In 19th-century Paris, the city’s shopping arcades, or passages couverts, were as much a fashionable place to show off as they were to shop. The emerging bourgeoisie was enamored by these glitzy, glass-roofed galleries, not least because of their bright lighting, heating, and shelter from the rain, and careening carriages of the busy streets outside. They also had cafés and restaurants where ladies of leisure could linger and people-watch.
One such arcade is Galérie Vivienne, which has been deftly restored with vaulted arches and columns, and brims with smart bistros and high- end fashion boutiques, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier.
One of the city’s oldest wine stores, the enchanting Legrand Filles et Fils, is also found here. Another of the city’s passages was fitted out in 1826 by two butchers, Véro and Dodat, with gaslights, mirrors, and black-and-white marble floors, and crowned with a glass roof interlaced with painted panels.
Today it’s home to antiques shops, art galleries, and personalized couture make-up. The Passage du Grand Cerf, with its three storys and aerial bridges, is the highest Parisian arcade and the place to pick up funky 1950s furniture and pretty pearl necklaces.
One of the oldest remaining arcades, Passage des Panoramas, was built in 1800 and is the home of the stamp-collecting trade. Peruse old postcards and stamps here, and visit the bijou Théâtre des Variétés.
Last stop is Passage Jouffroy, known for its waxworks museum (Musée Grévin) and historical monument- cum-budget lodging at the Hôtel Chopin.
Galérie Véro-Dodat From 19 Rue Jean Rousseau to 2 Rue du Bouloi, Beaubourg and Les Halles; Métro: Louvre or Palais Royal
Galérie Vivienne From 4 Rue des Petits-Champs to 6 Rue Vivienne, Opéra; Métro: Bourse;
Passage des Panoramas From 10 Rue St Marc to 11 Bd Montmartre, Opéra; Métro: Richelieu-Drouot
Passage du Grand Cerf From 145 Rue St-Denis to 10 Rue Dussoubs, Beaubourg and Les Halles; Métro: Étienne Marcel;
Passage Jouffroy From 12 Bd Montmartre to 9 Grange Batelière, Opéra; Métro: Richelieu-Drouot