The Salle Pleyel is the main classical concert venue in Paris. Recently refurbished, it re-opened in 2006 with better acoustics and sightlines and more comfortable seating. More history here.
It hosts mainly orchestral concerts, with a few chamber and big-name song recitals, and the odd bit of genteel pop/rock. There are around 1900 seats.
The address is 252, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008, a couple of minutes walk from métro stations Ternes and Charles de Gaulle-Étoile. Map and more access details here. It's a little out of the centre of Paris, a very safe area to walk around, but rather nondescript. If you want to stay somewhere within walking distance, the area to the south east is closer to the centre and has better bars/restaurants/shops than the immediate vicinity.
Tickets can be booked online here. Seats are now on sale for the whole 2008/9 season, to July 2009. Many concerts sell out in advance, so it's worth booking as soon as you can.
The system doesn't allow you to choose your seat - it simply picks what is considers is the best available in the price category you choose. 'Best available' goes from front to rear, and from centre to sides. Alternatively, you can reserve by phone on +33 (0)1 42 56 13 13 . The Salle Pleyel website doesn't have a full numbered seating plan, but if you book online, it shows the position of your seat and the view from seat on this chart.
The seat numbering is a little idiosyncratic. Rows in the stalls (orchestre) run from A to Z, with additional rows AA to CC at the front and ZZ at the rear. In the choir stalls (arrière-scène), row A is the one closest to the stage. Odd numbered seats are on the (audience) left and even numbers on the right, and the numbers start in the centre. Each seat number is preceded by a section number - 1 for stalls, 2 for lower balcony, 3 for upper balcony and 4 for choir stalls. So E103, for example, is just to the left of centre in row E of the stalls, and G226 is on the far right of the lower balcony.
Slim pickings for anyone on a budget. There are various discount subscription packages which can save money when booking for several concerts. And last-minute reductions on unsold tickets are available - but only to under 28s, over 65s and those on benefits. The 5ème category seats are cheap at €10 (see seating plan), but they tend to go quickly - and they are right at the very back of the hall.
Best and worst seats
Well, it all depends. All the seats apart from the choir stalls are the same - comfy padded armchairs, very wide, with loads of leg room. Row A of the stalls and row B (sides only) of the balconies have even more leg room, but these are used as passageways as well.
The side balconies (right) have single forward-facing seats with loads of room on the outer side, but you lose the view of the closest stage corner. These balconies were put in during the refurbishment, to improve the acoustics, and the sound from here is excellent.
The stalls have a fairly shallow rake, apart from row E, which is a step up from D, giving it the clearest view. I've not had problems seeing the stage from other stalls seats, but if you're a short person with a tall one in front of you, it might be an issue. I haven't sat at the very front sides, but I would guess these would have the worst sightlines despite their high price.
The hall's acoustic is enveloping, with a lot of reverb (how dry the London venues sound in comparison). Only the very back rows are beneath an overhang, so the sound is good just about everywhere.
If sound alone is the consideration, then the cheapest seats are the best buy. Otherwise, I'd go for centre stalls, or side balconies (despite the clipped view, you're guaranteed no fat head obstructing your view).
Most people dress fairly smartly (this is Paris) but not formally; many have come straight from work. See below for photos.
The cloakroom queues are appalling, before and after, so I try to avoid it. There's enough room around the seats for a coat or small bag (large bags aren't allowed in to the hall for obvious reasons).
The ground floor and mezzanine (Foyer) bars have yummy brownies and macaroons as well as the usual offerings. There's also a restaurant on the mezzanine, the Café Pleyel, though I haven't tried this.