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Top 10 Passages of Paris

Updated on November 15, 2010

What are the Passages of Paris?

If you've already scaled the talent of Monsieur Eiffel, covered your shoes in the white shingle of the Tuilleries Gardens and had your heart stolen by the view from Sacre Coeur... then it's time to embark on a new discovery, as it's only the intrepid traveler that ventures off the beaten track...

Paris is blessed with pre-20th century 'shopping malls' - long glass roofed corridors lined with charming shops, restaurants, boutiques and specialist shops, you'll be transported back to the early 1800s as you gaze at the beautiful glass and iron structures and original features.

So here's a list of ones that you, the intrepid traveler, can visit, free of charge...it's like visiting a museum, restaurant and going window shopping all at the same time AND in any weather...perfect!

Galeries du Bois du Palais Royal in the 18th Century (artchitecture.skynetblogs.be)
Galeries du Bois du Palais Royal in the 18th Century (artchitecture.skynetblogs.be)

So How Did These Passages Come About?

Based on the idea of a souk, a covered area in which to meet, shop and browse, it is believed that in Paris it was the Galeries du Bois du Palais Royal built in 1786, that became the model for the passages of Paris that appeared in the coming years. This arcade, which used to house 120 luxury boutiques, was one of the most popular spots in Paris before 1830 and surrounds the central gardens of Palais Royal which is open to the public.

Imitation of the elegant and highly favoured Galeries du Bois du Palais Royal, saw the construction of galleries such as Galerie Feydeau (1791 - no longer exists), Passage Caire (1798 - present day) and Passage Panoramas (1799 - present day). Following on from this trend, some 30 more passages were built during the Bourbon Restoration (1815-1830) and diffused to other major cities of France and by 1850, Paris boasted almost 150 passages. when today there remain under 30. As a result of the redesign of Paris by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the 1860s along with the competition the boutiques faced from the appearance of Les Grands Magasins (Department Stores such as Bon Marche 1852), many of the passages faced destruction.

These pre-20th Century shopping malls were a hit with the upper classes, as it meant they could shop and socialise at leisure, away from the rain, noise, smells and 'unsightly riffraff' of Paris. They were even frequented by famous French figures and writers and were often a chosen theme and were reference to by authors such as Balzac and Zola.

The galleries themselves are works of architectural art; their iron structured glass roofs, marble or tiled floors give you more to look at than just the shop windows. Today some galleries have been made private and some, lucky for us, are open to the public for us to peruse these living museums.

The Top 10 Passages of Paris

Passage du Caire (PeterPhoBlogspot)
Passage du Caire (PeterPhoBlogspot)

1. Passage du Caire

Access: Rue du Caire, Rue Saint Denis, Rue Dussouds, Paris 75002

Metro Line 3: Sentier

Open: Mon-Fri 7am - 18:30

The longest of all the galleries of Paris at almost 400m, it's also the oldest and narrowest, constructed in 1798, named after Napoleon's campaign in Egypt the same year. You'll notice the hieroglyphics and heads of the Egyptian goddess Hathor above the entrance to the passage. This area is a centre for the textile industry and consequently within this long gallery you'll mostly find wholesale clothes shops, though originally it would have housed lithography and printing houses.

Passage des Panoramas (Linternaute.com)
Passage des Panoramas (Linternaute.com)

2. Passage des Panaromas

Access: Boulevard Montmartre, Rue Saint Marc, Paris 75002

Metro Line 8, 9: Grands Boulevards

Open: Everyday 6am - midnight

One of Paris' first passages which has existed since 1799, built on the site of the pre-existing gardens of the 18th Century Hotel Particulier, L'Hôtel de Montmorency-Luxembourg. It was also one of the first public places in Paris to be lit by gas lamp in 1817. Not only is it visually splendid, apart from its usual eateries such as the typically Parisian wine specialist and restaurant, 'Racine', and a variety of wooden faceted shops, it's a great centre for stamp collectors and also has a wonderful antique postcard shop. It is also the home of the famous Theatre des Varietes which opened in 1807, now owned by the French actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo. Another historic spot is the engraving shop owned by the Stern family since the 1840s. If it's worthy of inclusion in Emile Zola's Nana, it's certainly worth a visit!

Passage Brady (SpottedbyLocals.com)
Passage Brady (SpottedbyLocals.com)

3. Passage Brady

Access: Faubourg Saint Martin, Faubourg Saint Denis, Paris 75010

Metro Line 4: Chateau D'Eau

Open: 24/7

Built in 1828, this passage is famous for its exotic flavours! It's situated in the north of Paris towards Gare de l'Est and if you're ever looking to eat a curry in Paris, then here's just the place! It's affordable and offers a range of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants as well as cheap hair cuts, 5 euro DVDs, exotic fruits and vegetables and even sari material! It's like a pocket of the East in north eastern Paris. Structurally speaking, the passage is a little run down, though some original features still remain. A perfect example of the diversity of Paris and a must-see.

Passage Prado glass and iron roof (sportssante.com)
Passage Prado glass and iron roof (sportssante.com)

4. Passage du Prado

Access: Boulevard Saint Denis, Rue Faubourg Saint Denis, Paris 75010

Metro Line 4, 8, 9: Strasbourg Saint Denis

Open: Mon-Sat 8am - 20:00

This passage existed in the late 1700s but it wasn't until 1925 that it had a glass roof installed and became known as Passage Prado, named after the museum in Madrid. Walking through the passage you'll be transported to Turkey, Pakistan and Mauritius, due to the numerous outlets selling Turkish pizzas and coffees and local delicacies making it a real olfactory experience. However, as you tuck into your chapati, don't forget to look up and admire the beautiful iron Art Deco glass roof, the ironwork of the entrance and the floor above the shop levels - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Passage des Prince (wikipedia.com)
Passage des Prince (wikipedia.com)

5. Passage des Princes

Access: Rue de Richelieu, Boulevards des Italien, Paris 75002

Metro Line 8, 9: Richelieu Drouot

Open: Mon-Sat 8am - 20:00

Originally known as Passage Mires, was one that survived Haussman’s demolition of this area’s passages. Thanks to the renovation it underwent on 1994, you can appreciate it in its original splendour with its stained glass rotund and glass roof. It is now home to the Village Joué Club which is a haven for all kids great and small, selling all sorts of toys and games.

Passage Choiseul (Linternaute.com)
Passage Choiseul (Linternaute.com)

6. Passage Choiseul

Access: Rue des Petits Champs, Rue Saint Augustin, Rue Saint Anne, Paris 75001

Metro Line 3: Quatre Septembre

Open: Mon-Sat 7am - 21:00

A passage with a literary and theatrical background, it was built in 1829 and exists today with the original features still intact. It is home to the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, once managed by composer Jacques Offenbach, famous for its productions of operetta and opéra bouffe. It was also home to writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, who immortalised it in his novel 'Death on Credit'. The passage became very popular in the 1970s when Kenzo opened up a store here (since moved). Today the passage is home to a variety of outlets such as book shops, clothing stores, shoe shops, restaurants and cyber cafes and is a fun spot to wander round.

Galerie Vivienne (travelstripe.com)
Galerie Vivienne (travelstripe.com)

7. Galerie Vivienne and Galerie Colbert

Access: Rue Vivienne, Rue des Petits Champs, Paris 75002

Metro Line 3: Bourse

Open: Passage Colbert 24/7 / Passage Vivienne 8:30am-20:30 every day

Pomp and lustre sum up these two galleries which are connected and parallel to each other. Galerie Vivienne was the first to be built in 1823 and is one of the most stunning passages of Paris, elegantly constructed with decorative mosaic floors in an example of beautiful architecture. This luxurious setting is home to numerous designer stores such Jean-Paul Gautier, and chic tea rooms and nic-nac shops providing a sophisticated escape from the noise and weather. Passage Colbert was built a few years later in competition with Galerie Vivienne, and contains a gorgeous large glass roofed rotunda from which used to hang a large bronze chandelier, but now hosts a statue of Eurydice by Charle François Leboeuf. It's a lovely space to walk around in and is also nice and quiet! Both passages contain traditional French brasseries in the style of the gallery and are worth sampling! These are certainly two fine examples of 19th Century passages of Paris.

Passage du Grand Cerf (skyscrapercity.com)
Passage du Grand Cerf (skyscrapercity.com)

8. Passage du Grand Cerf

Access: Rue Saint Denis, Rue Dussouds, Paris 75003

Metro Line 4: Etienne Marcel

Open: Mon-Sat 8:30am-20:30

A beautifully restored passage in the 2nd arrondisement near rue Montorgueil, light and long, it provides you with fantastic jewellery shops, boutiques, clothing, antique and interior design shops. It's a lovely stretch to walk down, shop and admire your surroundings such as the balcony at the entrance of the gallery and the three floor structure. It opened in 1835 and is the tallest passage in Paris with living quarters on the third floor.

Passage Verdeau (Linternaute.com)
Passage Verdeau (Linternaute.com)

9. Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy

Access: Rue de la Grange Bataliere, Boulevard Montmatre, Paris 75003

Metro Line 8, 9: Grands Boulevards

Open: Mon-Fri 7:30am-21:00 Sat-Sun 7:30am-20:30 / Passage Jouffroy: Mon-Sun 7am-21:30

These two passages lead on from Passage des Panoramas, after the intersection of Boulevard Montmartre. Both built in 1847, they are very well known spots of Paris and it is here that you'll find the famous wax museum of Paris, Musee Grevin and Paul Vulin's long standing vintage book shop. There are all sorts of shops here, from an old camera shop, home ware shops and speciality confectionery stores. It's a pleasure to stroll the length of these 19th Century shopping malls and peruse at a leisurely pace. Another point of interest round here is a restaurant called Victoria Station (11, Boulevard Montmartre ) which has been fitted with original 19th Century train seating (not sure how great the food is but worth seeing the deco!)

Galerie Vero-Dodat (en.structurae.de)
Galerie Vero-Dodat (en.structurae.de)

10. Galerie Vero-Dodat

Access: Rue du Bouloi, Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris 75001

Metro Line 8, 12, 14: Madeleine

Open: Mon-Sat 7am-22:00

Just next to the Louvre, chic Galerie Vero-Dodat, named after its two investors Vero and Dodat, connects Rue du Bouloi and Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was built in 1826 in neo-classical style with marble columns, gold trimming, coving, frescoes, and tiled floor and still exists today as a chic spot to shop at. It's elegance is a suitable backdrop for its shops which are mostly high calibre designer boutiques and antique shops such as Christian Louboutin. An interesting but sombre fact: this is the location of Café de l'Ãpoque, where the French writer Gérard de Nerval would often drink. It is here he took his last drink before heading to Châtelet to hang himself!

Accommodation near your favorite Passages

If you're staying in Paris and want to enjoy the Passages, there are lots of nice places you can rent within short distance (walking or metro).

Passage des Panoramas (Linternaute.com)
Passage des Panoramas (Linternaute.com)

What is your favorite Passage of Paris?

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References

toutpourlesfemmes.com

new-paris-ile-de-france.co.uk

cityzeum.com

universalis.fr

ruedusejour.com

palais-royal.monuments-nationaux.fr

paris1900.lartnouveau.com

spottedbylocals.com

sports-sante.com

passage-prado.org/

europeforvisitors.com

parisconnected.wordpress.com

passagedugrandcerf.com

fodors.com

wikipedia.com

artchitecture.skynetblogs.be

passageetgalerie.org

peter-pho2.blogspot.com

peter-olson.blogspot.com

betharnold.com

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