Covered passages, the hidden gems of Paris
Away from the frantic hustle and bustle, the covered passages of the city of Paris have a vintage charm that still operates even today. As symbols of luxury and elegance, these architectural gems offer the unique experience of being suspended in time. Created between 1820 and 1850 by the greatest Parisian architects, the covered passages are vestiges of 19th-century heritage that showcase the technical achievements of that period. The boutiques and studios that line these glass-covered passages are a delight for antique collectors, fashionistas, fine gourmets and fans of all kinds of oddities. Let the hidden gems of Paris take you on a journey.
Galerie Vivienne, Passage des Panoramas and Passage Verdeau
Your exploration begins with a long walk through the 2nd and 9th arrondissements. Plunge into the Belle Époque by visiting the galerie Vivienne, the passage des Panoramas and the passage Verdeau, all in succession.
A stone’s throw from the Palais Royal gardens, the Galerie Vivienne is one of Paris’ most famous covered passages, attracting 6.4 million visitors each year. Beneath its beautiful glass roof, you may even be lucky enough to come across a film shoot or a fashion show. Hardly surprising in this idyllic setting of authentic mosaic floors, wrought-iron features and gilding, offering a fabulous trip back in time. The Galerie Vivienne’s 176-metre covered walkway is a mixture of refined modernity and audacity where you’ll find everything from a jeweller’s selling ancient pieces to the studio of urban artist, Blase. For children, the boutique si tu veux(jouer) sells a range of educational toys and games. And if you’re overcome by the irresistible urge to read, you’ll find just what you need at the Jousseaume bookshop, one of the oldest in Paris.
Your visit continues in the Passage des Panoramas, which is equally elegant and beautiful. Close to the Musée Grévin and the Théâtre des Variétés, this is the oldest covered passage in Paris and one of the most remarkable. Built on the initiative of American ship-owner and developer, William Thayer, the Passage des Panoramas owes its name to the enormous 360° paintings that decorated the interior walls of the rotundas. Although these panoramic paintings were removed in 1831, the buildings have retained all their splendour.
This 133-metre covered passage is 3 metres wide and has a very special atmosphere. It is a cabinet of curiosities that makes a great place to stroll, as it has always been the haunt of collectors and philatelists from across the world. And it’s a delight for anyone who loves good food. Besides the food shops that have built the reputation of the Passage des Panoramas, you’ll also find plenty of restaurants said to be among the best in Paris.
You’ll finish your walk in the Passage Verdeau, a real treat for bargain hunters and collectors. Indeed, when this covered passage was built in 1846, it benefited from being near the famous Hôtel Drouot a famous Parisian auction house and became the haunt of antique collectors. Thus, the gallery, also known as the Passage Drouot, still attracts enthusiasts from all over the world.
In addition, this vast cabinet of curiosities also features a multitude of art galleries and craft studios that you can admire along the way. A beautiful showcase that art & craft fans will appreciate.
Tucked in the heart of the 1st arrondissement of Paris is one of the city’s most secret passages. The galerie Véro-Dodat is not the most famous, despite being among the most elegant. The black-and-white marble floor tiles, the brass and cast-iron ornaments and the immaculate light that streams through the glass roof are sophistication itself. Created in 1826 by a pork butcher named Véro and the financier Dodat, the covered passage was intended as a link between Palais-Royal and Les Halles, two very popular districts. Boosted by its proximity with the Messageries Laffitte & Gaillard transport company, the gallery was an instant success and became highly popular, especially among travellers waiting for their vehicle to arrive. But with the Second French Empire and the disappearance of the transport company, the site gradually lost its appeal. Nowadays, its tranquillity only adds to the charm of this little peace haven.
Away from the buzzing excitement of Paris, take advantage of the soothing atmosphere in this 80-metre walkway to enjoy a delicious lunch at the Véro-Dodat brasserie. This gallery is also home to the boutique and workshop of the Louboutin footwear brand. So go and admire their iconic stiletto range.
Les passages couverts se suivent et ne se Among the succession of covered passages, no two are the same… In Paris’ 9th arrondissement, the passage couvert Jouffroy stands out from the crowd. When it was built, in 1847, its structure of iron, glass and nothing else, and the fact that it was the first covered passage to be heated by the ground, made it a symbolic feat of technical innovation. It features all the boutiques typically found in the covered passages of Paris, selling old-fashioned walking sticks, antiques or traditional toys. (Pop into the boutique Pain d’Épices, a real treasure chest for children). The Passage Jouffroy is also home to one of Paris’ flagship museums, the musée Grévin. This unique venue offers a chance to rub shoulders with your favourite celebrities, not in the flesh but in a display of waxwork models. And what better way to round off your walk than by staying overnight at the Chopin hotel? A fabulous end to your trip beyond time…
Galerie de la Madeleine
At Place de la Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, you cannot help but notice the elegance of this square. Two examples are the Madeleine church and the nearby galerie de la Madeleine. Created in the same year, this discreet covered passage adds to the district’s sophisticated charm, with its white inner arches, marble flooring and glass ceiling. Along this 53-metre walkway, fans of luxury items will find what they’re looking for among the big names in fashion to be found here, such as Giambattista Valli. Nearby, you’ll also find one of the oldest and most beautiful fine-food restaurants of Paris. Art Nouveau enthusiasts should book a table at the Lucas Carton restaurant, to enjoy lunch amid the magnificent wood panelling sculpted by Louis Majorelle.
Time for an exotic change of scene! If you think you’ve seen all there is to see in the covered passages of Paris, try this one! With its shopfronts decorated in pink, yellow and red, the passage Brady, AKA Little India, is well worth a visit. So prepare for an alternative voyage through India and Pakistan.
What makes this long walkway so different is that it was split into two to accommodate the Boulevard de Strasbourg, just a few years after it was built. Hence, you’ll explore not one but two separate passages, one with a glass roof, the other uncovered.
So make yourself comfortable at one of the many Indian restaurants in the covered passage Brady. The dahl, cheese nan and kulfi are truly exotic delights. And to prolong the pleasure even further, visit the grocery shops here to stock up on spices and other flavoursome specialities
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- Copyright image: Aisle with stores and restaurants in the Galerie Vivienne, Paris