An Insiders Guide to Paris Passages Couverts

Les Grands Boulevards in Paris

Les Grands Boulevards in Paris

The glittering shop-fronts and designer emporiums of the Champs-Elysées and the world-renowned Galeries Lafayette department store might be top of the itinerary for shoppers in Paris, but some of the city’s most atmospheric shopping arcades are hidden from view down the side streets. Paris’ Passages Couverts (“Covered Passageways” or “Les Arcades”) date back to the early 19th century, when some 150 such shopping arcades sprung up around the city, fast becoming the place to be seen for affluent Parisians.

Despite losing their popularity to the major department stores at the turn of the 20th century, around 20 of the passageways still remain, renowned for their ornate designs and unique selection of designer and jewelry boutiques, artisanal shops, and tearooms. Most can be found around Paris’ Grands Boulevards in the 2nd arrondissement, but the easiest way to explore them is on a walking tour of the Passages Couverts in Paris.

Highlights include the Passage des Panoramas, the oldest of all the passages, which dates back to 1799; Galerie Vivienne, with its dazzling glass roof and beautiful mosaics; and the Grand-Cerf, one of the largest and most architecturally striking passages — a masterpiece of glass panels, marble, and wrought iron.

Alternatively, designer fanatics will want to visit Passage du Claire, where Jean-Paul Gaultier has a ready-to-wear shop, or swing by Galerie Véro-Dodat, home to a Christian Louboutin workshop-boutique. Adventurous foodies can stop for a curry in Passage Brady, nicknamed “Little India” for its numerous spice shops, sari boutiques, and Indian restaurants.

— Zoe Smith