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Paris’ passages couverts: the complete list
In a city as hectic as Paris, what could be more pleasant than taking a detour through one of the capital’s historic passages couverts? Originally designed as the very first shopping malls in France following the revolution; with the rise of the middle and upper-middle class, these covered shopping districts offered a place for ladies to shop, protected from the elements, as well as from pick-pockets or disreputable men. Frozen in their early 19th century splendor, removed from the hustle and bustle of street traffic, these shopping arcades have welcomed pedestrians for over 200 years. A shelter from rain and wind, against heat or cold, Paris’ passages couverts are always there to offer us respite.
Although almost all of Paris’ 150 covered passages were destroyed during Haussmann’s renovation of Paris, 24 remain in-tact and open to the public, all on the Right Bank. Read on to learn more about these architectural delights and follow our guide to discover them for yourself.
1) Passage des Panoramas (2nd arrondissement)
We begin this list with one of the oldest covered passages in Paris, built in 1799. With original light fixtures and decor, the atmosphere of Passage des Panoramas is sure to plunge visitors back in time.
2) Passage Jouffroy (9th arrondissement)
Continuing northward from Passage des Panoramas, walkers crossing boulevard Montmartre will stumble immediately upon Passage Jouffroy. This is the first passage to have heated floors and steel structuring, an architectural revolution at the time.
3) Passage Verdeau (IXth arrondissement)
After exiting Passage Jouffroy, walkers continuing northward will cross rue de la Grange Batalière and hit Passage Verdeau. This is one of Paris’ most charming arcades with its antique dealers and other unusual shops.
4) Galerie Vivienne (2nd arrondissement)
This is Paris’ chicest covered passage, with its gorgeous mosaic floor, glass ceiling, and luxurious high-end boutiques.
5) Galerie Colbert (2nd arrondissement)
Connected to Galerie Vivienne, Galerie Colbert is the only one of Paris’ covered passages that doesn’t house shops or boutiques. Instead, it is home to the Institut Nationale d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) and the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), as well as several university research labs specializing in art history and French cultural studies. Open to the public, walkers are invited to wander freely before stopping for lunch at la brasserie du Grand Colbert, located near the entrance and famous for its Art Deco style. Heading south from either Galerie Vivienne or Galerie Colbert walkers can cross rue des Petits Champs to discover le passage des Deux-Pavillons, which leads to the Jardin du Palais Royale.
6) Galerie Véro-Dodat (Ie arrondissement)
A short walk from the Jardin du Palais Royale lies Galerie Véro-Dodat. From 1966 to 2004, the affluent Tout-Paris swarmed the shop of Robert Capia, French actor and antique dealer. Nowadays, the upper-class elite have an equally spectacular store to visit, that of Christian Louboutin, who opened a boutique here last year.
7) Passage du Grand-Cerf (2nd arrondissement)
Le Passage Grand-Cerf is one of the tallest and most beautifully lit passages in the capital, boasting a 12 meter high ceiling with an immense glass roof. Crossing rue Saint-Denis from its western entrance, strollers will arrive at le passage du Bourg-l’Abbé.
8) Passage du Caire (2nd arrondissement)
At 370 meters long, the Passage du Caire is not only the longest in Paris, but also one of the narrowest and oldest, built in 1798 and boasting a fishbone glass roof. Branching out from this passage lie Galerie Saint-Denis and Galerie Sainte-Foy. If exiting east through Passage Caire, walkers can turn left onto rue Saint-Denis and will see Passage du Ponceau immediately on their right. Afterward, head north on boulevard Sebastopol to hit le passage du Prado near the intersection of boulevard Saint-Denis.
9) Passage Choiseul (2nd arrondissement)
This passage garnered much attention in the 70’s when luxury brand Kenzo opened a boutique there, although later moving to nearby Place des Victoires. These days, the passage remains relatively calm, although it did undergo renovations in 2013. This passage intersects passage Sainte-Anne.
10) Passage Vendôme (3rd arrondissement)
Although it extends from busy place de la République, this passage is relatively uninhabited by shops. It is still, however, one of the 19 covered passages of Paris classified as a historic monument.
11) Passage Molière (3rd arrondissement)
This passage is known for the unique way in which its buildings are numbered. Starting at the eastern entrance, on rue Saint-Martin, building numbers increase on the right side of the passage. Then, once reaching the western-most entrance, the numbers continue to increase on the other side of the passage, creating a counter-clockwise path of increasing numbers. This passage is also one of the few that is uncovered.
12) Passage Brady (10th arrondissement)
Known as “Little India,” Passage Brady is one of the few discontinuous passageways, cut in half by boulevard de Strasbourg since 1852. One half is covered by a glass roof and shelters Indo-Pakistani, Mauritian, and Reunionese restaurants and shops, while the other is open-air.
13) Passage des Princes (2nd arrondissement)
This L-shaped passage is home to several toy stores and video game shops, delighting young and old alike. It was the last one to be built during the Haussmann era.
14) Galerie de la Madeleine (8th arrondissement)
Right off of busy place de la Madeleine, this small, quiet passage is a pleasant place to have a drink. Nearby, the uncovered passageway of le Village Royale is worth visiting, temporarily exhibiting sculptures along Cité Berryer. Until the end of April, 800 colorful umbrellas have been suspended above this tiny pedestrian street; an awe-inspiring promenade definitely worth exploring. To finish off your tour, head north to passage Puteaux, a short, 7-minute walk away.
15) Le passage du Havre (9th)
This large passage formerly housed fish shops and model railroading stores. It was rebuilt in the 90’s to keep up with the surrounding hustle and bustle of the Saint-Lazare/Opéra area and is now a modern shopping mall, housing 40 shops on two floors.
Cover photo: David Pendery [CC BY-SA 4.0]