Covered Passages in Paris
Are you looking for a unique gift? Does it seem like you’ve looked everywhere but can’t find just what you are after anywhere? Well that might all change when you take a stroll through some of the most spectacular covered passages in Paris. Forget Champs Élysées and venture slightly off the beaten path and shop in one of Paris’s quaint covered arcades.
Take your time exploring, shopping and unwinding, perusing the local specialty jewellers and vintage toy outlets. These will not only be a delight for children, but also for adults who are children at heart.
We could have easily spent hours in the antique book stores leafing through the yellowed pages with the smell of history permeating from the parchment.
And after you are all shopped out rest your weary legs and enjoy a quiet coffee and pastry in the many tearooms and restaurants. Just make sure you take the time to pause and enjoy the beauty and elegant charm of some of most beautiful covered passages in Paris. These arcades transported us back through time and gave us a nostalgic yearning for times past.
To fully appreciate these spectacular galleries you must look up to see the architectural features of glass and wrought iron. But don’t just hold your head high walking through these old world arcades. The beautifully intricate mosaic floors running through the entire arcades are the only reason to look down.
These must see, typically Parisian arcades were designed to offer impeccably dressed lady shoppers refuge from the dust, rain and noise from the streets, sheltered by a magnificent glass canopy allowing the light to shine in.
In Paris there is a labyrinth of covered passages, each with their own unique characteristics and old world galleries. Some are tucked away and you have to hunt them down, but if you know where to look you can walk into an art nouveau galerie perfect for hours of browsing.
Passage des Panoramas is the oldest commercial artery dating back to 1799 and the first public area in Paris to be lit by gas. Listed as a historical monument the walkways house a chocolatier, stamp collector, printing house, even a theatre amongst the eateries and craftsmen sharing the space. There is also the quirky Victoria Station where you dine in an absolutely gorgeous, old style, velvet lined train carriage styled from the Orient Express.
Galerie Vivienne is one of the most beautiful and iconic and includes tea rooms, gourmet food boutique, antique bookshop, wine cellar and more. We found many students, probably art of architecture students, sketching the century old architecture. The arches, moldings, skylights, even the floors are all so worthy to sketch.
Passage Verdeau has many antique stores selling books, postcards, cameras and comics from the 50s. Designed with avante-garde architectural details and has a high glass canopy which resembles fish bones. Strolling down Passage Brady, known as Little India is an aromatic journey with many Indian, Pakistani and exotic businesses and is a great place for some tasty, spicy food.
Passage Jouffroy is one of the most visited arcades due to its originality. The famous wax museum Musée Grévin and Salon des Miroirs are all worth a visit. At the end of this picturesque, shop lined passageway is Hôtel Chopin, a chic and charming boutique hotel. A special touch was to mooch around in the original shops selling old canes, books and the unmissable tea room Valentin with its delightfully tasty pastries.
These arcades are the place for strollers and curious walkers to discover pretty shops selling hand crafted jewellery, furniture, fashion, even umbrellas or walking sticks.
Whilst we were there, the windows were purposely dressed for Christmas and the smell of Christmas treats bought cheer to our rainy day. These arcades were the perfect place to take a shortcut and shelter from the rain and true architectural gems.
To me there is nothing average about Paris, not even cold, grey, rainy days. These are days that are perfect to browse around the lovely covered passages. After all, Paris is a city to be admired, a place to wander and observe city life. These covered passages are perfect for the Parisian pastime of the flaneur, especially in inclement weather.
I love the Parisian sense of style. In Paris a cheese sandwich is never just a cheese sandwich, it’s always an experience. So too is window shopping in the covered passages, leisurely exploring and discovering old places in and around the city.
A word of caution. While most galleries are clearly marked, some are that inconspicuous you could easily walk straight past. You could take a tour, we found one that does a private, half day tour for 250€, but you can easily explore the passages at your leisure for free. Download a map and spend the afternoon meandering through the quaint antique shops and escape the rain and relax with a meal or glass of wine.
These covered glass and iron arcades offer endless delights with quirky, nostalgic shops and provide a glimpse of what Parisian life was like over 100 years ago. They are also the perfect place to find that unique gift you were after.
Do you have a favourite arcade in Paris? Which one would you find hard to stop going back to? Do you want to explore these unusual passages that give Paris its charm!
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