The Passage Brady is one of approximately 20 covered passages left in Paris. These were the precursors of the modern shopping malls, where wealthy Parisians could shop whilst being sheltered from bad weather and muddy streets. It was built in 1828 by M Brady, and at 216 metres was the longest covered street in the city at the time (although it was later cut in half by the Boulevard de Strasbourg). In the 1970’s M Ponnoussamy opened the first Indian restaurant there, and it has since become home to a variety of good value Indian and Pakistani restaurants, grocery shops overflowing with fruit and vegetables, incense, herbs and all sorts of fragrant spices and a wonderful health food shop. In 2002 it was classified as a historic monument.
A bit further down the rue du Faoubourg St Denis you will find the Passage du Prado. It was built in 1785 and is unfortunately very run down nowadays, however it’s still worth a visit for the interesting glass roof added in 1925, with decorations clearly reflecting the arts and crafts movement. The whole area around is fascinating to walk around, it’s a cultural melting pot, although gradually succumbing to gentrification, and is lively and colourful.
- Passage Brady. 33 Boulevard de Strasbourg/46 rue du Fbg St Denis. metro: Chateau d’Eau
- Passage du Prado. 12 rue du Fbg St Denis/18 Bd St Denis
Don’t forget to visit the other beautiful covered passages across the city!
The Passage du Bourg l’Abbé was built in 1828, and today it’s really just a shadow of it’s former self. It still retains the charm of times gone by however, the wooden shop fronts and the rounded glass roof are lovely. I rather like it, there’s something a bit mournful about it, it’s usually empty and you still can see remnants of it’s past life – a couple of old fashioned shops and even a workshop.
However it feels like a new life is bubbling under the surface, there are two very cool artisan shops recently opened, and you get the impression that a new beginning is just around the corner. Only 43m long, it’s still worth a walk through, especially as it’s just opposite the gorgeous Passage du Grand Cerf which is one of my absolute favourites.
- Passage Bourg l’Abbé, 120 rue St Denis or 3 rue de Palestro, 75002 Paris. metro: Etienne Marcel
Open Monday – Saturday 07:30 – 19:30
I seem to be spending a lot of time in the covered passages around Paris at the moment, but as the days get shorter and colder they are lovely places to escape the chill. Recently I discovered the Passage des Panoramas, and was lucky enough that it was lunchtime, as it’s packed full with cafés and restaurants and is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.
Built in 1800, the Passage des Panoramas is the oldest of the covered passages in Paris. Like many of the others it feels like a tiny village hidden within the city. There’s a great choice of restaurants, many of them with tables spilling out into the passageway. It’s lively and full of atmosphere. And the food is pretty good too!
There’s a gluten free restaurant, grocery shop and take away – NoGlu – quite rare in France, that also has a bakery opposite. Of course we couldn’t resist a cake, or two…
There are also several shops to browse. If you’re nearby and it’s around lunch or tea time, drop in for a visit and something to eat, and then pop over to the Passage des Princes just nearby, especially if you have children, as it’s full of toy shops.
- Passage des Panoramas, 11 Boulevard Montmartre / 158 Boulevard Montmartre / 10 rue St Marc / 38 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris. metro: Grands Boulevards
Open daily 06:00 – midnight.
The Passage des Princes is a lovely place to visit at this time of the year. Not only is it very beautiful, it is also completely full of toy shops.
Built in 1860, this was the last covered passage built under the Haussmann era. It was destroyed in 1985 but has since been completely rebuilt using the original elements, including a gorgeous 1930’s glass dome.
I went in yesterday and it was full of children. The glass roof lets in the winter light and you can see the beautiful buildings around it through the transparence of the roof. It’s a short walk away from the big department stores, and just round the corner from the Passage des Panoramas, another beautiful passage and a great place for lunch.
- Passage des Princes, 5 boulevard des Italiens / 97 rue de Richelieu, 75002 Paris. metro: Grands Boulevards
The Passage du Grand Cerf was built in 1825 and has a beautiful glass roof that is 12 metres high, meaning it is always flooded with light.
Home nowadays to many wonderful artisan boutiques, it’s a lovely place to visit and shop – choose between hand tailored clothes made to measure, knitting supplies, a shop selling only gorgeous socks made in France, hand made jewellery and much more. It also houses an excellent restaurant, le Pas Sage, just at the front entrance.
Add this one to your list if you are doing a walking tour of the covered passages, it’s charming and crammed full with treasures.
- Passage du Grand Cerf, 145 rue St Denis or 8 rue Dussoubs, 75002 Paris. Métro Etienne Marcel
If you’re visiting the Galerie Vivienne make sure you pop next door and take a look at the Galerie Colbert, number 3 in my series on the covered passages of Paris. The glass coupole is 15 metres in diameter, at the time an amazing feat of architecture, and still very beautiful today.
Built in 1826 and riding on the popularity of the nearby Galerie Vivienne and the Palais Royal, it was very successful until 1836 when a general clean up of the area got rid of the gambling and prostitution that drew so many to it. Falling into disrepair, it was even used as a garage in the 1970’s and was condemned for demolition in 1975. It was eventually listed as a historic monument and saved along with it’s neighbour, but was in such a bad state it had to be completely rebuilt.
Now it is occupied by the National History of Art Institute, and the Sorbonne University also holds various classes here.
- Galerie Colbert. 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris. Metro: Bourse
The Galerie Vero-Dodat is one of the smaller of the covered passages that remain in Paris, and I think probably the most charming of them all.
It was built in 1826 by Monsieurs Vero et Dodat, two pork butchers from neighboring streets who hoped to profit from the popularity of the nearby Palais Royal. It’s decorated in the neoclassical style, and is only 80 metres long – the impression of depth is given by the diagonal black and white floor tiles and the fact that all the shops have the same facades. It was also one of the first to be lit by gas lamps as soon as it opened, something of a novelty at the time.
Take a look at the ceiling, the non-glazed section is decorated with paintings of Hermes, the god of commerce, and Apollo, god of the arts.
You’ll also find the Paris flagship store of Christian Louboutin here, as well as several interesting fashion, art and design boutiques. Like the other passages, it feels like a small island within the city, if you have a free afternoon and enjoy a walk, get a map and visit several of them, they are all different and each very beautiful in their own way.
And if you’re feeling hungry, especially if it’s around brunch time, when you come out onto the rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, pop into Claus just opposite. You may not get a table if you haven’t reserved, but they do coffee and cakes to go (try their shop and takeaway just opened across the road), and everything is delicious!
- Galerie Vero-Dodat, 75001 Paris. Enter by 19 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau or 2 rue du Bouloi. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre or Louvre Rivoli
Built in 1823, the Galerie Vivienne is probably the most elegant and luxurious of the ‘Passages Couverts’, remaining in Paris. Of the original 150, there now remain only about 20, situated mainly on the Right Bank around the Grands Boulevards, and each with it’s own character and charm.
Nestled in the passageways between two buildings, they usually have glass roofs, and were built as commercial galleries, protecting 19th century shoppers from the rain. After falling into disrepair for many years, and many being destroyed in Hausmann’s reorganization of the city, they are now once again filled with artisan and designer shops, high end boutiques, cafés and even workshops.
The Galerie Vivienne is a wonderful place to wander through, whatever the weather. Don’t miss the magnificent mosaic floors, made by Facchina, and if you have time stop and have a drink at one of the café terraces inside, so you can linger and enjoy the beautiful light filtering through the glass roof.
- Galerie Vivienne. 6 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris. Metro: Bourse