Gotta love the French. Innovative and stylish. In the 18th and 19th century they were ingenious too when the covered passages in Paris (“les passages couverts”) 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 (also called ‘galeries”) with a roof. They were beautifully designed passages each with unique characteristics in the Belle Epoque style.
[Updated December 23, 2019]
The passages in Paris were designed with glass ceilings and were lined with chic boutiques, shops, restaurants and a few apartments. In this post I share 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 on Boulevard Montmartre and is the oldest. It has numerous entrances and corridors. I actually got lost (easy for me to do) finding my way out. It was the first public area in Paris to be lit by gas in 1817. There is a hip wine/lounge bar, “Coinstot Vino” where I had drinks with a friend. The price was reasonable and the bar is known for its natural wines.
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, Musee 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 wax figures! 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
Passage du Grand Cerf (2nd arr)
When I rented an apartment near rue Montorgueil, I took a friend to Passage du Grand Cerf nearby. It is one of the largest arcades (39 feet high) in Paris and what’s unique is the glass roof that has daylight streaming through. There are artisan boutiques and stores selling more unique items like large vintage letters and customized jewelry.
Nearest Metro: Etienne Marcel
Galerie Vero-Dodat (1st arr)
This arcade has the flagship Christian Louboutin store as well as small shops and restaurants. It is located near the Musee du Louvre and has decorative tiles and ceiling designs worth noting.
Nearest Metro: Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre
Passage de Choiseul (2nd arr)
There are three entrances to this passage which is located between the Rue Saint-Augustin and the Rue des Petits-Champs. It has numerous restaurants and sadly one of my favourites, Le Petit Choiseul, closed last year. It is not quite as fancy as some of the other covered passages yet it is said to be the longest in Paris, measuring 190 metres long.
Nearest Metro: Quatre-Septembre
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
The brasserie, Le Grand Colbert, is located here at Passage Colbert. It was featured in the movie, “Something’s Gotta Give” with Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves. In the Galerie Colbert the focal point is the glass dome which was built in 1826. The entrance is off Rue des Petits Champs, just 30 metres west of Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement.
Nearest Metro: Bourse
There is a strong Indian influence, with Indian restaurants and stores selling Indian spices. This arcade is accessible from two major streets, Boulevard de Strasbourg and 43 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement. One part is under a roof and the other part is in the open air.
Nearest Metro: Chateau d’Eau
Don’t Bother Visiting These Passages
Passage du Chantier-(9Z Passage du Chantier in the 12th arrondissement) is near the Bastille. I was also disappointed with this passage even though it had a nice cobblestone pathway. It primarily has ateliers (studios and workshops), and upholstery and furniture repair stores.
Passage Vendome-(16-18 Rue Béranger) is run down and while there are a few shops in this short passageway, it could use a makeover. It is in the 3rd arrondissement, near the Republique Metro.
There are many uncovered and covered passages in Paris (“passages couverts Paris”) and I’ll continue to update this post to add more that are worth visiting (and not worth visiting).
Here is a map of the covered passages and galeries mentioned in this post:
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