ABOUT THE COVERED PASSAGES PARIS
The Covered Passages Paris (Passages Couverts Paris in French) are a world apart from the crowded museums or busy Grands Boulevards and one of the best Paris hidden gems. By the end of the XVIIIth century town planners created a labyrinth of commercial covered walkways across the city with beautiful stained glass ceilings, mosaic works and iron latticework, all bathed in natural light. Apart from its dominating merchant role, they were also the new bourgeois’ favorite stroll, the place to show up and socialize in its endless cute cafes, restaurants or small theaters.
Over the years only few covered walkways survived. Restored to its former glory, they are nowadays real Art Nouveau / Neoclassical architectural gems and if you know where to look you will find delightful ancient boutiques, cute cafes and other curiosity shops. These charming Parisian walkways, totally free to visit, are the perfect shelter for a rainy day but also a trip back in time to the wonderful Belle Époque.
Luckily most of these covered walkways in Paris are in the 2nd and 9th Paris arrondissements so you can go from one covered walkway to the following one by foot. With few exceptions, they open from Monday to Saturday, during the business hours.
OUR FAVORITE COVERED WALKWAYS IN PARIS
1. GALERIE VIVIENNE – THE MOST ELEGANT
4 rue des Petit-Champs 75002 Paris ; M. Bourse L3 or Palais Royal –Musée du Louvre L1, L7, Velib station #2009
Built in 1823, this covered walkway is considered the most beautiful, elegant and exquisite covered passage in Paris. If you have time to visit only one covered walkway, choose this one. Today Galerie Vivienne Paris gathers luxury boutiques, bookshops, fabric shops and lovely Paris bistros. Don’t miss its elegant architecture and the original mosaic floor with the names of the former shops at the entrance of them.
» OUR MUST SEE’S: check the world reputed Wolff & Descourtis (#18) for its cashmere shawls and fashionable fabric designs. Legrand Filles et Fils (1 rue de la Banque) is considered the best wine shop in Paris (more than 3000 labels). Librairie F Jousseamme (#45) is a famous bookshop, also selling beautiful ancient postcards.
» THE PERFECT BREAK: Bistrot Vivienne (rue des Petits Champs), a typical Paris bistro with quality traditional cuisine. A Priori Thé (#35) is an elegant cute cafe and tearoom.
2. PASSAGE COLBERT – THE ETERNAL RIVAL
2 rue Vivienne 75002 Paris ; M. Bourse L3 or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre L1, L7, Velib station #2009
Its entrance is on the same street than Galerie Vivienne so it is impossible to get lost! Actually Passage Colbert (1826) was built to be in competition with Galerie Vivienne but it was less successful than its rival. Don’t miss the richness of its architecture and neoclassical decoration and of course its 15-metres diameter rotunda, its main feature. This covered walkway is mainly orientated towards culture so there are no shops here. It hosts l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and L’Institut National du Patrimoine.
» THE PERFECT BREAK: the restaurant Le Grand Colbert (2 rue Vivienne), with its unique Art Nouveau atmosphere, for a nice meal or an excellent hot chocolate in the afternoon.
3. PASSAGE DU GRAND CERF – THE HIDDEN GEM
145 rue de Saint Denis 75002 Paris ; M. Étienne-Marcel L4, Velib station #1102
One of the most beautiful covered walkways in Paris, not easy to find though. It was built in 1825 on the site of the Hôtel du Grand Cerf, from which it took its name. Its pleasing interior has many curious crafts, artisan shops and high quality jewelries. Don’t miss its spectacular 12 metre-high structure made of metal and wrought iron with a beautiful glass roof and its flourished balconies on the first floor.
» OUR MUST SEE’S: Eric et Lydie (#7), contemporary jewelry designers. Pour Vos Beaux Yeux (#10) specializes in vintage eye-wear. Rickshaw (#7) sells curious objects from all around the world.
» THE PERFECT BREAK: Le Pas Sage (#1) is a wine bar perfect to finish your shopping in style.
4. PASSAGE DES PANORAMAS – THE OLDEST
11 boulevard de Montmartre 75002 Paris ; M. Richelieu-Drouot L8 and 9 or Grands Boulevards L8 and 9, Velib station #2108
Built in 1799 along two arrondissements, Passage des Panoramas is the oldest of the surviving covered passages in Paris and the first one illuminated with gas lamps in 1816. Its name comes from the two large rotundas built at the entrance of the passage (disappeared today) to display panoramic paintings of Paris, Toulon, Rome, Jerusalem, and other famous cities. This labyrinthine covered walkway is home to the Théâtre des Variétés which entertains Parisians since 1807. But most of all, Passage des Panoramas is known for its philately shops. Therefore if you like old stamps, postcards and coins, this is the place to go.
» OUR MUST SEE’S: the French engraving and printer Henri Stern (#47) set up shop here in 1834. Today the shop is working as a fancy cafe but you still can see original details of the former shop. The Artists’ entrance to Théâtre des Variétés (#17). Tombées du Camion (#44) is a cute shop with interesting (sometimes weird) collectibles.
» THE PERFECT BREAK: Restaurant Noglu (#16), one of the few gluten-free eateries in Paris. Les Racines (#8) specializes in trendy natural wines. La Crêperie (#62) proposes yummy crêpes and ice creams.
5. PASSAGE JOUFFROY – THE MOST GENUINE
10 boulevard de Montmartre 75009 Paris; M. Grands Boulevards L8 and 9, Velib station #2108
If you want to know how these covered walkways looked like in their heydays, during the XIXth century, Passage Jouffroy is the place to go. Crowded and packed with quirky boutiques, this covered passage is always fun to walk. This is also the most touristy passage thanks to Musée Grevin, the Parisian version of Madame Tussaud’s, with the exit inside this passage. Don’t miss its structure: this is the first Parisian passage built entirely of metal and glass with the only exception of the decorative elements in wood. We also like the floor, paved with a geometric pattern composed of white, gray and black squares.
» OUR MUST SEE’S: Pain d’Épices (#29) and La Boite à Joujoux (#41) are two old fashioned toy shops worth a visit. Quirky Segas (#34) specializes in antique walking sticks. Librairie du Passage (#48 ) proposes second hand books and beautiful vintage posters.
» THE PERFECT BREAK: stop at Café Zéphyr (12 Boulevard de Montmartre) to enjoy a nice Art Déco atmosphere and some French pastries. And why not sleeping inside the passage? Stay at charming Hôtel Chopin (#46) for a fashionable sleep, with good deals if you book in advance.
6. PASSAGE BRADY – THE MOST EXOTIC
43, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin 75010 ; M. Chateau d’Eau L4 or Strasbourg Saint Denis L4,8 and 9, Velib station #10002
It is easy to understand why people call this covered walkway “Little India”: this colorful and perfumed passage is full of of Indian, Pakistan, Mauritian and Reunion curry restaurants, spice shops and bazaars. Built in 1828 by the merchant M. Brady, Passage Brady was originally a beautiful covered passage with an elegant rotunda to compensate its irregular design. In 1854 the passage was cut to let the new Boulevard de Strasbourg pass. Today only the part linking rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis to boulevard de Strasbourg is covered. Don’t miss the beautiful Art Nouveau inscription with the name of the passage at the entrance. The view from the first floor of eateries deserves a lunch or dinner there.
» OUR MUST SEE’S: Épicerie Velan (#87) to buy Indian and Pakistani specialties (and any kind of species).
» THE PERFECT BREAK: La Reine du Kashmir (#80), restaurant awarded with different Indian gastronomy prices.
SLEEP IN THE COVERED WALKWAYS
The hostel’s entrance is through one of the most beautiful covered passages in Paris (Passage Jouffroy) so you can enjoy the passage’s everyday life and special atmosphere during all your stay. Good deals if you book in advance
Have you visited the Covered Passages in Paris? Which is your favorite one?
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