Perhaps you’ve already seen photos of the beautiful timbered Passage des Panoramas and the light-filled Galerie Vivienne? They are just 2 of the many historic covered arcades known in French as ‘passages’ or ‘galeries’. These covered arcades were the precursors of today’s modern department stores and shopping malls in Paris. History states that there were over 100 passages built in the 19th century but today, only about 20 of them survive. This article will introduce you to 5 different covered arcades that are hidden in plain sight!
1 Le Passage de L’Ancre
This colorful and lush passageway is like an oasis in the always busy 3rd arrondissement. This passageway is barely visible from the street and so you can bet that there might not even be tourists here coming and fighting you for photos. This is just a simple and quiet street but the cascading plants and colorful doors make it special. You can access this passageway from 223 Rue Saint-Martin or from 30 Rue Turbigo.
2 Le Passage Brady
For something that’s a little different from all the typical Parisian passageways, why don’t you pay a visit to Passage Brady? This place is also nicknamed as “Little India” as you’ll find that the arcade is lined with Indian restaurants, shops of colorful fabric and exotic spices you won’t find elsewhere. This passage is located in the 10th arrondissement between Boulevard de Strasbourg and Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis.
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3 Galerie Véro Dodat
Galerie Véro Dodat will play tricks with your eyes! This passageway hidden in plain sight in the 1st arrondissement appears to be longer than it actually is. Only 80m long, this old shopping arcade was brilliantly designed with its high ceiling and checkerboard floor tiles. A great place for photo lovers especially when the more popular spots like Galerie Vivienne and Passage des Panoramas are too crowded. You can access this covered arcade from Rue Crois des Petits-Champs.
4 Le Passage des Princes
If you’re in Paris in the dead of winter or worse, on a rainy summer’s day, we recommend finding Passage des Princes. This covered shopping arcade built in 1860 comes to life every Christmas as its decked in decorations. We also love the art nouveau lamps that line the entire arcade. Kids or kids at heart will especially love the toy stores here! This passageway can be accessed from 5 Boulevard des Italiens in the 9th arrondissement just steps away from the Opéra Garnier.
5 Le Passage du Grand Cerf
“Grand cerf” means big deer in English and that is exactly what you’ll first find when you enter this passageway from Rue Saint-Denis. Well, at least a big deer head mounted on the wall, that is. Pay a visit to this covered shopping arcade to see the red, blue, and yellow umbrellas hanging upside-down from the ceiling! Almost 12m tall and 117m long, this is one of the largest covered arcades in all of Paris! You may also access this passageway from Rue Dussoubs.
Most of these surviving covered arcades are located in the very center of Paris. Thanks to the age of social media, it has been easier to share these wonderful secret spots in Paris. More importantly, the number of people visiting these once forgotten arcades have breathed life back into them and have kept local businesses from shutting down. Which covered arcades have you visited in Paris? Share them with us in the comments!