French Friday – Paris Passages

French FridayThere are magical places in Paris. They have the ability to transport you back in time. To the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century to be precise. These portals are called passages and stepping across the threshold of almost any one of them provides a peek into what the Paris of old and as well as the Belle Epoque was like.

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I was recently uploading photos of several Paris passages to my Vieux Paris Wanderlist on AFAR and I realized that I had never written about them here!

Built in the 1800’s these passages are such a unique peek into the old Paris, but they are often overlooked and aren’t well advertised. It’s a good thing for you as they aren’t really touristy. Best of all, they are free!

The passages were designed as shopping arcades to protect the well-to-do from the unsightly and malodorous rues. They were beautifully appointed with art-deco glass and marble floors with magnificent mosaics.

Galerie Vivienne
Galerie Vivienne, 6 Galerie Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France

Today, depending on the passage you’ll find historical brasseries like Le Grand Colbert in the Galerie Colbert, a famous wax museum Musee Grevin in Passage Verdeau (the window display scared me to death!) or couture shops like Christina Louboutin in Galerie Vero-Dodat.

Passage des Pan0ramas
Passage des Panoramas, 17 Passage des Panoramas, 75002 Paris

I haven’t been to all of them myself. Mr. Misadventures and I visit a couple every time we visit Paris. There are only 26 of them left so we space them out as something fun to do every time we are in Paris. They’re perfect for any time of the year whether you have cold, wet weather and want to get out of the elements or if it becomes oppressively hot, you can sneak into this surprisingly cool spaces.

Passage Verdeau
Passage Verdeau, 6 Rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009 Paris

More importantly, they are great places to soak up history and culture as well as take amazing photos!

More Passage Resources

From A View on Cities: Passages & Galeries

From the Guardian: Paris Hidden Passages

From Paris Best Lodge: Les Passages couverts de Paris

From Better Paris Photos: Exploring the covered passages of Paris

From Squidoo: Top 10 Passages of Paris

[In French] Wikipedia: Passages couverts de Paris 

How about you? Have you visited a passage in Paris? Do you have a favorite?  Is this a new discovery for you?

26 Comments

  1. Christina
    October 5, 2012

    I never knew about these! How interesting. I will have to check them out next time we are in Paris!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 5, 2012

      @Christina, that is what is so great about them, they are relatively unknown and so fun to explore!

      Reply
  2. François Roland
    October 5, 2012

    If I remember well the Musée Grévin is in “Passage Jouffrroy”, near “passage Verdeau” but after you crossed ‘”rue de la Grange Batelière” 🙂
    The Parisian passages are great effectively, and as a genuine Parisian I think I know them all. Verdeau, Jouffroy, or Vivienne are wonderful, but lately I sadly noted that some of them have really lost some of their past glow, like Passage Brady, or the last ones which end on rue St Denis (passage Lemoine, passage du Caire or passage Ponceau).
    Nevertheless I still entice people to go and see them because they give a good idea of what have been our wonderful Paris something like two centuries ago! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 5, 2012

      @François, thanks for the correction! There are definitely some that are better than others, I love to discover them with the hope that they will still be a good representation of the Paris before. I have only ever seen a few of these in London and then of course Paris, I think it is exceptional that these are in tact and wish other cities around the world made an effort to keep them.

      Reply
  3. François Roland
    October 5, 2012

    What I really regret is that we couldn’t keep marvellous buildings like “Le pont au change” :
    http://www.terminartors.com/files/artworks/4/6/0/46091/Raguenet_Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste-La_joute_des_mariniers_entre_le_pont_Notre-Dame_et_le_Pont-au-Change.jpg

    Patrick Süskin talks of this bridge in “The perfume”, and the life that was to be found of this bridge really sound lik dreamy. Now it takes to go in Florence and visiting the “Ponte Vecchio” to enjoy such treasure of the past. Even if I tend to think that the “Pont au Changes” was even more crazy in it’s design.

    http://www.nicobastone.com/images/Ponte-Vecchio-Exhibition-Large.jpg

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 5, 2012

      @François, I love that movie and I completely agree. I was just re-watching an episode of Des racines et des ailes from January ’11 about native Parisians fighting to safegard some historical spots, it is important work! What do you think of the locks on the bridges? On one had I love looking at them and what they represent, on the other I miss the days where I could take a photo of the bridges without them!

      Reply
  4. François Roland
    October 6, 2012

    Of course the movie is not bad at all, and I appreciated it as well. All occasions to have an idea of the old Paris are good to be taken! 🙂 But the real great treat is in the book of P. Süskind which I quote in my own book (Being French!) by the way, in the chapter addressing the “Five Senses.”
    About the locks, my thinking is quite close to yours, and I’d definitely vote that they chose another place than high valued historical places like our beautiful Parisian bridges for that. Of course I like the idea that people are making love oaths, but I can’t help having mixed feeling about leaving it to those “Made in China” cheap little locks. Because due to what I know of the aptitude of our young people for commitment today, the best case scenario is that a great many of these locks are just telling lies to us.
    Let’s say that a magic spell would unlock and throw down to the ground all the locks of lovers who broke up in the years following their vow. How many locks would remain hanging on the bridges?
    It seems to me that the more people relish signs and symbols of all kinds the less they prove to have resilience and courage such as sticking to their commitments throughout the vicissitudes of life. Well, it’s just my own impression 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 7, 2012

      @François, je sis d’accord avec vous (about the locks!) I will have to look into the book you mentioned.

      Reply
  5. Daisy de Plume
    October 6, 2012

    What a lovely post, Andi, thanks! The photo of the white-haired gentleman approaching Passage Verdeau is fantastic. I, too, love the passages and have just started the very intimidating (so I’ll be reading it for the next ten years) Walter Benjamin work “Arcades” all about this period.

    To list 2 very different faves that you and Mr Misadentures have no doubt been to: Passage du Cerfs (which has gotten all chi-chi *spelling, please?*, but has also remained as a community within the chi-chi-ness. This is a pleasure, as I think gentrification sometimes puts that sense of community at risk, and just jumps full throttle into shop-keeper-cut-throat). And then a second stunning passage is the very run-down, grotty Passage du Prado, running as an L from Fbg St Denis to the Grands Boulevards. The ceiling fixtures are gorgeous, of art nouveau details below the glass.

    All are a pleasure to linger on, thanks for bringing it up!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 7, 2012

      @Daisy, I have not been to either the two you mentioned, cannot wait to check them out on a future trip. We love visiting one or two on each trip.

      Reply
  6. Daisy de Plume
    October 6, 2012

    oh and for some reason I have to mention this – My husband, El Argentino, and I had our civil wedding at the Mairie in the 2nd, so we were lucky enough to have our procession go through the Passage Vivienne to the Palais Royal for our champagne and strawberries. What luck — by Arrondissement chance!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 7, 2012

      @Daisy, how wonderful, that sounds beautiful!

      Reply
  7. jen
    October 7, 2012

    How magnificent. The more you write about Paris the more I want to go. I didn’t realize the metropolitan area is 12 million strong, which I finally googled. That’s bigger than Greater NYC. I also enjoyed the dialogue here with your commenter Francois. I like his comments about the French love locks. It’s very poetic and makes me think about all the people I’ve loved in the past, and I wonder if we ever really become unlocked from them, for good or bad. =0

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 7, 2012

      @Jen, I think you will love it!

      Reply
  8. Lady Jennie
    October 7, 2012

    This is ultra cool – I had no idea! I have to tweet this.

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 8, 2012

      @Jennie, thanks! Paris still has its secrets.

      Reply
  9. Agness (@Agnesstramp)
    October 11, 2012

    Something to check on for me when going to Paris next time. Interesting reading, made my day x

    Reply
    1. Andi
      October 11, 2012

      @Agness, please do! They are great for all weathers!

      Reply
  10. Liz
    November 20, 2012

    I’m very excited about my future first trip to Paris ^_^
    Loved all of the information and helpful links!
    Thank you for sharing your adventures!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      November 29, 2012

      @Liz, love to hear how it goes! Want to share your adventures in a guest post?

      Reply
  11. Mandara
    November 25, 2012

    How beautiful and quaint I envy you being able to visit them, how neat to keep up with them all and visit them all!

    Reply
  12. Sarah p.
    November 27, 2012

    That passage looks magical! I can’t wait til the day when I get to explore France and it’s neighbours! One day 🙂 Such history there!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      November 29, 2012

      @Sarah, hope you get there!

      Reply
  13. Claudina
    February 12, 2013

    This is really interesting. Next time I go to Paris I will definitely look into these passages! I started reading some more of the links you included! Thank you so much, I enjoyed it a lot!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      February 14, 2013

      @Claudina, they are really wonderful, please do try them out.

      Reply
  14. […] behind an abundance of more polished Art Nouveau buildings and indoor shopping galleries. Those passages are one of my favorite spots in Paris to catch a glimpse of this fin-de-siècle glamour. The Belle […]

    Reply

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