A French lesson in Paris walking in the covered passages


A French lesson in the covered passages : back to the 19th Century

Today, I have chosen to make you explore the 19th century with a French lesson in the covered passages in Paris . A crossover between Oriental souk and cabinet of curiosities, the 19th century covered passages were forerunners of the shopping malls or departments stores. Walking through long glass roofed corridors lined with charming shops, restaurants, designer boutiques  (Christian Louboutin has opened  a boutique in the Gallerie Verot Dodat)  and specialist shops (Caves Legrand filles&fils), you'll be transported back to the early 1800s as you gaze at the beautiful glass and iron structures and original features.

Galerie Verot Dodat

Galerie Verot Dodat Paris
Galerie Verot Dodat Paris

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'Époque, 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!

Galerie Vivienne et Colbert

Galerie Vivienne
Galerie Vivienne

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 Choiseul

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.

Passage des Panaromas

Passage des Panoramas
Passage des Panoramas

Access: Boulevard Montmartre, Rue Saint Marc, Paris 75002 Metro Line 8, 9: Grands Boulevards Open: Everyday 6am - midnightParis 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 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!)

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