Most Parisian covered passages were built and had their hour of glory during the 19th century. They were meant for the upper class and thus were built near busy streets, enabling the clients to wander away from the rain and the mud. After Paris, the concept started to appear in provinces and other countries before disappearing with the arrival of department stores. Many of the passages built at the time have been destroyed, forgotten or are now inaccessible. Some have managed to renew themselves though, and are now an inherent part of the Parisian landscape.
1) Galerie Véro-Dodat
Built in 1826 to join the Palais-Royal to the Halles, the Galerie Véro-Dodat boomed quickly thanks mostly to the Messageries Laffitte et Caillard business. People wandered inside the gallery and its fashion boutiques while waiting for their coach.
It is now one of the most discreet galleries in Paris but its neoclassical style, its elegant glass roof and the woodwork on its facade keep it from going unnoticed.
If you look up when you come to the gallery through the rue du Bouloi entrance, you can see two original statues: one of Hermes with its winged helmet and the other of a resting satyr.
There are jewellery stores, art galleries and different restaurants in it but it is for the Christian Louboutin workshop boutique that the Véro-Dodat gallery is mostly known. You can have a drink at the Café de l’Epoque and a bite at the Véro-Dodat which is famous for its traditional cooking.
Entrance: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 7am to 10pm
2) Passage Choiseul
The Passage Choiseul opened in 1827 and is more than 600 feet long, making it the longest of the capital.
You can find different shops at the lower level and the mezzanine, whereas the 1st and 2nd floors are mostly residential.
The beautiful glass roof standing over the passage was replaced in 1907 and restored in 2012 – along with the rest of the gallery, which had been closed for renovation for years.
The passage was classified as a historic monument in 1974 for its interior facades – which are still visible – and some part of its roofing.
You can enjoy some delicious Korean dishes at the Little Seoul* restaurant – prices are reasonable and the employees are friendly – before getting a massage (or even sleep) in one of the high-tech zero gravity seats of the Bar à Sieste*.
Entrance: 40 rue des Petits Champs, 75002, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm
3) Galerie Colbert
The Colbert Galerie was opened in 1826 and was classified as a historic monument in 1974. It is known for its magnificent rotunda, on which sits a glass dome. Berlioz himself played from one of the windows of the mezzanine.
The gallery is unique because of its lack of shops. It was bought in 1980 by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the National Library of France) and it now houses the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (National Institute for Art History), the Institut National du Patrimoine and many other research labs and PhD programs from different French universities, including the prestigious Sorbonne.
It is still accessible to the public – to contemplate the architecture of the gallery and the rotunda.
You can find refreshments at Le Grand Colbert brasserie – which has been a filming location for many films, including the French comedy “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu”.
Entrance: 2 rue Vivienne, 75002, Paris
Opening hours: all day, every day
4) Passage des Panoramas
The Passage des Panoramas was opened in 1799, which makes it the oldest covered passage in Europe. It was also the first to test gas lights – making it the ancestor of modern shopping malls.
It was classified as a historic monument in 1974 and you can still contemplate the facades of the old chocolate factory Marquis and the shop of the famous engraver, Stern – whose workshop has been turned into a coffee shop. The passage is a temple dedicated to food.
Whatever your taste or your wallet, there is something for everyone. From the Italian cuisine of Racines, to the two Michelin stars of the Passage 53 and the gluten-free recipes of NOglu, it is the home of more than 10 restaurants and bistros.
The passage is also known for hosting the Théâtre des Variétés* – which has been giving life to its corridors for more the two hundred years – and for having Emile Zola falling for it to the point of incorporating the passage in its book “Nana”.
Entrance: 11 boulevard Montmartre, 75002, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, from 6am to midnight
5) Galerie Vivienne
Built in 1823 behind the Richelieu library, and at a short walking distance from the Palais-Royal, the geographical location of the Galerie Vivienne* soon made it one of the must-see places of Paris.
Despite a drop in the number of visitors by the end of the Second Empire – as for every other covered passage – it has never fallen into oblivion and it even gained a renewed interest from the public in the 80s when it welcomed Jean-Paul Gaultier’s very first workshop. Even though he moved in 2014, the Vivienne gallery has managed to be sustainable. The caduceuses, anchors, horns of plenty, goddesses and nymphs adorning the rotunda were restored in 2016.
Its neoclassical Pompeian style, colourful mosaics and high glass roof turned it into an iconic Parisian place.
It is the home of many fashion and designer stores, bouquinistes, coffee shops and restaurants.
Entrance: 5 rue de la Banque, 75002, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 8:30am to 8:30pm
6) Passage Jouffroy
Created in 1845 to extend the Passage des Panoramas, the Passage Jouffroy was the first passage to be entirely made of glass and metal. Only the ornaments are made out of wood.
It was also the first passage to have underfloor heating. The marble paving creates an illusion of depth, which is reinforced by the glass roof shaped like an ogive.
The passage was classified as a historic monument in 1974.
It gained fame around 1880 when Arthur Meyer and Alfred Grévin decided to create a gallery of characters made out of wax in one of the buildings. Some of the statues were put in the passage and it became the exit of the famous Grévin museum. To this day it has allowed the sustainability of the passage.
While wandering between the libraries and the canes shop you can buy sweets at La Cure Gourmande candy store, have a cup of tea at the famous Valentin teahouse or even take a nap at the Hôtel Chopin – which has been around since 1846.
Entrance: 10-12 boulevard Montmartre, 75009, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 7am to 9:30pm
7) Passage du Grand-Cerf
Opened in 1825, the Passage du Grand-Cerf with its 40 feet tall glass roof is the highest passageway in Paris.
After being abandoned for years by the state, it was bought in 1985 and finally underwent some restoration work.
You can now find different jewellery and designer shops as well as some highly specialised haberdashery stores.
If you feel like eating you can stop by the wine bar Le Pas Sage to have some tapas, a casserole or a platter of cheese and cold cuts.
Entrance: 145 rue Saint-Denis, 75002, Paris
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 8:30am to 8:30pm
* the website is not yet available in English