Long ago, during the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the early-mid 1800s, covered passages or galeries provided warm, dry places for the wealthy to shop and dine on rainy, muddy days in Paris. In a time before paved streets and sewers, the galeries’ billiards, bistros and public baths served as a grown-up playground for the emerging middle class.
At the height of their popularity in the mid 19th century, there were more than 150 passages. However, with the advent of the department store around 1850, the galeries begin to decline.
Today, eighteen passages remain. At 19, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Galerie Véro-Dodat, still largely untouched since the mid 1800s, was created by two charcutiers for which the passage was named. This passage was one of the first to get gas lighting in 1830, and one of the last to fall into decline. Here you will find designer boutiques, bookshops, cordonneries (cobblers), and craft shops. With its marble columns and original large glass panels and façades, this galerie is definitely worth a visit.
Additionally, the passages inside the nearby palais royal are also quite beautiful. Galeries de Montpensier, de Beaujoulais and de Valois contain art galleries, antique and metal shops, coin and stamp collectors, as well as the impressive Restaurant du Grand Véfour. Stop to rest on a bench in the Jardin du Palais Royal with its rows of leafy trees, rose gardens and fountains.
Arguably the most breathtaking passage is Galerie Vivienne. At the intersection of rue des Petits Champs, rue Vivienne and rue de la Banque, this passage is notable for its elegant mosaic floors, detailed arches, wonderful bookshops, and lovely tea house, Priori-Thé. Browse the collection of classic postcards or have a cup of jasmine tea.
For more information about the covered passages of Paris, please consult Walking Paris by Gilles Desmons, and Markets of Paris, by Dixon and Ruthanne Long.
19, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement
Metro: Palais Royal, Musée du Louvre
Galeries de Montpensier, de Beaujoulais and de Valois
Palais Royal, 1st arrondissement
Metro : Palais Royal, Musée du Louvre
Intersection of rue des Petits Champs, rue Vivienne and rue de la Banque
Metro : Palais Royal, Musée du Louvre or Bourse