Undercover: a visit to Paris’ covered passages
There are still many things to do in Paris when the weather is gets cold and the light scarce. With a little ingenuity, you can spend a great afternoon exploring Paris like an insider, and shop to find some original holiday gifts to take back home while enjoying yourself at the same time!
The city built a series of covered passages between the late seventeen and early eighteen hundred, inspired by the architecture of Arab Souks, which was in keeping with the orientalist style of the époque, was conceived to shield wealthy clientele from the elements, while letting light in from above with metal and glass ceilings. You could call them a more stylish precursor for our modern-day shopping malls! At their hay day there were 150 of such passages. Haussmann razed many of these passages to make way for the large boulevards and edifices which were his trademark. Today there are still many passages or “galleries” as they are called when accompanied by shops. And whether you simply wish to admire their graceful architecture or actually shop and sit down in one of the charming cafes and restaurants, one thing is certain, you’ll enjoy their warmth and picturesque atmosphere on a cold day. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting ones.
In 9th arrondissement, between rue Montmartre and rue la de Grand Batelière. Built in 1846, this passage was the first to be entirely constructed in steel and glass and heated from the floor, quite an achievement for the times. This passage houses the exit from the famous wax-works museum the Musée Grevin, which you might want to visit while you’re there.
10-12 Boulevard Montmartre – 75009 Paris. Métro : Grand Boulevards.
Passage des Panoramas
Considered to be the first passage of its kind built in 1799, It opens out of the continuation of the passage Jouffroy on the other side of Boulevard Montmartre. Offering eateries and artisanal wares, as well as a theater, Théâtre des Variétés, opened in 1807 and still functioning, take a trip back in time with stamp collectors, antique postcards, ancient coins and other shops which have conserved their typical savor of the époque.
11 boulevard Montmartre – 75002 Paris. Métro : Opera, Grand Boulevards.
Constructed in 1847, the extension of Panorama and Jouffroy passages, these three passages can easily be visited one after the other. This lovely passage is generously inundated with light thanks to its majestic glass and steel vaulted ceiling. This passage is the go-to for antique aficionados, and collectors of rare and old objects such as stamps, postcards, books and comics among other quaint oddities. The café Bistro deserves its name and serves Parisian-style bistro food and atmosphere to match.
6 rue de la Grange-Batelière – 75003 Paris. Métro : Opera, Grand Boulevards.
Built in 1823, Besides being a chic showcase for many lovely shops, the workshop and store for Christain Louboutin amongst others, including an upscale toy shop florist and cafes, passage Vivienne is a jewel of architecture, with its intricate mosaic tiled floors and glass and steel vaulted ceilings.
4 rue des Petits-Champs – 75002 Paris. Métro : Louvre, Opéra, Grands Boulevards.
This passage’s claim to fame is that it is the longest of the passages, but it attracts fewer crowds, maybe because it pales in comparison to its neighbor, Galerie Vivienne. But the view of its long glass ceiling is impressive and the shops and restaurants allow for a tranquil and romantic stroll as there are less crowds here.
40 rue des Petits Champs – 75002 Paris. Métro : Opéra, Grands Boulevards.
Passage du Grand Cerf
12 meters in height, is the tallest of the passages. Discover many enchanting shops, lighting stores, knitting stores, jewelry among others. The surrounding Montorgueil district is a very charming pedestrian area with cafes, restaurants and upscale shops.
145 rue Saint-Denis – 75002 Paris. Métro : Châtelet, les Halles.