When visiting Paris your list of must-see attractions could be the Louvre, Notre Dame, or the Eiffel Tower. Yes, we understand how unique places like Paris’ covered arcades may not be a part of your itinerary — but they should. These wide, glass-covered walkways lined with boutiques are steeped in history dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Paris passages or covered arcades, as they’re also called, are debatably the pioneers of modern day shopping malls.
Although many of them have fallen into various states of disrepair over the centuries, there are some that have been brought back to their original resplendence and others that maintain an idiosyncratic, captivating charm.
Today you can find close to 20 functioning passages near Grands Boulevards.
Here are five of mes favoris – all for different reasons.
Named after the Théâtre Molière, where many pieces by the famous French playwright were performed over the years, Passage Molière is home to an eccletic mix of performance venues and shops. Théâtre Molière has been renamed Maison de la Poésie and hosts performances by contemporary theatrical and literary luminaries. The nearby Librairie Scaramouche, a veritable treasure trove for cinephiles, carries hard-to-find movie posters. Métro: Rambuteau
Passage du Grand Cerf
One of the most stunning passages, Grand Cerf is a great place to soak up that quintessential Parisian ambiance (and drop some cash, if you’re in the mood to shop). Jewelry designers Éric et Lydie maintain a gorgeous storefront full of tempting vintage-inspired designs. Rickshaw is an impeccably curated shop full of antique, vintage, and contemporary objects from around the globe. A visit here will make you want to rent a little apartment in Paris and furnish it top-to-bottom with furniture and accessories from their enviable collection. Whether you need glasses or not, a visit to Pour Vos Beaux Yeux, a shop specializing in vintage and designer eyewear, is always a blast. Dear is a charming shop filled with jewelry, clothing, and accessories by Parisian designers. Métro: Etienne Marcel
Passage de Choiseul
One of the most run-down (but still functional) passages, Choiseul maintains a certain romantic charm. One of the best places to load up on books in Paris, Libria is a must-visit for bibliophiles. The delightful Chelly’s Folies sells a beguiling mix of new and used trinkets and oddities (It’s a great place to pick up a unique souvenir). If you get hungry, there are a variety of dining options including Korean, Japanese, and Italian. Métro: Quatre-Septembre
Passage Jouffroy tends to be more crowded than the other passages I’ve mentioned, due in large part to the fact that Musée Grévin, the famous wax museum, is located here (a great place to take the kids!). Another must-visit spot is Le Valentin, an impeccable tea room, which will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to visit more passages. M: Grands-Boulevards
A continuation of Passage Jouffroy, Passage Verdeau is the place to go for antiques. Some of the most eclectic vintage and antique dealers in Paris have set up shop under the stunning high glass roof (one of the best maintained of all the passages), selling old postcards, vintage jewels, rare books, and home accessories (lots of treasures that will slip nicely into your suitcase). Le Bonheur des Dames is a charming spot that sells embroidery and cross-stitch kits. There’s also an umbrella shop in case you find yourself without one on a rainy Parisian day. M: Richelieu-Drouot
Have you visited Paris’s passages? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section!