by BobP

As winter approaches, Parisians flock to covered walkways – called galeries or passages – to avoid the cold as they shop and people-watch in cafés.  Most of these date from the 19th century and are on the right bank.  Each has its own character and style.  Here are a few of my favourites…

Right Bank

Galerie Vivienne (Métro Bourse or Palais Royal)Near the Place des Victoires, Vivienne is one of Paris’ most spectactular covered walkways replete with mosaics inspired by Pompeii, glass ceilings, a half-rotunda, and nymph-statures. The walkway houses smart boutiques, home-deco stores, Jean Paul Gauthier’s boutique and a lovely tea-room with delicious cakes.  Highly recommended!

Passage Colbert
Adjacent to Vivienne, this walkway is terribly majestic with italianate columns, murals and fresias, but it leaves me cold. Since being requisitioned by the state University Paris VII and Paris I, it has lost all of its soul.  The glass roof is immaculate and the rotunda is picture-perfect.  There is an entrance to the famous 1930s-style brasserie Le Grand Colbert, which is pricey.   Worth a quick glance, but you’ll have a lot more fun spending time next door. 

Passage du Grand Cerf (Metro Sentier)
In the trendy Montorgueil area, this walkway has Paris’ tallest glazed roof- about 12m high.  It is thought to date to 1825, but the glass roof was added later.  Today, there are many fashionable/hip boutiques and a Brazilian restaurant.

Passage de Choiseul (Métro Quatre Séptembre)
Near the grands boulevards, this is the longest covered walkway in Paris – 190m.  It was inaugurated in 1827.  Each shop has a main floor and mezzanine.  Its peak was in the 1970s, when Kenzo opened his Paris boutique here, but he moved it to Place des Victoires since, so the walkway is less frequented now.

Passage des Panoramas (Metro Richelieu – Drouot)
This is one of the oldest covered walkways in Paris.  Originally built in 1799 to link two rotundas in which James Thayer projected panaromas – very popular at the time. Luxury boutiques bordered the walkway at the time.  Even with the phasing out of “panoramas” in the 1830s, the walkways were still popular thanks to their location near Paris’ grand boulevards and theaters.  The Panorama walkway consists of one main gallery and five smaller annexes.

Passage Jouffroy 
Inaugurated in 1847, Jouffroy is one of the most recent covered walkways. It has an iron and glass structure and is quite luminous. Even today, it houses interesting specialized boutiques and the Grévin wax museum, which is modelled after Madame Tussaud’s in London.

Passage Verdeau
Just behind Jouffroy, this walkway is similar but a lot narrower than the other two in the area.  It is very luminous though and is worth a visit!

Especially on winter days, a nice stroll along these 3 long walkways is enjoyable, and there are many cool shops (with antiques, old photos, books, posters, home-deco) and cafés.

People-watching is very fun too, as you’ll see a motley bunch of Parisians out and about.

Left Bank

Passage Cour du Commerce Saint André (Métro Odéon)
Originally opened in 1735 to connect two jeu de paume (real tennis) courts, this partially covered walkway is historic.  Benjamin Franklin edited parts of the US constitution at Le Procope, Paris’ oldest still-operating restaurant, and Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot were frequent patrons.  There are still lovely shops, restaurants and tea-rooms.

Leave a Comment