Paris has always been the city for the flâneur (and flâneuse), as it’s only by slowly meandering through the streets that you can properly appreciate its beauty. But what to do when the weather is simply ghastly? Keep wandering, of course, but stick to the streets with a roof.
Exactly how many covered passages Paris actually has seems to be impossible to ascertain. Every quartier has a few examples, some sadly neglected, others stunning covered streets lined with chic boutiques. Some neighborhoods seem to be particularly blessed with them, and there’s even a spot where you can walk under their glass roofs for over a quarter of a mile (half a kilometer), crossing two streets in-between three different passages.
But which covered passages to choose? Here are some of my favorites:
Let’s start with one of the oldest passages. Dating back to 1799, the Passage des Panoramas begins just behind La Bourse. Inside this miniature labyrinth, collectors’ shops sell everything from stamps and coins to autographs, postcards, and champagne caps. An elegant stuffed fox greets you from behind the window of the Caffè Stern as you continue down the gallery passing by many other shop windows and little restaurants. My personal favorite is Canard & Champagne at No. 57, selling exactly what you would expect given its name, and exceling at it.
Cross the Boulevard Montmartre straight into the Passage Jouffroy with its popular wax museum, Musée Grevin and its lovely shops. This is the place to get some very affordable Paris coffee table books. Cross Rue de la Grange Batelière and enter the Passage Verdeau which runs all the way to Rue du Faubourg Montmartre: a perfect stroll for a rainy day.
Not far away you can find also the Passage des Princes, which looks modern from the outside, but has a lovely stained-glass dome inside, and is basically one giant toy-shop. So, if you’re traveling with children, proceed with caution!
One of my personal favorites is the Passage du Grand-Cerf, not far from Rue Montorgueil but still
Between the Jardin du Palais Royal and Bibliothèque Richelieu, you’ll find one of Paris’s most popular passages: the Galerie Vivienne with its gorgeous roof and mosaic floor. It has a number of great second-hand bookstores, and at its end, the lovely Italian restaurant
Just a few feet farther, there’s the slightly neglected but still beautiful Passage Choiseul which is filled with tiny little lunch places and has pretty twinkle-lights hanging from the ceiling. If you love stationery, this is the place for you with Boisnard at No. 82 and other small shops offering beautiful selections.
Other noteworthy covered streets include the Passage du Caire, the longest covered passage in Paris at nearly a quarter-of-a-mile long (or 360 meters) and known for its many clothing wholesalers; the Passage Brady, home to many Indian and Pakistani restaurants, earning it the nickname Little India; and last, but certainly not least, the luxurious Galerie Véro-Dodat.
If you love books, then you're in for a treat in Paris! Narrowing the best shops for book lovers down to just five is a difficult task, but to help my fellow traveling bookworms, I'm sure going to give it a try, probably cheating a little as I go.