In the early 19th century, over 150 covered passageways provided pedestrians with a dry and clean retreat from the rainy, gritty streets of Paris. Over the decades, the rise of department stores caused Paris’ galeries to decline. A sixth of those passages have been repaired by private owners, with around two dozen open to the public today. I’ve made a list of my favorites, whether for their breathtaking architecture, affordable cuisine or notable shops. Enjoy!
If You Want to See the Architecture
- 1st Arrondissement, connecting Rue de Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Rue de Croix-des-Petits-Champs
- The elegant black and white tiled floor, dark wooden paneling and high-end antique shops have preserved the galerie’s original ambiance and spirit, giving the impression that this passageway should still be lit by gas lamps.
Galerie Colbert (created: 1826)
- 2nd Arrondissement, crossing between Petits-Champs and Rue Vivienne
- The sleek tiles, creamy walls and statues lead down to a rotunda flaunting a circular domed skylight. The galerie opens into several art museums.
Passage du Grand-Cerf (created: 1825)
- 2nd Arrondissement, starting on Saint-Denis and finishing on rue Dussoubs
- Whimsical and elegant, this passage invites window-shopping antiques and jewelry underneath wrought-iron and glass skylights. The quaint Le Pas Sage Cafe nestled into the entrance entices passersby with rich coffee tones and a simple, fresh French menu.
Passage des Panoramas (created: 1799)
- 2nd Arrondissement, between Montmartre boulevard and rue Saint-Marc
- The oldest covered passageway in Paris. While its not the most architecturally complex, its mixture of cafes and art studios gives it a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.
If You Want to Eat
- 2nd Arrondissement, a continuation of Rue de Choiseul
- The longest of the covered passageways; avoid the temptation of expensively elegant clothes and head for the wonderful mix of moderately priced restaurants specializing in all-nature and ethnic concentrations.
Galerie de la Madeleine (created: 1824)
- 8th Arrondissement, opening at the Place de la Madeleine and finishing on rue Tronchet
- Lively and bright with natural sunlight, the shops in this galerie offer perhaps the most affordable and authentic baguette sandwiches in the area.
Passage Brady (created: 1828)
- 10th Arrondissement, between rue du Faubourgh-Saint-Denis and rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin
- Definitely not the most scenic, but its Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants and stores are both sensibly priced and irresistible.
If You Want to Shop
- 2nd Arrondissement; rue Vivienne, neighbors with the Galerie Colbert
- The mosaic floor, elaborate painting and sculptures, half-moon windows and sprawling chandeliers make it perhaps the prettiest of all the galeries. Additionally, its children’s stores, bookshops, art galleries and fine dining offer a less-touristy opportunity for souvenirs.
Passage du Havre (created: 1849)
- 9th Arrondissement; opens at Place du Havre and finishes on rue de Caumartin
- In the early 1990’s this passage was transformed into a commercial complex with over forty stores and restaurants. Modern shops such as H&M, FNAC, Gap and Lush can be found amongst skylights, a terrace and a garden.