Gotta love the French. Innovative and stylish. In the 18th and 19th century they were ingenious too, when “les passages couverts” (covered passages or galleries) were constructed.
Well before the invention of shopping malls, these passages were built to protect pedestrians from inclement weather and muddy, dirty streets. But these weren’t just passageways with a roof. They were beautifully designed passages each with unique characteristics in the Belle Epoque style.
The passages were often designed with glass ceilings and were lined with chic boutiques, shops, restaurants and a few apartments. In this week’s post I’ll share with you some covered passages which are all within walking distance of one another and are perfect to visit on a rainy day.
Galerie Vivienne (2nd arr)
Passage Vivienne is located near Palais Royale and is most people’s favourite due to the architecture. It is a very pretty place to spend time, walking on the mosaic floors, amongst the statues and shops. There is also the renowned Les Caves Legrand, one of Paris’ best wine shops.
Nearest Metro: Bourse
Passage des Panoramas (2nd arr)
This passage is near Les Grands Boulevards and is the oldest. It has numerous entrances and corridors. I actually got lost (easy for me to do) finding my way out. It has a hip wine/lounge bar, “Coinstot Vino” and was the first public area in Paris to be lit by gas in 1817.
Nearest Metro: Grands Boulevards
Passage Jouffroy (9th arr)
Upon leaving Passages des Panoramas, across the street you will see Passage Jouffroy. In this passage there are many toy stores that I really enjoyed browsing through. The wax museum, Grevin is also located in this passage and years ago I went. It is like Madame Tussauds and a lot of fun to visit. Certainly there’s a French slant to the displays! This passage also has the Hotel Chopin which some say is inexpensive and has great views.
Nearest Metro: Richelieu-Drouot
Passage Verdeau (9th arr)
This passage is connected to Passage Jouffroy and Passage des Panoramas. There are restaurants and antique dealers and it is considered one of the quieter passages.
Nearest Metro: Richelieu-Drouot or Grands Boulevards
Demise Of The Covered Passages
At the end of the 18th century approximately 60 covered passages were built around Paris but with Baron Haussmann’s redesign of Paris with the Grands Boulevards and large department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, the passages popularity declined. Today only about 15 remain (and are privately owned).
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon III) had hired Baron Haussmann to rebuild and renovate Paris. At the time, Paris had overcrowded, filthy, and unsanitary streets and when there were riots it was too easy for the protesters to construct barricades because the streets were so narrow. Paris was transformed and totally changed with wide boulevards, parks, fountains and a sewer system.
Other Covered Passages To Discover
Passage Colbert— the restaurant Le Grand Colbert is located here. It was featured in the movie, “Something’s Gotta Give” with Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves.
Passage du Grand Cerf-145 rue Saint-Denis
Passage Brady– 43 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement
Passage du Choiseul-near Palais Royale