With two locations — Palais Garnier and Bastille — the Opéra National de Paris is a must for any fan of French culture visiting the City of Lights. But don’t just content yourself with wandering through the lobby of Garnier or eating a galette on the steps of the Bastille: you can get tickets to any performance for as little as 5 euros.
These tickets are called sans visibilité — obstructed view tickets — and they are not for the unadventurous. To get them, you have to go in person to the ticket office and ask for them in French. You may have to wait in line and you may have to show up shortly before the performance you’re hoping to see (hear). But in my experience, it’s worth it.
When I requested sans visibilité tickets at Palais Garnier, I was met with eye-rolls and warnings like “these are standing only,” and “you won’t be able to see a thing” — words that turned out to be true and not.
My seat was in a velvet-covered box, high above the stage. With a fuzzy bench, a couple square meters of floor space and no one but me around, I could sit, stand or lounge as I wanted throughout the lengthy performance. Seated, I couldn’t see but enjoyed the glorious music in comfort. Standing, I could stretch my legs and the view was breathtaking.
Palais Garnier tickets sans visibilité are currently 10 Euro ($11), and we were told on the phone that you must show up half an hour before the start of the show you want to attend. At Bastille it’s a little trickier: there are only 32 spots available and we were told they’re all standing only and completely obstructed. On the plus side, if it’s true and turns out to be miserable, you’ll only pay 5 Euro ($5.50) for the experience.
Right now Bastille has a promotion with partially-obstructed view tickets available online for 15 Euro ($16). You can even get them online — no standing around (or French practice) necessary!
If you’re a little enterprising, though, why not practice your accent, get some fresh air, and have a real Paris opera adventure to see what kind of plus seat you can score?