Opera on the Cheap in Paris: What You Need to Know

In the past year, I’ve been getting super into opera thanks to one of my favorite books about Paris. It’s beautiful and wildly dramatic and the music is like nothing else. So as part of my search for beauty on this trip, I’m seeking out opera wherever I go in the world.

Solo female traveler going to see cheap opera in Paris
Wearing my only dress to the Paris Opera

Opera has a reputation for being something only elderly rich people enjoy and can afford. And in some ways, it’s true! Seats can run over $100 very quickly in the US and in the big houses abroad. And frankly, I don’t know many other people under age 60 who have even been to the opera.

Cheap opera in Paris

So how did I go see two operas in Paris, when one ticket would usually be double my daily budget?

By buying standing room tickets at the Opera Bastille! It’s a simple process but requires a bit of planning:

  • On the day of the opera at the Bastille you want to see, the ticket office opens at 11:30 am. Get there then! It’s on the right side of the opera house as you’re facing it.
  • Hop on line (if you’re there right on time, you should be one of the first) and ask the ticket clerk for the €5 ticket.
  • Show up a half hour early at least with your ticket and find your door, and scout available seats.
  • Strategically sit in empty ones as the place fills up, and once the curtain goes down if you still have one, it’s yours!
  • Advanced move: at the intermission, befriend an usher and sneak yourself into a seat with a better view. This move works best for solo travelers who can squeeze into a spare seat.

Also, I met a whole bunch of fellow opera lovers in the line for tickets and while trying to get seats (trust me, you don’t want to stand for the whole five hours of Tristan und Isolde). In Paris, it’s popular for young people too.

What to see

So far, my favorite opera has been Tristan und Isolde. Yes, it’s five hours, but it’s five hours of ferocious love and music and magic. I’ve had a fascination with that story since college (I even love the terrible James Franco movie of it (yes, I am generally a cultured person but I have trash taste in movies)). Wagner’s music in it is a billowing revelation and it made me miss the ocean and Ireland too.

Also, due to European casualness, there was a giant background screen with some interesting scenery. For about a full five minutes, there were two entirely frontally naked people in 30 foot high glory hanging out behind this elegant opera. My initial shock reminded me that yes, I am American no matter how many fancy silk scarves I wear and we are prudes. So if you’re intrigued by the idea of some giant genitals in your opera, it’s definitely a good deal. If not, you only paid €5 *shrugs*.

Opera for all

The Paris opera is a classic experience. Note, there is a different process for the Opera Garnier which I didn’t try this time. So pay your €5 euros, make some friends, get some culture, maybe believe in love a little more after and don’t forget to buy fancy champagne at intermission for only €12. Hey, beauty comes in many forms and I’m trying to find them all this year!

More Paris travel posts

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4 thoughts on “Opera on the Cheap in Paris: What You Need to Know”

  1. Hey check out the Wexford Opera festival in Ireland sometime! It is a week long and you can see full operas or vignettes throughout the day.
    I am jealous !


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