|Covered Passages, Paris, France
|The covered passages of Paris, built mostly in the 1800s, provide a glimpse into the city's history while also offering modern shopping and restaurants.
Parisians have always loved flânerie, or strolling, and the covered passages provided the means to do that and be protected from the elements. With a variety of shops, restaurants, cafés, and book stores, the passages might be thought of as early malls—but with a lot more charm.
Between the late 1700s and the mid 1800s, more than one hundred of these beautiful glass-roofed arcades were built in Paris. Today, about twenty are still in existence and can be visited.
Some of the fancier passages are actually referred to as galleries, such as the Galerie Vivienne or the Galerie Véro-Dodat.
Each has a distinct personality. Some offer shops and restaurants of interest to visitors, while others are more specialized. For example, the Passage du Caire is mostly wholesale clothing, while the Passage du Prado has largely Indian and Pakistani restaurants and services.
Regardless of their focus, all are interesting as architecture and history. Imagine how the Parisians must have enjoyed coming off of the dirty, unpaved, crowded streets into these well-lit, clean, and charming passages!
There are groups of passages in different areas of the city, and you can visit them along with other sites. Here are some suggested groupings.
If you only want to visit a few passages, some of the best are grouped together. For some elegant passages, visit the Galerie Vivienne and the Véro-Dodat, both in the 2nd arrondissement. Or if you're up near the Grands Boulevards and want a more eclectic mix, the Passage des Panoramas is just across the street from the Passage Jouffroy, which connects with the Verdeau. More...
Some of the most visited passages are just off the Boulevard Poissonnière, not far from the Opéra Garnier and the major department stores Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. The Passage des Panoramas is one of the oldest. Just across the Boulevard are the fascinating Passage Jouffroy and the Passage Verdeau. Down the street and just off of the Rue de Richelieu is the Passage des Princes, which is full of toy stores. More...
Some of the most elegant passages (or galeries) are near the Palais-Royal. To the north, the Galerie Vivienne offers a variety of restaurants, tea rooms, and shops, in a beautiful light and airy passage. Just next door is the Galerie Colbert, with its lovely circular courtyard. And the Choiseul is just a couple blocks away. And east of the Palais-Royal is the lovely Véro-Dodat. More...
There are four passages just off the Boulevard de Sébastopol, in the 2nd arrondissement. The unique Passage du Grand Cerf is just across the street from the lovely Passage du Bourg-l'Abbé. A few blocks north are the Egyptian-themed Passage du Caire, and across from it the Passage du Ponceau. More...
Continuing north, the Boulevard de Sébastopol becomes the Boulevard de Strasbourg, and just off of that you'll find the Passage du Prado, with its Indian influences, and the Passage Brady, partly under a roof and partly open. To the east, at the Place de la République, is the small Passage Vendome. More...
The beautiful Église de la Madeleine is in an elegant area of Paris. The Galerie de la Madeleine is small but equally elegant. To the north, near the Gare St-Lazare, is the small Passage Puteaux. More...
As you wander the streets of Paris, you may see vestiges, or sometimes just signs, of other passages that have since been demolished. There was a wonderful network of passages and it's fun to think of them in their prime, serving Parisians and visitors as the remaining ones do today.