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Paris: Cheapo guide to the Opera district

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Opera Garnier
The view of the neighborhood from Palais Garnier. Photo: jean-marc

Tucked between the chic rue St-Honoré, the brand-name department stores, and the Place Vendome, the Opera district doesn’t instill much hope for budget travelers. Crowned by the ornate Opéra Garnier, it might seem like this district is best left to the high rollers and Chanel-seekers. But fear not Cheapos, there is plenty to discover on that fabled shoestring even in the Opera district.

Related: Cheap hotels near Opéra Garnier

1. In the steps of the Phantom

The opera house itself is something to marvel, and while you don’t need to get a top hat and ballgown to go see a show, you can still experience it’s 19th century grandeur. Self-guided visits

are available for just €10. It’s no steal, but it’s worth it to see the building that inspired the famous phantom and which hosts world-class performances. The chandeliers and golden decorations in the Grand Foyer are a must-see, echoing the opulence of even Versailles.

Galeries Lafayette View

The beautiful city scene from the the top floor of Galeries Lafayette. Photo: Douglas D

2. Stunning (and free!) aerial view

I love a view of the city, so after a spin in the opera house, walk to the Galeries Lafayette just behind the theater. Skip the shopping but pass by the amazing stained glass cupola in the perfume section. This 19th century department store has great views of Paris from the roof, so take the escalator all the way up and check it out—for free!

Rue Sainte Anne

Affordable Japanese restaurants line the area around rue Saine Anne. Photo: ArkanGL

3. Lunch like a Parisian

When hunger strikes, walk down the Avenue de l’Opéra for a cheap meal under €15 at any of the Japanese restaurants on and around rue Sainte Anne. Some are better than others, but none will be a poor meal. Noodle soups and bento boxes trump the sushi here, but don’t be afraid to try what look good. It may seem weird to eat Japanese in Paris, but you’ll hear plenty of French speakers around you—after all, Paris is a place where sushi delivery boys easily outnumber pizza delivery boys.

Still hungry? Afterwards, a Japanese-inspired French pastry at Aki Bakery (16 rue Sainte Anne) will round off that meal for you.

Galerie Colbert

The spectacular rotunda at Galerie Colbert. Photo: Loic L

4. Wander grand old-world shopping malls

You may not be interested in buying anything, but the nearby covered passages are a great way to experience how the Parisian upper set shopped in the 1800s. The Galerie Vivienne and Galerie Colbert are two of the most beautiful but even the Passage Choiseul is worth a visit.

Opera House Garnier

Score cheap tickets at the last minute to a show at the Palais Garnier. Photo: Veronique Mergaux

5. Take in a night at the opera

If the evening hits and you’re feeling lucky, head back to the Opéra Garnier and see if you can score some cheap last minute tickets to a show. Tuxedos are not required, just prepare to queue up with other ticket seekers. Category 6 tickets go on sale at the box office an hour before the performance with prices varying based on the performance, and be sure to check the schedule beforehand online.

Related: Cheap opera and classical music tickets

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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