Perfectly situated between Palais-Royal and La Bourse, this classy shopping mall is a must-see for every Paris lover. Designed by François Jean Delannoy, the covered passage was built in 1823 to give elegant Parisians a chance to shop out of the rain, have tea, and/or dine after visiting their favorite tailor or cobbler. Almost two centuries later, you can still do these things and enjoy the elegance of yesteryear in this gorgeous neo-classical setting.
The mosaic-covered floors, laid by Giandomenico Facchina and reminiscent of those found on Rue de Rivoli, are exquisite. The gallery is filled with daylight, filtered gently through the tall, arched, glass ceiling. Hard to believe that in the ’70s this architectural gem was in danger of being demolished. We have Huguette Spengler, the eccentric surrealist artist, to thank for the preservation and revival of Galerie Vivienne, which was eventually declared a historical monument in 1974.
Behind a gated entrance, at No. 13, there’s a simple but beautiful staircase leading to the apartments once occupied by Eugène François Vidocq, the notorious criminal turned criminalist, detective, and head of the country’s first national security services.
Leaving history behind, continue your stroll and let yourself be tempted by French fashion at the numerous boutiques offering prêt-à-porter couture, or by home décor items at Emilio Robba or Martine Rama. Bibliophiles can browse the rare books collection of Librairie Jousseaume, with volumes dating all the way back to the 18th century.
You can access Galerie Vivienne via Rue de la Banque and Rue Vivienne, but the most spectacular entrance is via Rue des Petits-Champs. It is flanked on both sides by the quaint Bistrot Vivienne. Stop by for a cup of coffee or maybe a drink, and revel in the quintessential 19th-century Parisian atmosphere. You’ll be happy you did.