground of the French royalty. Louis XIV hunted stag, boar, and hare here in 1649 and nearly drowned in the large fountain the same year. Princess Henriette de Bourbon-Conti often collected lovers here, disguising herself and stealing to the garden to meet her lovers. Philippe d'Orleans, cousin to King Louis XVI, began transforming the Palais Royal in 1781 into pavillons, similar to townhouses, to pay off the debts of his extravagant lifestyle. Much of the original architecture from this renovation remains: a ground floor comprised of a series of galeries with boutiques which open onto the garden, colossal sculpted pilasters lining the outer walls, and a stone balustrade and pots adorning the top floor. The Palais Royal is a true survivor of fires, revolutions, invasions, and centuries of colorful inhabitants. As you walk along the Galerie de Montpensier and peer into the antique shops, remember that you are walking by the sites of cafés, gambling houses, brothels, theaters, and even the restaurant of kings, the Grand-Vefour, now a 3-star restaurant.
The walk continues in the passage Beaujolais. Walk to the end of the Galerie Monpensier and turn left onto rue de Beaujolais. The passage will be in front of you sandwiched between two cafés.
5. Passage de Beaujolais
Passage de Beaujolais
52, rue de Richelieu. This tiny public passage was built in 1812 to give residents of the rue de Richelieu easy access to the Palais Royal. As you pass through, you are leaving the site of a gallo-romain reservoir dating from 270 A.D. An acquaduct most likely ran from the nearby hills of Montmartre to fill the reservoir, which was 2 meters deep and covered much of the present-day Palais Royal garden.
The walk continues at Issé, a Japanese restaurant. Turn left out of the Passage de Beaujolais and walk down rue de Richelieu to number 45.
6. Issé
45, rue de Richelieu. The nearby rue Sainte-Anne is affectionately called Little Tokyo by Parisians, but Japanese shops and restaurants can be found all around the Palais Royal area. Issé is noteworthy for its wide selection of tempura, sushi, and its desserts (white sesame ice cream and bean paste anmitsu), and chic interior design. The high-tech restrooms are not to be missed!
The next stop on the walk is Molière's home. Go to 40, rue de Richelieu.
7. Last home of Molière
Last home of Molière
40, rue de Richelieu. The great French playwright and actor Molière resided here from from October 1672 until his tragic death on February 17, 1673. While acting in the fourth performance of The Imaginary Invalid he had a coughing attack and collapsed into a chair on stage. He finished the performance but died here from pulmonary tuberculosis.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is Las Vegas, Paris. Turn right onto rue Thérèse when you reach the sculpture of Molière. Go to 4, rue Thérèse.
8. Las Vegas, Paris
Las Vegas, Paris
6, rue Thérèse. The rue Thérèse was once a path leading to the butte des Moulins, a hill known for the gambling houses that flourished here in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area was truly the Las Vegas of Paris at the time. Don't let the immaculate facade of 4 and 6 rue Thérèse fool you. It housed one of the area's major gambling houses from 1622 to 1750.
The walk continues in Little Tokyo with the restaurant Higuma, a hotspot for Japanese noodles, especially yakisoba. Continue down the rue Thérèse and turn right onto rue Sainte-Anne. Pause at number 32, rue Sainte-Anne.
9. Little Tokyo and Higuma
Little Tokyo and Higuma
32, rue Sainte-Anne. Stepping onto the rue Sainte-Anne transports you instantly to Tokyo. The first Japanese restaurant opened its doors in 1962 and nowdays you'll find Japanese restaurants, grocery stores, travel agents, bookstores, clothing shops, bonsais, and much more. Tourists and Parisians roam the streets in search of the best lunch option, and many elect to dine at Higuma. Here you'll find yakisoba and steaming bowls of ramen noodles and the menu listed in Kanji, Katakana and Hirigana on wooden plaques nailed to the wall. You can sit at the counter and watch your food prepared in front of you by the deft hands of the cooks. An authentic and very affordable lunch experience in a Japanese cafeteria. Come early or wait in line.
The walk continues at the Hôtel de Lulli at 47 rue Sainte-Anne, on the corner of rue Sainte-Anne and rue des Petits-Champs.
10. Hôtel de Lulli
Hôtel de Lulli
47, rue Sainte-Anne. J.B. Lulli had to borrow 11,000 pounds from famous playwright Molière to build this mansion in 1671. Lulli was a musical consultant to the King and the decorative sculptures of musical instruments on the façades reflects his vocation. The façades are are a registered historic landmark.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is Juji-Ya, at 46 rue Sainte-Anne.
11. Juji-Ya, Japanese grocery store
Juji-Ya, Japanese grocery store
46, rue Sainte-Anne. This Japanese grocery store also has a tiny restaurant that sells mostly bento boxes with an assortment of small dishes: rice, vegetables, fried fish, etc. In the shop you'll find frozen foods, all kinds of tea, candy, videos for rent, and other odds and ends.
The walk continues in the Passage Sainte-Anne. Continue up rue Sainte-Anne and turn left into the passage at 59, rue Sainte-Anne.
12. Passage Sainte-Anne
Passage Sainte-Anne
59, rue Sainte-Anne. Construction on this passage cut right through the Nouvelles-Catholiques convent buildings in 1829. Father Hyacinthe, a Capuchin monk, founded this convent in 1634. Its main activity was the religious instruction of Protestants who had converted back to Catholicism. In the aftermath of the French Wars of Religion which pitted Catholics against Protestants, the religious instruction, or re-education, of former Protestants attracted the interest of King Louis XIV.
The walk continues in the Passage Choiseul. Continue to the end of the Passage Sainte-Anne and turn right at the intersection of the Passage Sainte-Anne and the Passage Choiseul.
13. Passage Choiseul et Momo No Ki
Passage Choiseul et Momo No Ki
52, passage Choiseul. If the walls of this covered passage could speak…we'd hear chatter from the Pharoah or Lansquenet card games played at the most famous gambling hall of the early 18th century. The Duc de Tresmes converted a private residence at the north end of the present-day Passage Choiseul into a lucrative gambling hall where he played cards when he wasn't helping King Louis XV dress as Premier gentilhomme de la chambre du roi. Modernity and antiques mingle in the passage Choiseul, and Momo No Ki at number 68 is the Japanese equivalent of a diner: glass tables, metal chairs, and all-you-can-drink green tea to wash down the contents of your bento box. The typical bento box provides a square meal: rice, main dish, veggies, and tongkatsu (breaded and fried meat).
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the Opera des Bouffes-Parisiens across the passage from Momo No Ki.
14. Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens
Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens
69, passage Choiseul. This Opera house is famous for its operettas and opera comiques, especially those of its founder, composer Jacques Offenbach, who coined the term opéra bouffe to describe many of his works. See the Opera's website to reserve tickets for one of the guided visits. The entrance is at 4, rue Monsigny.
The walk continues in front of the façade of the Hôtel Particulier Duc du Tresmes. Exit the Passage Choiseul, cross rue Augustin, and look back at the architecture above the north entrance.
15. Hôtel particulier - Duc de Tresmes
Hôtel particulier - Duc de Tresmes
23, rue Saint-Augustin. The only remnants of the entrance to this hôtel constructed around 1655 are the pilasters and triangular pediments. The hôtel was later absorbed by the Passage Choiseul. Of all the beautiful mansions on the rue Saint-Augustin, only these elements remain.
The next stop on the walk is Book Off. Turn left out of the Passage Choiseul walk along rue Saint-Augustin to number 29.
16. Book off
Book off
29, rue Saint-Augustin. Feel like brushing up on your Japanese reading skills? This used books shop also sells DVDs and CDs featuring J-Pop (Japanese Pop) music.
The walk continues at the Drouant restaurant. Continue along rue Saint-Augustin until you reach Place Gaillon. The restaurant is at 16, place Gaillon.
17. Drouant restaurant
Drouant restaurant
16, place Gaillon. In the late 1880s, Charles Drouant's bar and tobacco shop developed into a neighborhood restaurant and meeting place for artists like Renoir and Rodin. Today the restaurant is well known for the Prix Goncourt, a prestigious literary prize that has been awarded here every year in November since 1914.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the fountain in Place Gaillon.
18. Fountain in place Gaillon
Fountain in place Gaillon
1, place Gaillon. The fountain in this square replaces an earlier fountain built in 1707.The original fountain can't have been too pleasant as two sewers ran alongside it. Louis Visconti created the current fountain notable for its two superimposed pools. Visconti, a prodigious architect, left his mark on Paris. A few of his works include Napoleon's tomb in the Invalides, the Saint Sulpice fountain, and the Molière fountain see earlier on the walk. Today the fountain now part of the Fontaine Gaillon restaurant, created by Gérard Depardieu and the perfect lunch spot for French cuisine: quiet, sunny, refined.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk is the City Wall of Louis XIII. From the fountain head to rue de la Michodière, which is the street to the right of the fountain. Go to number 4, rue de la Michodière.
19. City wall of Paris under Louis XIII
City wall of Paris under Louis XIII
4, rue de la Michodière. Do you know that you're at the city limits of Paris? Well, the city limits of Paris in 1633 anyway. Seven city walls have enclosed Paris, beginning with the fortified city of Lutèce. The walls fanned out from the Seine Islands with the expansion of the city just like ripples in a pond. Just beyond the door at 4, rue de La Michodière young King Louis XV hunted using birds of prey in the wheat fields here in 1718. Carriages, horses, and dogs trampled the wheat fields, but the King apparently compensated the peasants for the destruction of their fields.This type of hunting known as falconry, was a status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe and the samurai of feudal Japan, where it is called takagari.
The walk continues at Dog's bar. Walk back to the place Gaillon and turn right. Continue along rue Saint-Augustin and look for Dog's bar at 32 rue Saint-Augustin.
20. Dog's Bar
Dog's Bar
32, rue Saint-Augustin. Restaurant owners and their patrons are often sometimes more accepting of dogs than they are of children, and here is an example of a dog-friendly establishment. At 32, rue Saint-Augustin, look down and you'll see a water fountain just for dogs. Where is the child-sized water fountain please?
The walk continues with a street view of the Opera Garnier. Walk to the end of rue Saint-Augustin and turn right onto the avenue de l'Opera.
21. Opéra Garnier seen from avenue de l'Opéra, Paris
Opéra Garnier seen from avenue de l'Opéra, Paris
34, avenue de l'Opéra. The architecture and golden statues of the Opera Garnier immediately catch the eye, but the Avenue de l'Opera itself covers an unseen, but colorful history. As you walk towards the Opera Garnier imagine having to climb a hill called the butte Saint-Roch, to get there. Accounts of the earliest inhabitants vary, but by the 12th century pig pens covered the hill as part of the marché aux pourceaux, or swine market. Joan of Arc used the hill in 1429 to launch an assault on Paris and recapture the city from the English. The French crown used this hill execute heretics, blasphemers, and other unfortunate criminals who were either thrown into cauldrons of boiling water or were burned at the stake. Such was the sad fate of little Edmond de La Fosse, a schoolboy who made fun of the church after mass and was burned alive here in 1503. By the early 17th century a stench from the market and garbage dump hung over this disreputable area, whose inhabitants resembled a degenerate circus: filthy hovels sheltered magicians, cabarets, gambling joints, innkeepers, prostitutes, and other seedy characters. Hard to imagine while sipping champagne in the Café de la Paix or jewelry shopping on the nearby place Vendôme. The last remains of the butte Saint-Roch were levelled when the Avenue de l'Opera was built in 1864.
The walk continues at the opera house itself. Keep walking along avenue de l'Opéra until you reach the Opéra Garnier. Enter the front hall of the Opera house.
22. Opéra Garnier
Opéra Garnier
place de l'Opéra. Over 171 architects created designs for the opera house, but Charles Garnier won the commission in 1862. Workers ran into serious trouble: water from an ancient branch of the Seine river was rising up through the ground. Steam-pumps worked night and day for a month before workers could lay a mixture of bricks, cement, and asphalt over the underground lake. When the Opera Garnier was finally opened in 1875, poor Charles Garnier had to pay 120 francs to attend the first performance in 'his' opera house. Technically speaking, the Opera Garnier is one of the world's largest: 172 meters long, 101 meters wide, and 79 meters high. In theory one could climb 6319 steps, sit in 2156 seats, and open 1606 doors. The impressive facade with its seven arcades, statues, and corinthian columns masks a magnificent entrance hall and grand staircase. Do go in and look or take a guided tour. If you do, be aware that this opera house has been the theater of accidents: on May 20, 1896 the counterweight of a chandelier fell from the ceiling and killed a woman during a performance. Perhaps the real 'Phantom of the Opera' is a woman? Incidentally, the current chandelier weighs 8 tons.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier walk is the Agence Centrale of the Société Générale bank. Facing the Opera Garnier take the street to the right of the opera house, rue Halevy. Head towards the Galeries Lafayette sign on a building in front of you and turn left on boulevard Haussmann. Go to 29, boulevard Haussmann.
23. Société Générale Main Branch
Société Générale Main Branch
29, boulevard Haussmann. The unimpressive exterior of 29, boulevard Haussmann hides an Art Nouveau gem from early 20th century Paris. Enter the two sets of double doors and take an immediate right down the staircase to the vault room. There you'll find an absolutely stunning enormous vault from 1912, when the Société Générale bank was at its most powerful and most prestigious, and the lower levels of the bank were riddled with a gigantic beehive of deposit boxes. The bronze sculpture 'Chant du Départ' can also be seen adorning the Arc de Triomphe. Walk back up to the ground floor, enter the bank and gaze at the work of architect Jacques Hermant. The metal framework, soaring roof, steel and glass exude power and beauty where engineering, Art Nouveau, and banking blend effortlessly. Société Générale's recent history is not so lofty. In January 2008 Société Générale accused trader Jérôme Kerviel of losing around 4.8 billion euros in rogue trading. This was the largest banking fraud in history until the discovery of the fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff, estimated at 50 billion dollars.
The walk continues at Lafayette Gourmet. Exit Société Générale and turn left, continuing down boulevard Haussmann. Continue walking until you reach Lafayette Gourmet, which is on the first floor of the Galeries Lafayette department store on the other side of boulevard Haussmann.
24. Lafayette Gourmet grocery store
Lafayette Gourmet grocery store
40, boulevard Haussmann. Welcome to one of the shrines of gourmet food products in Paris. Whether you want a quick lunch or are hunting for gifts to bring home and brag about, Lafayette Gourmet has something to tickle your tastebuds: Bellota-Bellota ham, mustard 'au cassis', confiture de l'orange flavored with whisky, chocolates, Mariage Frères tea, and much more.
The walk continues at the Paul bakery. Leaving Lafayette Gourmet turn right and continue down boulevard Haussmann. Pass by the Printemps department store and turn left on rue Tronchet. Cross rue Tronchet (you'll see the back of the Madeleine church at the end of the street), and head to the entrance of the Paul bakery at 35, rue Tronchet.
25. Paul Bakery
Paul Bakery
35, rue Tronchet. Paul is a chain bakery known for its breads, pastries, sandwiches, and soupy hot chocolate. This bakery is particular for the turtles and elephants decorating its façade.
The walk continues atthe square Louis XVI. Continue down rue Tronchet and take the first right onto rue des Mathurins. The park is at the intersection of rue Pasquier and rue des Mathurins.
26. Square Louis XVI
Square Louis XVI
47, rue des Mathurins. After poor King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette were guillotined in 1793, they were buried here in the former Madeleine cemetery. Some three thousand victims of the French Revolution are buried on these grounds.From the inscription on the neoclassic chapel in the garden we learn that the remains of the King and Queen were transferred to the royal necropolis in the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis on January 21, 1815.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier walk is Chajin at 24, rue Pasquier.
27. Chajin Japanese tea room
Chajin Japanese tea room
24, rue Pasquier. Carol Négiar serves the very best Japanese green teas in her boutique, either at the counter or in a traditional japanese room complete with tatamis and shoji sliding doors. Carol travels to Japan to pick green teas from traditional producers in the Shizuoka and Uji regions. You'll find loose tea, green tea bags, and green tea powder for cooking. Call ahead for availability as Carol closes the shop during tea ceremonies.
The next stop on the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier walk is the Madeleine church. Walk down rue Pasquier and turn left on boulevard Malesherbes to the church.
28. Madeleine church
Madeleine church
place de la Madeleine. I want 'not a church, but a temple - a monument the likes of which Athenes has and which Paris does not' wrote Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806. He ordered the construction of a temple to the glory of the Great Army of France. After the fall of Napoleon King Louis XVIII determined that the structure would be used as a church. Though the structure resembles a rectangular pagan temple with its 52 corinthian columns and an open portico, it houses a Catholic church.
You've reached the end of the Palais Royal and Opera Garnier Walk. The nearest metro station is Madeleine (line 12, line 8, line 14)
Distance: 3km
Estimated duration: 3.5h
Beginning of the walk: Conseil d'Etat in the Palais Royal
End of the walk: Madeleine church