The covered passages of Paris, also called Paris passages (or les passages couverts in French) are typically not something people visit their first time to Paris. They are unlikely to discover this secret world just at their fingertips unless they’ve been on Instagram which has changed the world we live in and the Paris I am familiar with. Mr. Misadventures and I often wander les passages de Paris in the morning all alone, like mini ghost towns taking photos at will and enjoying the emptiness.
As usual, I digress! I wanted to provide a little background as to why these little pieces of hidden Paris are precious.
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Truth is, many first-time visitors still come to Paris with high expectations: they are finally going to visit the city of their dreams, the one they have read about in novels, seen in movies, and so on. Of course, the real Paris is a little different.
Paris can be dirty, and its inhabitants are not always the most welcoming toward wide-eyed foreign tourists. Besides, many areas are a far cry from the typical postcard. After all, it is not a museum or a Hollywood backdrop. It is a major capital city with its ups and downs that you learn to love, or at least live with.
However, there are plenty of pockets that seem to be frozen in time. Some of them are well known and attract hordes of tourists. Others are still flying under the radar and will make you fall in love with Paris all over again. One of these attractions that keep me coming back is the covered passages (les passages couverts).
Toward the end of the 18th-century and beginning of the 19th, town planners organized an entire system of passages (or shopping arcades) in the major retail areas around the Louvre and the Grands Boulevards. Often richly decorated with mosaics and glass ceilings, they were conceived to protect the pedestrians from the elements and the hustle of surrounding streets.
They soon became the fashionable place to see and be seen, especially among upper and upper-middle-class ladies, with art galleries, cafes, and refined boutiques. At the height of the trend, Paris included over 140 passages, many connected to each other.
However, things changed when Haussmann dramatically changed the urban landscape of the City of Light between 1852 and 1870. Many of the passages were destroyed during the extensive redevelopment undertaken at the time. The others lost their appeal as the Grands Magasins like the Galeries Lafayette, Le Printemps, or the Bon Marché became more and more popular.
In the decades that followed, many of the passages fell into disrepair. They were not rediscovered until the 1970s when luxury brand Kenzo opened a boutique in Passage Choiseul. In recent years, many have been painstakingly restored into the Art Nouveau works like they once were.
Blink, and you feel like you might find yourself among ladies in sweeping dresses and prosperous merchants twirling their mustache. Others are more utilitarian but still serve the purposes they were built for: a covered passage where retailers and customers can do business without having to worry about the elements.
Here is a list of the surviving covered passages in Paris. With most of them located in the second arrondissement, it is the perfect way to stroll into Paris’ history on a rainy day. Many of them are closed in the evening and on the weekends. Check before setting your heart on one.
Thanks to Ed Coleman of Coleman’s Concierge for the map above!
Passages in the 1eme arrondissement
Galeries du Palais Royal
The Galeries is an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling area. They include several sections surrounding the gardens of the Palais Royal. Once upon a time, it was home to prostitutes and cabarets. Nowadays, you will find luxury boutiques with names like Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, or Pierre Hardy, and restaurants, including Le Grand Vefour.
Address: 2 Place Colette.
Nearest metro: Bourse Line 3 or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre on Line 1 or 7.
The Galerie owes its name to the two butchers who built it in 1826. It is one of the most elegant passages in Paris and has been completely restored in 1997. Although it is relatively short, it feels a lot longer (and grander) thanks to the perspective given by the black and white diamond-shaped marble paving and the dark wood arcades of the window displays. It is home to elegant boutiques, art galleries, a traditional brasserie, and the giant of luxury shoes: Louboutin.
Address: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau to 2 rue Bouloi. Open Monday to Saturday, except on holidays, from 7 am – 10 pm.
Nearest metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre on Line 1 or 7.
Passage des Deux-Pavillons
So-called because of the two pavilions framing its entrance, it is the smallest passage couvert in Paris. Built in the 1820s, it offers an exceptional acoustic. Professional opera singers have been known to perform impromptu concerts for lucky bystanders, especially on Sunday afternoons around 4 pm.
Address: 6 rue de Beaujolais to 5 rue des Petits-Champs.
Nearest metro: Bourse Line 3 or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre Line 1 or 7.
Passages in the 2eme arrondissement
Passage Ben-Aïad is the last remnant of the once-famous Passage du Saumon. It was the setting of decadent balls and bloody riots in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, it is now closed to the public.
Address: 9-11 rue Leopold-Bellan to 8 rue Bachaumont
Nearest metro: Franklin Roosevelt on Line 1, Havre-Caumartin on Line 9 or Sentier on Line 3 (Exit at 2|R. Des Petits Carreaux).
Passage du Bourg-L’Abbé
Built in 1828, the Passage du Bourg-L’Abbé has known both highs and lows. Some beautiful remnants, like its frescos or the Caryatids that guard the entrance, stand witness to its glorious past. However, it was poorly maintained in the 1980s, as the boutiques were used as warehouses. It was even the victim of a fire in the 1990s. Thankfully, it has been painstakingly renovated between 2002 and 2008. Nowadays, it is home to art galleries, offices, and old-fashion trades. It is a lot less dazzling than some of its better-known neighbors, but also very charming with the painted window displays advertising the names of long-gone businesses.
Address: 120 rue de Saint-Denis to 3 rue Palestro. Open Monday to Saturday, except on holidays, from 7.30 am – 7.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Chatelet on Line 14 or Etienne Marcel on Line 4.
Passage du Caire
It may not be the prettiest covered passage in Paris, but it is the longest with a total of 370 m (1200 ft) covered arcades, and it’s the oldest (built in 1789). Located in the heart of the Sentier, a well-known textile business district, it is very much a working area, with most of the tenants being ready-to-wear wholesalers. With its busy professionals, narrow alleys, and six different entrances, it is difficult not to compare it to a hive.
Address: 237-239 rue Saint-Denis – 14,34 44 rue du Caire – 2 Place du Caire – 33 rue d’Alexandrie. Open Monday to Friday, from 7 am – 6.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Réaumur-Sébastopol (Exit at 3|R. Saint-Denis) on Line 4.
Passage du Ponceau
Like the Passage du Caire nearby, the Passage du Ponceau was built to accommodate the needs of the working class rather than idle housewives with plenty of disposable income. There were few original embellishments, and most of them disappeared – like so many other Parisian covered passages – in the decades that followed their fall into disgrace. The Passage du Ponceau is now primarily used as a shortcut between rue Saint-Denis and Boulevard de Sebastopol, with a few charmless stores thrown in for good measure. The aesthetic is a product of the 1970s, and sadly, very little remains of the original elements.
Address: 212, rue Saint-Denis – 119, boulevard de Sébastopol. Open Monday to Friday, from 8 am – 7 pm.
Nearest metro: Strasbourg-Saint-Denis (Exit at 5|R. Saint-Denis) on Line 9.
Passage de Choiseul
Passage de Choiseul covered passage in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement.
At 190 m, it is one of the longest covered arcades in Paris. With its minimalist décor, it is more akin to a covered street than to an Art Nouveau jewelry box some of its neighbors remind me of. Its history is linked to the theater (there is a secondary exit to the Theatre Bouffe in the alley) and literature. Ferdinand Celine, a famous French writer, lived there as a child, and the passage – then in pretty rough shape – makes its appearance as the “Passage des Beresinas” in its book Mort à Crédit (Death on the Installment Plan in English). Thankfully, it has been entirely renovated in the past couple of years. The editor of some of the major poets and writers of the nineteenth century also held a shop here. It significantly contributed to the rediscovery of Paris covered passages since it was home – for a time – to the Kenzo store.
Address: 40, rue des Petits Champs – 23, rue Saint Augustin. Open Monday to Saturday, from 8 am – 8 pm.
Nearest metro: Pyramides on Lines 7 and 14.
This short passage built in 1829 opens up to Passage Choiseul.
Address: 59, rue Sainte-Anne.
Nearest metro: Pyramides on Lines 7 and 14.
Passage Colbert covered passage in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement.
Connected to its neighbor and rival Galerie Vivienne (more on this one later), the Galerie Colbert has the particularity of not holding any shops. It is a temple of knowledge and art history, being home to the Institut Nationale d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), and several university research labs and doctoral schools dedicated to French architectural heritage. Thankfully, it is open to the public, so you can still admire its massive glass rotunda and lavish neoclassic décor.
You may get the feeling that you are walking in the steps of the Parisians from the Belle-Epoque, but you would be (kind of) mistaken. The Galerie Colbert has a tumultuous history, mostly consisting of disappointments for the unlucky investors. It was originally built in 1826 to compete with the widely successful Galerie Vivienne next door. No expenses were spared. However, the Galerie failed to find its public and slowly disappeared into oblivion. By the 1920s, access to the Galerie was condemned.
The materials used to imitate Pompeian architecture, which was all the rage at the time, were not meant to last. Think plaster (a Parisian invention) and wood décor, velum on the glass rotunda… You can guess where this is going. By the time Parisian galleries were rediscovered in the 1970s, Galerie Colbert was beyond repair. In 1983, it was torn down to be painstakingly rebuilt identically in 1985. To enjoy a glimpse into le Beau Paris, have lunch or dinner at the Grand Colbert, an elegant brasserie straight out of a nineteenth-century novel.
Address: 6, rue des Petits Champs – 2 rue Vivienne.
Nearest metro: Bourse Line 3 or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre Line 1 or 7.
Galerie Vivienne covered passage in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement.
Type “Parisian covered passage” on Pinterest, and you will likely end up with countless pictures of the Galerie Vivienne. It is a favorite among the Instagram crowd, and who could blame them? Between the light-flooded arcades, the iconic swirling mosaics, and the fancy boutiques that inhabit it, it is undeniably the most elegant and recognizable passage couvert in Paris. If you can only visit one, Galerie Vivienne is probably the way to go.
The original investors would be proud of this continuous success since the Galerie Vivienne was conceived, from the very beginning, to be the crème de la crème of covered passages. From the fancy décor to the upscale boutiques, everything was thought out to attract the upper-crust clientele from the nearby Palais Royal. And what a success it was. Unfortunately, trends change, and the Galerie Vivienne was more or less forgotten. By the 1960s, most of the boutiques had closed their doors, and the arcade was in serious disrepair.
However, it was rediscovered in the 1970s by artist Huguette Spengler who bought back some of the stores to set up her avant-garde art installations. In 1986, Jean-Paul Gautier opened his flagship store in the Galerie, bringing it back to the forefront of the fashion scene. Between the elegant tea houses, high-end fashion boutiques, and upscale specialized stores (including a legendary wine store), the upper-crust ladies of the Belle Epoque would feel like nothing much has changed in the Galerie Vivienne.
Address: 4, rue des Petits Champs – 5, rue de la Banque – 6, rue Vivienne. Open every day from 8 am – 8.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Bourse Line 3 or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre Line 1 or 7.
Passage du Grand Cerf
Le Passage du Grand-Cerf can undoubtedly hold its own compared to better known covered arcades in Paris. Besides, it is a bit off the beaten track, which makes it the perfect stop if you are looking for a respite from the crowds. It is the highest of Parisian covered passages, with three stories under the vertiginous roof and charming iron balconies.
It is a favorite among Parisians who enjoy this light-flooded arcade, with its charming boutiques and its distinct lack of tourists. Like many other passages, it was almost torn down in the 1980s. Thankfully, it was carefully renovated and has now been brought back to its former glory. Its décor is undoubtedly soberer than some other passages, but its simplicity only reinforces its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
Address: 145, rue Saint-Denis – 10 rue Dussoubs. Open Monday to Saturday from 8.30 am – 8.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Étienne-Marcel on Line 4.
Passage des Panoramas
Passage des Panoramas covered passage in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement.
The oldest of the remaining Parisian covered arcades (along with the Passage du Caire) is another favorite. Built in 1799, it has managed to preserve its historical charm for over two centuries. You can still enjoy the original light fixtures and décor, from woodwork to signs for stores that have long disappeared.
Even without the fancy mosaic and other ornaments you can see elsewhere, the busy atmosphere will take you in and send you back in time. The Passage des Panoramas is a piece of heaven for food lovers and collectors. With its specialty food stores, small eateries, and boutiques selling everything from stamps and coins to old postcards and photographs or odd collectibles, it has something for every lover of Paris from days-gone-by.
Address: 11-13, boulevard Montmartre – 151, rue Montmartre. Open every day from 6 am-midnight.
Nearest metro: Richelieu-Drouot or Grands Boulevards on Lines 8 and 9.
Passage des Princes
By the 1860s, the golden age of covered passages was already over. And yet, developers managed to sneak in a last one: the Passage Mires (present days Passage des Princes). Despite a brief financial success, the Passage soon enough suffered the same fate than many other Parisian-covered arcades. It was torn down in 1985.
However, by a surprising turn of events, it was rebuilt ten years later, including several original architectural elements, such as the 1930s glass cupola and the wrought iron structure of the glass ceiling. Nowadays, the tenants are primarily toys and video game dealers that will delight the young and young at heart.
Address: 5, Boulevard des Italiens – 97-99, rue de Richelieu. Open Monday to Saturday, from 8 am – 8 pm.
Nearest metro: Richelieu-Drouot (Exit at 2|R. de Richelieu) on Line 8 or 9.
Passages in the 3eme arrondissement
Strictly speaking, the Passage Molière is not a covered passage since it lacks the “covered” element. However, with its cobblestones and its wooden facades, it would be a shame not to include it in this guide of covered passages. It’s a great spot to get a taste of historical Paris.
Address: 82, rue Quincampoix – 157, rue Saint-Martin.
Nearest metro: Rambuteau (Exit 1|Centre Georges Pompidou) on Line 11.
If some of Paris-covered passages have managed to regain some of their former glory despite several reverses of fortune, it is sadly not the case for others. Open in 1827, the Passage Vendȏme hasn’t found its public despite some renovations in 2005.
Most of the stores sit empty, and the passage shows signs of disuse despite the proximity of the popular Place de la République. Let’s hope this passage, which retains its elegant arcades, will one day get its fairy tale ending as well.
Address: 3, place de la République – 16-18, rue Béranger. Open Monday to Friday from 7.15 am – 8 pm and on Saturdays from 8 am – 8 pm.
Nearest metro: République (Exit at 2|R. du Temple) on Line 8 or 9.
Passages in the 6eme arrondissement
Cour du Commerce-Saint-André
There are few places as charming as the Cour du Commerce-Saint-André, located in the heart of the Latin Quarter. It has been a hot spot of intellectual life since the French Revolution. You can also find one of the entrances to the oldest restaurant in Paris, le Procope, which has been in business since 1686! With its adorable boutiques, its cobblestones, and its historical facades, it is a real throwback to the Paris of yesteryears!
Address: 59, rue Saint-André-des-Arts – 21, rue de l’Ancienne Comédie – 130, Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Nearest metro: Odéon (Exit at 2|Car. de L’Odéon) on Line 4.
Passages in the 8eme arrondissement
Arcades des Champs-Elysées
Also known as the Arcades du Lido (the famous cabaret used to be located there before moving further up the street). Most covered passages may have known their heydays in the mid-nineteenth century, but the golden hour of this arcade, located on the most famous avenue in the world, was much later. The Arcades des Champs-Elysees were not built until 1924, in a style that mixes Art Deco and neo-classical esthetics.
Sure, you will find a (massive) glass roof and column galore, but this passage has a much more modern feel than most of its counterparts, firmly anchored in the Art Nouveau period. It was once home to a massive luxurious health spa, which included a heated swimming pool. Nowadays, the centerpiece of the Arcades is Starbucks. The boutiques are at the image of the ones you can find of the avenue, mixing the dramatically expensive and the gaudy tourist souvenirs.
Address: 76 – 78 Avenue des Champs Elysées.
Nearest metro: George V (Exit 1|Champs-Élysées) on Line 1.
Galerie de la Madeleine
Much like the neighborhood surrounding it, the Galerie de la Madeleine is quiet, elegant, with a distinctive well-to-do atmosphere. Open in 1846, the Galerie benefits from its prime location. The Lucas Carton restaurant next door is a Parisian institution.
Address: 9, place de la Madeleine – 30, rue Boissy d’Anglas. Open Monday to Saturday, from 8 am – 7 pm.
Nearest metro: Madeleine (Exit 2|Église) on Line 8.
This passage may be the shortest covered passage in Paris, but it makes up in charm what it lacks in size. Its inauguration was tainted with disappointment: Louis Puteaux, the investor and primary developer, bet on the fact that the current Gare Saint-Lazare would be built across the street from his shopping arcade.
Unfortunately for him, the project was moved further South, and the passage was not the triumph he was hoping for. Nowadays, it hosts several charming cafes, which makes the Passage Puteaux the perfect pit stop while exploring the neighborhood.
Address: 33, rue de l’Arcade – 18, rue Pasquier. Open Monday to Friday, from 7 am-midnight.
Nearest metro: Saint-Augustin [Exit at 2|Bd Haussmann (Église Saint-Augustin)] on Line 9.
Passages in the 9eme arrondissement
Passage du Havre
There isn’t much left of the original shopping arcade, opened in 1846. The passage was entirely rebuilt in the 1990s to accommodate a large shopping center, with over 40 stores on two levels.
Address: 69, rue de Caumartin – 109, rue Saint-Lazare. Open Monday to Saturday, from 7.30 am – 8.30 pm and on Sundays from 11 am – 7 pm.
Nearest metro: Havre-Caumartin (Exit at 3|R. Auber) on Line 9.
Passage Jouffroy covered passage in Paris’s 9th arrondissement.
If there is a place where it feels like time stands still, it is the Passage Jouffroy. Opened in 1847 as a sort of continuity to the Passage des Panoramas, it was the first one to be built entirely of metal and glass, with only the decorative elements made of wood. It was also the first to benefit from heated floors.
Adding to its success, it is home to the Musée Grevin (the French answer to Madame Tussaud). With its old-fashion stores and eccentric cafes, it is as charming as it gets. You can even spend the night at the romantic Hotel Chopin (the only Paris passage with a hotel in it!
Address: 10-12, boulevard Montmartre – 9, rue de la Grange Batelière. Open every day from 7 am – 9.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Grands Boulevards on Lines 8 and 9.
Passage Verdeau covered passage in Paris’s 9th arrondissement.
Like the Passage Jouffroy next door, the Passage Verdeau has managed to preserve its unique atmosphere straight out of the Belle Epoque. It is a bit less run down by tourists than its next-door neighbors. Thanks to its quirky antic stores, it is a paradise for history lovers.
Address: 6, rue de la Grange Batelière – 31, bis rue du Faubourg Montmartre. Open Monday to Friday from 7.30 am – 9 pm and from 7.30 am – 8.30 pm on the weekends.
Nearest metro: Grands Boulevards (Exit at 3|R. Montmartre) on Line 8 or Le Peletier on Line 7.
Passages in the 10eme arrondissement
If most Parisian covered passages are a cameo of Paris’ past, the Passage Brady best represents its diverse and vibrant present. A world away from the cushy atmosphere of Galerie Vivienne and its consorts, Passage Brady is nicknamed “Little India” by the locals for good reasons. It is home to a colorful community of Indian, Pakistan, Mauritian, and Reunion restaurants and shops.
Divided in two by the Boulevard de Strasbourg, only part of it is covered. Passage Brady has a complicated past, including a tragic fire in 2007. Some efforts have been made to restore the passage to its former glory, but it is very much living community – and the best place in Paris to eat an authentic curry.
Address: 33, boulevard de Strasbourg – 46, rue du Fg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris. Open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am – 11.30 pm and on Sundays from 6 – 11.30 pm.
Nearest metro: Strasbourg-Saint-Denis (Exit at 1|Bd de Sébastopol) on Line 8 or Château D’Eau (Exit at 1|R. du Château D’Eau) on Line 4.
Passage du Prado
Like the Passage Brady, the Passage du Prado caters to locals – including a large immigrant community – rather than tourists in search of Paris’ past. To say that it has known better days is a euphemism. Despite an attempt to restore some of its elements, it remains very run-down and is not the best place to hang around in the evenings. The Art Deco style buttresses and plaster decoration were repainted in 2012 in bright colors, adding a touch of brightness in an otherwise gloomy area. Be discrete if you decide to explore on your own.
Address: 18, boulevard Saint-Denis – 12, rue du Fg Saint-Denis. Open every day from 8 am to 8 pm.
Nearest metro: Strasbourg-Saint-Denis (Exit at 1|Bd de Sébastopol) on Line 8 or 9.
C’est fini! The definitive list of the passage couvert of Paris. If you are interested in reading more about the passages, there are very few books in English, but The Covered Passages of Paris (Les passages couverts de Paris) by Guy Lambert does a decent job.
Exploring the Paris passages is such a delight and you can do it on your own without issue, but if you like to do historical walking tours, I found three that may interest you (not affiliated links): the 19th Century Covered Passages & Palais Royal Tour from Localers; the Walking Tour through Paris’ Covered Passages from Paris Explorer Pass; and the Walking Tour in the Parisian Covered Passages from Paris Pass (affiliate).
How many of the Paris passages have you been to? Which was your favorite? Was there one on my list that you hadn’t heard of? Do tell!
Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.
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