During Jane’s visit, we spent Saturday afternoon on a self-guided tour of the Passages, or covered arcades in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. They were built in the 19th century and rose in popularity (having about 150 in Paris by the 1850s) as a place people could do their shopping while being protected from the elements. Typically made in steel and glass with interior lighting, they connected two sides of a street together. When Haussman came along and widened streets of Paris creating the large, straight avenues we love today and with the increase of department stores, many of them were demolished or abandoned and left to deteriorate. Luckily, some still exist and walking through them feels like going back in time. They have a range of shops from high end Christian Louboutin and Jean-Paul Gaultier boutiques to bric-brac and Indian food stops.

Here’s the tour we did with links to the Wikipedia articles for each arcade.

We started at Louvre-Rivoli metro and walked up to Galerie Vero-Dodat. It is definitely the prettiest and has been beautifully restored. It also had some of the most fabulous shoes I’d ever seen.

We then made a pit-stop at Louvre des Antiquaire, a modern building with countless antique shops. Some specialized in jewelery, other in silver and in gold, some in glass or clocks. One had only canes. The prices were exorbitant but it really fun to window shop.

Back on the street, we walked by Comedie-Francaise and Palais Royale. And a quick photo at the Palais Royale metro entrance; the prettiest in the city. Our curiosity led us to peer into a massive toyshop window featuring a variety of miniature soldiers to find this! Oh the French… we loved the positioning of the seated general right behind her.

We walked through the beautiful and serene garden of the Palais Royale. Looking from the busy street, you’d never guess this beautiful hideaway is just behind some iron gates.

Back down Rue des Petits-Champs, we went into Galerie Vivienne and Galerie Colbert. I love how each “passage” has its own character and charm. One actually contained university lecture rooms. Galerie Vivienne had twinkling lights hanging down the whole arcade.

Back on the street we went and a little further down took us to Passage Choiseul and Passage St-Anne. These were bustling with people grabbing bites to eat at the various cafes and restaurants. Then onto Passage des Panoramas which was even busier. It contained lots of different shops and intersects with a number of other small arcades and offshoots.

Just across the Rue Montmatre, was a noticeably quieter and prettier, Passage Jouffroy.
And continuing that arcade was Passage Verdeau with antique and collector’s shops.

We finished off the long afternoon, after almost 10 km covered in over 2 hours, overlooking Paris from the 7th floor of Galeries Lafayette and taking in the majestic art nouveau dome in the heart of the grand department store.

Although we passed a few tour groups, this is a great example of Paris off the beaten track. Once you’ve done the typical Parisian monuments, a stroll like this reveals exactly how much Paris has to offer: secret hidden corners, charming boutiques, beautiful architecture and glimpses of history.

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About Author

My name is Emilia - I love versatile trips! You might find me at a trendy new restaurant one night, but the next day you're just as likely to find me at a local market sampling exotic foods. I'm open to just about anything when I travel and I want to encourage you to be open too!