An Insider’s Guide to Théâtres in Paris
One thing I learned very quickly about Paris is that theatre culture is possibly more booming than museum or music scenes but kept incredibly on the down low.
Not much fuss is made around the existence of theatre shows in this city — when in reality Paris is hosting some of the finest theatrical works in Europe at any given time.
The trick is to know where to go. The well known theaters such as the Paris Opera and the Théâtre du Palais-Royal are tourist flytraps — everybody wants to see a show here while spending a few days in town.
For this reason getting tickets last minute can be hard and you’ll be fighting crowds at the box office if your decision is last minute. Moving away from the main theaters and directing your energy toward one of the smaller venues around the arrondissements is the best way to experience theatre in Paris — take it from someone who has tried and tested this theory.
Here is a brief guide to the best of the best theaters around Paris and where to find them.
1. Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse in Paris
26 Rue de la Gaité
As the name suggests, our first theatre takes us to the 14th arrondissement to the neighborhood of Montparnasse. This area thrives on all kinds of arts as it has since the early artistic pioneers moved into the suburb early in the 1900s.
This 400 seater theatre actually precedes the artist influx as it was founded early in 1868. Over the years this theatre has seen repeated periods of refurbishment to keep it in the impressive state that it exists in. The most recent adjustment was replacement of all the seating back in 2003.
As far as scale goes, the theatre is small and very, very old. An evening out here is a gentle reminder of what a historic city you are currently in and how much history the walls hold.
Montparnasse is an interesting neighborhood to explore. It differs significantly to the rest of the central Parisian districts. If you’re heading this way for a show be sure to enjoy an hour or two at one of the Montparnasse street cafe’s watching people go by. You’ll also find the best crepes in Paris in Montparnasse!
2. Opéra Garnier in Paris
8 Rue Scribe
Parisian architecture is exquisite, there’s no question about that. But the Italian-style interior of this operatic theater house is somewhat unfathomable.
The Opera Garnier, also known as the Palais Garnier, is found in an old 19th century building right in the center of where the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 8th arrondissements kiss.
The ceiling of the theatre was painted by Chagall. Viewing it in person is worth the price of an admission ticket alone in my opinion. That combined with the entrance hall and stairwells — you won’t know where to set your gaze.
I love to watch the ballets at this theatre. The ambiance of the Italian infrastructure is perfect to set the very poetic scene.
If you aren’t able to find time to watch an entire performance at at the Palais Garnier they also offer group tours at certain times during the day. You’ll be able to do a walk through the building and learn brief history about the theatre.
3. Théâtre Edouard VII in Paris
10 Place Édouard VII
King Edouard VII was a British king but was well known for having a strong affinity toward French culture and the arts. Eventually in the early 1900s a decision was made to construct a theatre in Paris after the leader. One that would combine English and French cultures for years to follow.
So saw the founding of the Théâtre Edouard VII in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. It is situated right by the Place Édouard VII, a public square also in the name of the once-king where a statue of him stands as well.
As you can tell, Edouard VII was a fan of the French and the French were a fan of him.
This is a small theatre. There is a coffee shop down the stairs where you can stop in at any time even if you aren’t planning on seeing a performance.
4. Le Théatre du Chatelet in Paris
1 Place du Châtelet
In 1860 two chalets were constructed in the city center of Paris, now the 1st arrondissement. A chalet is a small castle of fortress, these two spaces now make up two theaters.
Being in the heart of Paris, this theatre tends to sell out quite quickly. Tourists flock to it and locals travel into the heart of Paris just to attend — so you know you’re in for a spectacle.
The best part of being in the 1st arrondissement is that you are near all the major attractions at once. The Louvre Museum is just a short walk from the theatre steps, as is the Tuileries Gardens and Notre Dame Cathedral.
After your show at the Théâtre du Châtelet follow the crowds as groups of friends and lovers stroll the banks of the Seine and discuss their interpretation of the performance. Most bars and restaurants in the 1st stay open late so that theatre guests have somewhere to go for a nightcap on their way out.
5. Le Moulin Rouge in Paris
Right on the main strip of the risqué district of Pigalle is a theatre you’ve likely heard about once or twice in your life. If you’re somehow the only person on Earth to never have seen Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge film then you’re in for a real treat to experience it first in real life.
The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret theatre that is iconic to Paris. It was first opened in 1889 but burnt down in 1915. A few years later the remains of the theatre were restored to their former glory and still stand today.
Pigalle is an area notorious for being the playground of Paris. It is the neighborhood where anything goes and was once the location of the Paris Red Light District.
It has since calmed down significantly, however you’ll still find ample peep shows and strip teases while on the main strip.
I do believe that everyone shout experience a performance inside the Moulin Rouge theatre at least once while in town. But tickets aren’t cheap and schedules fluctuate — if you aren’t able to commit to an evening be sure to at least do a walk by so you can see the legendary windmill that crowns the building’s exterior.
6. Le Trianon in Paris
Something for everyone who visits Paris; Le Trianon is the Parisian version of a theatre of varieties. The theatre is situated at the food of Montmartre hill in the 18th arrondissement, my favorite area to explore any day of the week.
The theatre uses its space for a wide variety of events and activities. While there are live performances on certain nights, there are also interactive experiences on others.
At Le Trianon you’ll be able to take part in dance evenings, dinner events and musical workshops. There is also a museum on site that visitors can roam through even when not attending a performance.
On the performance bill you’ll find everything from musical concerts to ballet, operas to pantomimes. Getting tickets here can be tricky especially for the more popular shows so book in advance if you know you’ll be in Paris for something specific.
Just up the block from Le Trianon is a hidden gem called Crêperie Brocéliande. Wonderful for a sweet or savory treat just before your theatre show to get the anticipation flowing.
7. Folies Bergère in Paris
32 Rue Richer
There are few things that make me more excited than an evening at La Folies Bergère.
Situated in the 9th arrondissement, the Folies Bergère is a theatre that was designed by renowned architect Plumeret.
The space celebrates everything music. When it is not being used as a concert hall it is showcasing hit musicals such as Chicago, Hairspray and Cats. Charlie Chaplin once performed here during the cities artistic heyday.
The interior is a wonder. Think more lavish red velvet than you can imagine, draped with gold trim and ornate lighting. Even before the show has begun you are whisked away into 1930s Paris where cabaret reigned supreme and everyone dressed to leave the house.
Make an effort with this historic landmark in Paris. Shine your shoes and brush your hair at the very lease — these walls deserve some respect.
The theatre is built into the hill areas of the 9th and parking is quite a nightmare. I recommend taking the metro to the Cadet stop and walking the three minutes south to the Folies Bergère entrance.
8. Théâtre Mogador in Paris
25 Rue de Mogador
Staying in the 9th, not far from the afore mentioned Folies Bergère, the Mogador Theatre was founded in 1913.
It is one of the larger theaters in Paris with a holding capacity of almost 2000 people. The structure exists in three tiers and the interior is what you’d expect from any lavish theatre from this era; a lot of red, a lot of gold and a lot of draping.
The Mogador Theatre is beautiful and like the other theaters in the 9th music is the genre of preference. Here you’ll watch productions on par with Chicago and other well known musicals.
Because of the tier-like seating, ticket prices vary and you can catch some of the shows here at little strain to your wallet. The tiers also give all areas of the theatre full view of the stage so not much is lost even if you’re in the very back.
If you’re looking to treat yourself then the boxes and frontal seating would be the area of choice.
9. Odéon Theatre in Paris
Place de l’Odéon
Right on the Left Bank of the Seine River in the 6th arrondissement of Paris sits a French national monument. The Odéon Theatre is one of France’s six official national theaters.
This theatre is old. It was originally founded back in 1782 — so you can understand how it is now a national treasure. It is the oldest theatre in all of Europe to still be actively used for its original purpose.
To commemorate the space, a second venue was opened in the 17th arrondissement of Paris in 2003. The intention was to host new forms of theatre and provide research space for the arts that could be removed from this main location.
I gush over theatre interiors at the best of times, but this one truly is something magical. More red velvet, more gold trim, more ornate ceiling art — more incredible than you can imagine.
10. Théâtre du Ranelagh in Paris
5 Rue des Vignes
Ill end off this guide with a more low-key little theatre in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The Théâtre du Ranelagh was opened in 1894; not as old as some of the others around Paris but definitely still historic.
It’s founder adored the Flemish Renaissance style and designed the theatre to resemble a music room carved into fine oak. The wood forms the perfect foundation for a sound hall.
In 1977 the theatre was official classed as a Parisian historical monument. When you’re inside watching a performance take time to notice all the finer details from the floors to the walls.
Theatre is a must in any city in the world — in Paris it’s a lifestyle. A night out doesn’t get much better than this and any of the above places are guaranteed to deliver quality performances, beautiful ambiance and professional settings.
Looking forward to seeing you there!