Passage du Grand-Cerf
Photo: MOSSOT/Wikimedia Commons
By Jacquelin Carnegie – (Paris, France)
During the 1800s in Paris, around 100 Passages Couverts-- stunning, glass-covered passageways--were constructed to shield well-healed shoppers from the elements. Now, only about 20 remain. Some still house high-end stores, others are more lowbrow, shopping arcades.
Referred to as Passages or Galeries, many have been restored to their former glory with dazzling skylights and mosaic-tiled floors while others are a bit on the shabby side. Regardless, as you wander through, browsing the shops or having a coffee in one of the many bistros, remember you’re following in the footsteps of Balzac and Zola--shopping the way Parisians have done for centuries.
Explore the Passages Couverts
Here’s a selection worth exploring. Just keep your eyes peeled, some Passage entryways are so inconspicuous you’ll walk right by them.
Galerie Véro-Dodat Photo: Gabrielle Robillard/Wikimedia Commons
Enter: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or 2 rue du Bouloi; 1st arrondissement; Metro: Louvre Rivoli
In 1826, two butchers with excellent taste, Véro and Dodat, built this elegant passageway. It’s neo-classical style with black-and-white, checkered marble flooring, stylish white-globe lamps, painted ceilings, and the original wooden shop fronts is a classy setting for art galleries and antique shops selling everything from vintage musical instruments to collectible toys and dolls.
Galerie Vivienne, Photo: Mbzt/Wikimedia Commons
Enter: 4 rue des Petits Champs, or 6 rue Vivienne, or 5 rue de la Banque; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Bourse or Pyramides
Lined with high-fashion boutiques, antiques shops and old bookstores, this passageway is thought to be the most beautiful with a stunning mosaic floor, tall-glass arched store fronts, and potted trees. Built in 1823, it converges with the Galerie Colbert.
Galerie Colbert, Photo: Tangopaso/Wikimedia Commons
Enter at: 6 rue des Petits-Champs, or 6 rue Vivienne; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Bourse or Pyramides
Restored by the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library), this stately passage, built in 1826, leads to a magnificent, glass-covered rotunda. Stand and ponder the bronze statue at its center by Charles-François Leboeuf—Eurydice, Orpheus’ beloved and doomed wife.
Passage du Grand-Cerf
Enter: 145 rue Saint-Denis, or 10 rue Dussoubs; 2nd arrondissement;
Metro: Etienne Marcel
Built in 1835, this impressive interior is three-stories high. The skylights are framed by wrought-iron work and the wood-paneled shop fronts house boutiques for fashion designers, artisans and decorators.
Passage du Grand-Cerf, Photo: Ralf.treinen/Wikimedia Commons
Passage des Panoramas
Enter: 11 Boulevard Montmartre, or 10 rue Saint-Marc; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Grands Boulevards
|Passage des Panoramas, Photo: MarkusMark/Wikimedia Commons|
Built in 1799 and still bustling with activity, this is the oldest covered passage in Paris and the first public place lit by gaslight in 1817. Amid the stamp collectors, antique postcard boutiques, and restaurants, there are new trendy shops and establishments that have stood the test of time such as the Théâtre des Variétés opened in 1807. This passage links to several others: Galerie des Variétés, Galerie Feydeau, Galerie Montmartre & Galerie Saint Marc.
Passage Jouffroy, Photo: MarkusMark/Wikimedia Commons
Enter: 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre, or 9 rue de la Grange-Batelière; 2nd/9th arrondissement; Metro: Grands Boulevards
Directly across from the Passage des Panoramas, Passage Jouffroy, built in 1847, has lots of shops selling collectible movie posters, vintage postcards, antique toys, old books, and interesting curios. There’s even a quirky wax museum opened since 1882, Musée Grévin, and a hotel with budget rooms, Hôtel Chopin.
Passage Verdeau, Photo: Davitof/Wikimedia Commons
Enter: 31bis rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, or 6 rue de la Grange-Batelière; 9th arrondissement; Metro: Le Peletier
The Passage Jouffroy leads to the Passage Verdeau, built in 1847. This passage is only a block long and has a mix of old-fashioned shops selling vintage photographs and prints, stamps, old books and postcards.
Tour the Passages Couverts
To learn more about the history, here are some touring options:
Association Passages et Galeries
Tel: 01/44-71-02-48; www.passagesetgaleries.org
The association offers a guided tour of the passageways at 10:30am on two Saturdays each month (Cost: 10€). Or, download self-guided tours from their website. Under “Les Passages,” click “Les itinéraires” to download maps for 3 walks. Click “Renseignements pratiques” for exact addresses and opening hours (some are closed “fermé” at night and on Sundays).
Try these tours, if you speak French or want some practice (private tours in English but at a much higher price):
Tel: 01/ 73-03-60-03; www.cultival.fr
“Passages Couverts” (The Covered Passages of Paris): An hour and a half tour of several passages: Galerie Véro-Dodat, Galerie Vivienne, Galerie Colbert, Passage des Panoramas (Cost: 9€, adult; 6.50€, child; in French.)
Tel: 01/48-58-37-12; www.visites-spectacles.com
“L’Enigme des Passages Couverts” (The Riddle of the Covered Arcades): A fun option is to experience a “murder mystery” from the 1870s acted out in the passages: Passage des Princes, Passage des Panoramas, Passage Jouffroy, Passage Verdeau. (Cost: 25€, adult; 15€, child; in French.)