A Locals Guide to The Secret Passages of Paris

Mosaic floors, mirrors, and long hallways where you can see the sky; every now and then I see a flock of tourists, heavy coats, scarfs and hats, shuffle down with awe, but for the most part, the pedestrians are local. We know the passages for good spots to eat, for galleries and book stores. There are even some speakeasies tucked away behind these doors.

The Galleries, not to be confused with an art gallery, are synonymous with many things, ‘covered passages’, ‘arcades’, Alex’s favourite touristy place in Paris. Ask anyone who’s visited me.

Connecting Palais Royal to Place Bourse, and then up to Grands Boulevards, the passages are remnants from the Bourbon Restauration. They were created to protect shoppers from bad weather. To keep commerce flowing, even on rainy days, which occur 90% of the time here.

History has it, that at one point during the Belle Epoch, there were 300 of these arcades. Now, there rest only a handful. So, I’ve hand picked the best of them, including a select few that others won’t tell you about.


Galerie Vivienne, Passage des Panoramas and Passage Jouffroy

Spanning from Jardin Palais Royal to SoPi, these three distinct and impressive passages run through the middle of Paris.

Galerie Vivienne feels like something from the height of the Belle Epoque.

It has impressive mosaic floors and 19th century chandeliers. Inside you’ll find upscale boutiques, collector’s bookstores, and shops for small gifts and antiquities. At the exit, there is a sublime Italian restaurant called Daraco–who hides one of the best speakeasies in Paris, Danico.


Passage des Panoramas has a grounded, authentic atmosphere.

That’s because it’s the oldest of the passages, dating back to 1800. It’s also the passage to grab a bite.

Lombem serves up cuts of meat and barbecue off its charcoal grill. During after-hours, it houses a sous-soul, an underground Speakeasy. Adar serves some of the best Mediterranean inspired food that you’ll find throughout Paris. Some smaller bites include a location of Clasico Argentino Empenadas, and the Gyoza bar. You’ll also pass a cute Illy espresso bar, which is perfect if you’re just moseying through.


On the other side of Grands Boulevards lies Passage Jouffroy.

Visually, this passage is stunning. High glass ceilings, and lovely, colorful walls. But inside, there are quite a few kitschy things, including tourist traps, the Grevin museum, postcard shops, and an overpriced Mark & Spencer. These things are fine on their own, but they kinda kill the Belle-Epoch vibes.

On the second half of the passage, however, there are a few interesting bookstores and photo galleries.


Passage du Grand Cerf and Passage du Bourg L’Abbe

Passage du Grand Cerf is a colorful walkway near Etienne Marcel. Bright and airy, this passage is known for its craft shops.

There are several antique stores where you can buy small knick-knacks for the house, vintage mirrors, hooks, and knobs for furniture. It’s fun to look at the oddities, even if your not there to purchase. Plus it leads to a very cool neighbourhood.

Passage Du Bourg L’Abbe is vacant in comparison, but still retains its charm.


Passage Choiseul

Near Opera and Japantown, this passage is in the same vein as Passage des Panoramas. There are quite a few restaurants and Cafés. Cafe Joyeux is a cute coffee shop at the far end of the gallery. Homemade financiers, brownies and fresh pressed juice–it’s perfect for a stop, after enjoying some ramen or Bibimbap at the next street over.


Passage De L’Ancre

Photo By: Claude Geourjon

Passage De L’Ancre is a magical walking street near Arts et Metier in the Haut Marais. It’s recognisable for its forested interior and parapluie shop, which looks as if it hasn’t changed in eras.

Stumbling upon this passage was one of the more fantastic experiences of my life here, as it feels like a true micro-climate, cut off from the rest of the world.


Galerie Véro-Dodat

Galerie Véro-Dodat
photo by: Eric Hudson

Nearly hidden from the naked eye, Galerie Vero-Dodat is another pristine arcade located near the Louvre. Once you find the doorway, however, you are transported into a different realm.

I love arcades like this one, because even though it engulfs you, like you’ve entered a museum or a historic monument, there are still artisans and vendors who live their quotidien by selling products from inside these boutiques. Vero-Dodat is host to furniture stores, a luthier, and several art galleries.

Passage de la Main D’or and Passage de la Bonne Graine

Photo by: Jerome Delauney

These twin 11e arrondissement passages are exceptional, because you don’t go them for the Passages themselves, rather to find what’s inside the passages.

East Mamma, the Ledru-Rollin branch of the Big Mamma group, serves the usual favourites of creamy truffle pasta, and a perfect Margarita pizza. Behind the passage lies Buffet, a contemporary French restaurant with delicious plates.

Persil et Mimosa, on Passage de la Bonne Graine is an insider’s café, and it’s as cozy as it is difficult to find.


Passage Brady

This strange passage near Chateau D’eau is known as little India. There are Indian restaurants, plant stores and even a city-renowned spice shop (Velan). On the far end, there is also one of the best bar du quartier of Le Mauri 7.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend Passage Brady, unless you are heading to Velan or need to cross over to Faubourg Saint-Denis. Some passages in Paris are completely rundown and abandoned, and while this one doesn’t make it’s way into that classification, it still has an eery atmosphere.


Beaupassage

Switching gears to the posh 7e, Beau Passage is something drawn from a Parisian’s dream. This outdoor food court is dedicated to French excellence with award winning Epicureans, and restauranteurs opening next-door to each other in the small corridor. Pierre Hermé, Olivier Bellin, and Thierry Marx are some of the prestigious names on the short-list.

Newly finished, the passage is a vastly different spirit from the arcades mentioned above. BeauPassage shows that the rejuvenation and care of a small walking street in Paris could lead to a renaissance of an area.


Thanks for reading!

Santé,

Alexander


  • Galerie Vivienne – 5 Rue de la Banque, 75002
  • Passage Des Panoramas – 11 Boulevard Montmartre, 75009
  • Passage Jouffroy – 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre, 75009
  • Passage Du Grand Cerf – 145 Rue Saint-Denis, 75002
  • Passage Du Bourg L’Abbé – 3 Rue de Palestro, 75002
  • Passage Choiseul – Rue des Petits Champs, 75002
  • Passage De L’Ancre – 223 rue Saint-Marin, 75003
  • Passage de La Main D’or – 131 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 75011
  • Passage Brady – Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, 75010
  • Beaupassage – Rue de Grenelle, 75007

Published by AlexanderGittleman

Alexander Gittleman aka Mr. Cohiba is the writer, editor, and creator of the cocktail blog African Bowtie. He has lived in Seattle, New York, and currently lives in Paris where he covers the burgeoning cocktail scene.

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