Visiting the Galerie Vivienne, Paris: 176-metre shopping arcade dating from 1823
An early shopping arcade, still a high quality venue
In my wanderings a number of years ago in the vicinity of the Library of France (French: Bibliothèque de France) and the Palais royal, I was pleased to come across the Galerie Vivienne.
This Paris shopping arcade dates from 1823. The Galerie Vivienne was first known as the Galerie Marchoux, named for the notary and entrepreneur who created it. One of the Galerie's entrances is, however, at 6, rue Vivienne, and it was as the Galerie Vivienne that it in due course came to be known. The entrance to the Galerie at 6, rue Vivienne has two Ionic inset columns (or possibly pilasters), with decorative, allegorical figures above the entablature, and a Syrian arch. The other entrances share similar, Syrian arches, but with different details. At the entrances, considerable use has also been made of wrought ironworking.
Other of the Galerie's entrances are at 4, rue des Petits-Champs and 5-7, rue de la Banque. The Galerie Vivienne is located in Paris's 2nd arrondissement.
Its architect was François-Jean Delannoy. The many boutiques in the interior of the Galerie Vivienne have neo-Classical frontages; the whole is enclosed by a glass canopy with a cupola. The Galerie is noted for its mosaic flooring by Giandomenico Facchina (who also decorated the Paris Opera) and Mazzioli.
In some ways, the Galerie Vivienne is comparable to other early, shopping arcades, such as the Burlington Arcade, London, England, the Galeries Royales St.-Hubert / Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen , Brussels, or the Galleria Umberto I, Naples or Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan.
The Galerie Vivienne is known for its high quality boutiques, including for fashionable clothing, restaurants, a bookstore and an art gallery. The name of a tea shop in the Galerie is amusing: A priori thé!
From time to time actresses are spotted shopping in the Galerie Vivienne. One trader reported that 'a very big Monsieur' called Pavarotti was a frequent client (2). Another commentator, Paul Dobraszczyk, has coined a quotable line about the Galerie Vivienne which seemed so good that I thought I would reproduce it: 'the Galerie Vivienne exudes a sense of nostalgia for the personalised luxury commodity of yesteryear' (3).
Now for some comments in stark contrast. My visit to the rue Vivienne also coincided with moments of very sober reflection. A short distance north along rue Vivienne from its entrance to the Galerie Vivienne is an historical plaque which recalls that in World War Two, during the Nazi German occupation, Jewish schoolchildren were deported from the vicinity to their deaths in a concentration camp. The memory was compounded by the fact it was not the Nazi German troops who made the initial arrests but the French police, acting under the orders of the collaborationist Vichy régime.
Even now it is hard to take in that in Paris, with its reputation for enlightenment, such events — and other similar ones — could take place.
February 4, 2015
(1) See also (in French; illustrated): http://www.galerie-vivienne.com/
(2) See also: http://paris-expat.com/paris-people/the-sultana-of-scarves/
(3) See also: http://ragpickinghistory.co.uk/tag/galerie-vivienne/
Also worth seeing
Among the bewildering wealth of the city of Paris's visitor attractions are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe; Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur church, the Paris Opera; the National Assembly (French: Assemblée nationale) at the Bourbon Palace (French: Palais Bourbon); place de la Concorde; the Champs-Elysées; the Louvre; the Madeleine church; the Sainte-Chapelle; and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The Galerie Vivienne is located near the Métro station Bourse, on Line 3. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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