glass ceiling with shops
France

How to Find the Best Secret Covered Passages in Paris

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. 

passage with lanterns and black moulding

Address: 6 rue de Beaujolais and 5 rue des Petits Champs

GALERIE VERO-DODAT

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

man standing in woodworking shop
PASSAGE CHOISEUL

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

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. 

glass dome with statue

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.

tall passage with iron glass ceiling

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. 

tall glass dome roof
glass roof in passage

Address: 10 rue Saint-Marc, 11 boulevard Montmartre, 38 rue Vivienne, 151 rue Montmartre

GALERIE VIVIENNE

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. 

Glass curved ceiling
glass dome with mosaic tile floor
vaulted glass ceiling with mosaic tile floor

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 MOLIERE

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. 

colourful buildings down a laneway

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

stone alleyway to glass covered passage
cobblestone laneway with lantern

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

glass domed roof
books in wood bookshelves
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

READ MORE

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.

  1. Jardin du Luxembourg – a most beautiful park in Paris
  2. Île Saint-Louis – one of Paris’s best-kept secrets
  3. Must See Streets in Paris – by arrondissement
  4. Top Things to do in the 6th Arrondissement

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. 

Passages in Paris

50 Comments

  • JoJo Hall

    Paris has so many beautiful secret covered passages! What doesn’t Paris have, honestly? Loved all the detail and information, as always, on these hidden gems.

  • Emma

    The passageways of Paris are some of my favorite things to explore. All are so different. The lighting, the designs, the shops. The fact that some of them are always busy no matter when you visit and others you have to yourself even when most people would be dodging out of the rain. I’m back in Paris in a month so looking forward to exploring more of them when I’m there

  • Nicole

    I stumbled on Passage Choiseul during my last visit to Paris and it was one of my favourite memories.
    I always wondered why it was there and now knowing there are more in Paris, I’m going to make a day of just visiting those and shopping. It’s a shame that so many were destroyed.

  • Shireen | The Happy Days Travels

    These passages are so dreamy! They remind me so much of my home city, Cardiff, in Wales which is known as the ‘city of arcades’ especially Passage Choiseul and Passage du Grand Cerf. I like how you’ve split them into arrondissements, it makes it easier to navigate.

  • Lasma

    A very lovely article and something new about Paris! i made 4! Vero Dodat, Passage, Vivienne and Panorama and simply love them, I added the others to my list for next time in Paris, I particularly like Passage Moliere! Thanks for sharing this

  • Umiko

    The history of these passages are interesting. And I like how they built and turned them into beautiful architectures. I would like to walk and do window shopping here, and listening to the opera singers warming up their vocal cords at the Passages des deux Pavillons.

  • Travel A-Broads

    Fascinating! I’ve been to Paris twice and had never heard of these secret covered passages before. I enjoyed reading about the history behind these in your post, and now, I want to plan another trip to do a bit of a scavenger hunt to find all of these! Thanks for sharing for future reference. Xx Sara

  • Laureen Lund

    This is awesome. Thank you for a post that isnt TOP TEN THINGS TO DO IN PARIS. I love this so much. We will be in Paris twice in the next few months and I am going to follow this blog to as many of these as I can. I can’t wait!

  • Maria Veloso

    I had no idea Paris had so many secret passages until just now, and how I wished I could pass through them when I visited. I’d want to walk around the Molière Passage and look at the colorful boutiques. Oh, and I’m also blown away by how old these structures are. I’m seeing Paris now in a different light!

  • Divyakshi

    WOW! You have showed me another perspective of Paris and I cant help but drooooool over how pretty these passages are! The details you have captured are incredible. The flooring, the ceilings, the windows! The architecture lover in me is starry eyed seeing these. What a gorgeous ‘thing to see’ in Paris when it’s raining and its free:D Plus you get to see some really amazing boutiques. I’d love to do this when I am in Paris!

  • Lauren

    This is such a brilliant guide! I feel like there’s so much of Paris I have yet to see. Saving this for my next trip there!

  • Natascha

    What a wonderful post! I absolutely love the Covered passages in Paris and have been to many of them myself! But I have not been to the Passages Jouffrouy &Verdeau, which looks fantastic! What time of the day did you go to get these pictures?

    • The.Holidaymaker

      In most cases, I was there very early to avoid the crowds. Or I waited patiently for people to pass out of my frame. You’ll have to go to Passages Jouffrouy and Verdeau- they are always bustling with activity.

  • Jason

    These little passages are fantastic. They really speak out to me. I love architecture and construction so seeing how these passages are made and built, really excite me. The Passages des deux Pavillons, or the smallest in Paris looks so interesting. I really never knew there wa so many in Paris. We have them in my home city of Cardiff and always enjoy the shops.

  • Chloe

    AHHHH we are literally headed to paris next week!!! This just made me so excited! I had a few of these spots bookmarked already, but I just noted a few more! Thank you!!!!!

  • ashley

    I had no idea this was a thing! They all look so beautiful and would be fun to shop around in. Some of the images reminded me of the Forks in Winnipeg!

  • Jill

    I think you said it best – these covered passages look so charming! I love street shopping, but I think visiting a few of these passages would be worth it just to take a stroll through them and feel like i really did Paris properly! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Coralie

    These covered passages are wonderful! They remind me a little of the beautifully ornate Victorian shopping arcades in Leeds which are packed with small independent shops and boutiques. I’d love to see the ones you’ve shared – just the kind of place I would enjoy wandering around!

  • Jackie

    These are just fascinating! As soon as I saw Passage Choiseul, I was reminded of a similar arcade in – believe it or not – Providence, RI. That one is the “oldest mall” in America and clearly, it was modeled on these beautiful French arcades! I would love to stroll these charming covered passages for myself. What a wonderful way to shop (or photograph!) Paris.

  • Barry

    I had no idea these covered passages existed, despite the many times I’ve been to Paris – I probably walked straight past them without knowing. The photos really show how brilliantly they are maintained and retain their majestic glory. These are places I would search out for the unique artisan work and to get away from the repetitive world brand shops.
    Listening to local opera singers warming up in one of those passages would be a delight.
    How lucky to get a tour by the owner of one of the stores, that is a unique experience and a personal insight into his craft.
    My music friends in Paris never mentioned that Offenbach opened the Threatre des Bouffres Parisiens in one of the passages. I shall have to take them next time and impress them, not to mention Moliere and his theatre – I studied his works at school.
    Beautiful pics that drew me in – it’s a collection of passages that would draw me in whenever I see one. I’ve only ever seen similar places in the “Arcades”, as they are called, in London.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Barry for your wonderful comment. Yes, you likely have walked right past them, as they are “secret” covered passages. Many are known, but there are others that are off the beaten path, but that’s part of the fun isn’t it. Going to places that are not yet discovered by everyone? Glad you enjoyed it and will share this with you Paris friends next time you are in the city.

  • Carolin

    Those passages are all very pretty and chic. I can see now more of the Parisian glamour that is so often advertised with the city. Thank you for sharing those with us! I find these arcades interesting as they’ve been the pre-model for shopping malls in the past and still host a collection of local craftsmanship and individual stores. Those malls are hidden gems. Do you feel that they tend to be more exclusive and expensive?

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It depends on which passageway you visit, they offer very exclusive shops, while others are much more accessible. What I do love about these shops is they are owned by independent persons who are passionate about their product or service they are providing. Not to mention the elegant details of the architecture you find here.

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