Tucked away from the bustling boulevards in Paris are beautiful covered passages. These secret passages built in the early 19th century are undeniably charming. Gaze upon the incredible architectural details of glass ceilings, iron latticework, and mosaic-tiled floors. Rainy day in Paris? Why not take shelter in these hidden gems and browse the delightful French shops and cafés. Here is how to find the secret covered passages in Paris and discover the best ones to visit by arrondissement.
History of the Covered Passages
The covered passages of Paris, or passages couverts, were mostly built during the first half of the early 19th century. By 1850, there were approximately 150 covered passages in Paris but that number was vastly reduced during the Haussmann reconstruction of Paris in the late 19th century. Considered an early form of a shopping mall they all shared common characteristics in their design – glass ceilings and pedestrian-only laneways lit by gas lamps, connecting two streets. They are lined with small shops, each ornately designed with beautiful details. Today, only a couple dozen of these 19th-century Paris arcades remain, and almost all are on the right bank. This is what makes these secret-covered passages fun to seek out, giving you a window into the past.
Passages in 1st Arrondissement
PASSAGES DES DEUX PAVILLONS
Known as the smallest in Paris, Passages des deux Pavillons, was built in 1820. It’s often overlooked, and not as grand, but it has an interesting history. Until 1826, the passageway was straight and led you directly to Galerie Colbert. The owner of Galerie Vivienne, its competitor, purchased it and reconstructed it so that you have a direct line of sight to his shopping arcade when you exit. This crooked passageway is now part of its charm.
Try and visit on a Sunday at 4 pm, as it has been known to be a favourite among local opera singers who come to warm up their vocal cords due to the great acoustics this alleyway offers.
Address: 6 rue de Beaujolais and 5 rue des Petits Champs
A short walk from the Louvre, Galerie Véro-Dodat was built in 1826 and full of Parisian charm. The black and white checkerboard floor gives you the illusion that this covered passage is long, yet it’s really not. This covered passage houses many elegant boutiques – from antiques to decorations to art. Fashionistas will know that Galerie Vero-Dodat is home to designer Christian Louboutin’s workshop. And, yes a store his store is still there!
Address: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau and 2 rue du Bouloi
Passages in 2nd Arrondissement
PASSAGE DU BOURG-L'ABBE
Built in 1828, between the Passage du Grand Cerf and the Passage de l’Ancre, is Passage du Bourg l’Abbé. Most of the passages in Paris have a pitched ceiling with a rotunda at the centre. Not this one. This covered passage is a bit unique in that it’s a single stretch with a slight curve from one entryway to the other. Another interesting detail to look out for is the original and still working barometer and clock at opposite ends. There are not a lot of shops in this passage, except one very interesting one – Lulli & Sons, established in 1965 which is a woodworking shop.
The sculpteur, Ivan Lulli, invited me in for a tour. En français, he told me he is the last cabinetmaker or sculptor in central Paris. That he took over the business from his father and his pieces, both small and large projects, can be found in galleries in the city. His signature piece is a music note, which combines his other passion, music. Ivan is curious about me and in very broken French I reciprocate and share my love of Paris and travel. Merci Ivan, et à bientôt.
Address: 120 rue Saint-Denis and 3 rue de Palestro
You can enter this covered passageway by multiple streets- rue Saint-Augustin, rue Dalayrac, and rue Petits-Champs. Passage Choiseul, built in 1826 and 1827, is considered the longest covered passage. It feels a bit more modern than others. Shops for art, books, jewelry, vintage clothing, and many eateries. In 1855, composer James Offenbach opened Threatre des Bouffres Parisiens to house opera and operettas with the entrance being in the arcade, which is still here to this day.
Address: 40 rue des Petits-Champs
Galerie Colbert, built in 1826, belongs to Bibliothèque Nationale and houses national cultural institutes. Unlike other Paris passages, there are no shops here. Still, you’ll want to visit this pretty Parisian arcade to see the incredible rotunda topped with a glass dome and statue. Dine at the historic Le Grand Colbert brasserie and gaze upon the amazing art nouveau style details. It’s often the restaurant of choice for any major cultural events in the city, including Paris fashion week.
Address: 6 rue des Petits-Champs and 2 rue Vivienne
PASSAGE DU GRAND CERF
The Passage du Grand Cerf, built in 1825, is the tallest covered arcade in Paris at almost 12 metres. Gaze upon the intricate glass roof made of metal and wrought iron as you stroll through this passage. Be on the lookout for the different animal motifs here. The wooden stag’s head, or cerf, is easy to spot, the others you will notice above the independent shops – an elephant, crab, and dragonfly were among some I noticed. This must-see covered passage has some pretty shops – jewelry, antiques, and furniture.
Address: 145 rue Saint-Denis and 10 rue Dussoubs
PASSAGE DES PANORAMAS
Mere steps away from the Grands Boulevards is the Passage des Panoramas, built in 1800. This covered passage is unique in that it crosses through the 2nd and 9th arrondissements. It’s wonderfully charming with such a vintage feel. I love the wrought iron signs suspended over the storefronts and eateries. Passage des Panoramas is so iconic that it appeared in Emile Zola’s 1880 book, ‘Nana’. Passage des Panoramas is a popular arcade to visit in Paris and always draws a crowd for its amazing eateries.
Address: 10 rue Saint-Marc, 11 boulevard Montmartre, 38 rue Vivienne, 151 rue Montmartre
Steps from Palais Royal is where you will find the iconic Galerie Vivienne built in 1823. You can’t help but fall in love with the pretty details here – the mosaic tile floor and beautiful glass roof. Light pours through the glass canopy roof even on the dreariest of days. It’s easy to see why this is known as one of the best Parisian covered passages in the city. There are many wonderful shops to stroll through. An old bookshop, art gallery, fabric, and antique shop to name a few. Sit and stay awhile in one of the cafés or lovely tea room. This is a must-see passage in Paris.
Address: 4 rue des Petits-Champs; 6 rue Vivienne and 5 rue de la Banque
MORE COVERED PASSAGES in 2nd arrondissement
Other covered passages in 2nd arrondissement that you may wish to seek out include:
- Passage du Caire (1798) can found at multiple streets: 33 rue d’Alexandrie; 2 place du Caire; 237-239 rue Saint-Denis; 14, 34 and 44 rue du Caire
- Passage du Ponceau (1826) is located at 119 boulevard de Sébastopol and 212 rue Saint-Denis
- Passage Princes (1860) can be found at 5 boulevard des Italiens and 97-99 rue de Richelieu
- Passage Sainte-Anne (1829) is located at 59-61 rue Sainte-Anne and Passage Choiseul
Passages in 3rd Arrondissement
Passage Molière isn’t technically a covered passage, it’s an open-air laneway. It does have an interesting history. It was created with the opening of the Molière theatre in 1791. The artists used this laneway to enter and exit the theatre out of sight of the public. Today, this tiny passage is full of cute colourful shops making it a true hidden spot in Paris worth visiting.
Address: 82 rue Quincampoix and 157, 159, 161 rue Saint-Martin
ONE MORE COVERED PASSAGE IN 3rd arrondissement
Passage Vendôme (1827) located at 16 rue Béranger and 3 place de la République
Passages in 6th Arrondissement
COUR DU COMMERCE SAINT ANDRE
Cour du Commerce Saint Andre is known as one of the oldest passages built in 1776. It is also where you can find one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, Le Procope. Stroll through here and you can just feel the history. This hidden gem of Paris runs along a former 12th-century fortified wall. It is also is one of the few streets in Paris that have retained their original cobblestones. Cour du Commerce Saint Andre is also the only remaining passage on the left bank.
Address: 59 rue Saint-André-des-Arts, 21 rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie and 130 boulevard Saint-Germain
Passages in 9th Arrondissement
PASSAGES JOUFFROY & VERDEAU
The Passage Jouffroy, built in 1845, is unique in that it offers two passages in one, as Passage Verdeau was added as an extension. Passage Jouffroy is known as the first to be built entirely of metal and glass and heated by the ground. The main draw to visiting this pretty arcade is Librairie du Passage, one of the oldest bookshops in Paris. Dating back to the 1850s, this tiny vintage store is filled to the brim with books. Books even spill out into the marble floors that line the perimeter of the shop. Booklover or not, you can’t help but fall under its spell. Another gem is to visit the Valentin Team Room for that ultimate afternoon tea experience in Paris.
Address: 10-12 boulevard Montmartre and 9 rue de la Grange-Batelière
MORE COVERED PASSAGES in the 9th
Other covered passages in 9th arrondissement that you may wish to seek out include:
- Passage du Havre (1845) can be found at 69 rue de Caumartin and 109 rue Saint-Lazare
- Passage Brady (1828) is located at streets 43 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin; 22 boulevard de Strasbourg; 33 boulevard de Strasbourg (covered section); 46 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis
- Passage Prado (1830) can be found at 16 boulevard Saint-Denis and 16 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis
Planning a trip to Paris or just want to read more about Paris? Check out these other top things to do in the City of Light.
As a holidaymaker…
Finding these secret covered passages is one of the best things to do in Paris. They are like windows into the past. Strolling through these off-the-beaten-path arcades are glimpses into quintessential Parisian life. They ooze with charm and it’s one of my favourite things to do when in Paris.