Les Passages Couverts Paris – these magic words will offer you a delightful self-guided tour of Paris. The covered passages of Paris are nothing else but the shopping malls and galleries of the 18th century, created by the rich people to make shopping more convenient. This is a self-guided walking tour I’ve done during one of my visits to Paris. The tour takes about half day, but if you want to take photos of the galleries and to enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine every other passage, you’ll need one full day to complete it.
Most of these passages are closed during the night, so you’ll need to start your tour early morning, in order to make sure you can cover everything in one day. Keep in mind that you may want to spend some time in the lovely antiques and used books shops you’ll find along the way.Make sure you wear your most comfortable walking shoes. I’m a fan of New Balance, but you can wear whatever brand makes you feel the best.
You may also want to enjoy a gourmand break every now and then, as Paris is a city full of culinary temptations. This is yet another reason to start early. By late afternoon, all Parisians are out on a terrace, having their “apero”, so finding seats can be extremely challenging. The French “apero” or “aperitif” is a glass of wine, or a beer, or another drink (or several) meant to open your appetite for the dinner. They usually meet their friends for enjoying this special moment of the day.
Passages Couverts Paris Walking Tour Stop 1 – La Cour du Commerce Saint Andre
Your self-guided walking tour of Les Passages Couverts starts at the Odeon metro station, on Boulevard Saint Germain des Pres. As you follow along the river bank, you get to the first covered walkway, which is Cour du Commerce Saint Andre. If you also want to see the famous Cafe de Flore, you can start your tour from Saint Germain des Pres metro station, and follow the river bank towards Odeon, until you reach La Cour du Commerce Saint Andre.
The beauty of a self-guided tour is that you can adjust it on the go to suit all of your goals and preferences. I started my walking tour from this point because I had visited a friend who had her office in Saint Germain Des Pres. You can customize your tour as you see fit. Just make sure you pinpoint all passages on the map of Paris, and find the optimal route to follow.
This covered passage hosts the oldest cafe in Paris, Le Procope. Built in 1686, this brasserie offers a traditional French cuisine menu featuring oysters, various other seafood choices, fish, foie gras, beef, coq au vin, and some mouth-watering desserts. Here’s their website. Take a look at the menu and at their working hours. If you take my example and start your tour from here, you may not be able to eat anything, because the restaurant opens at 12pm. Nonetheless, you can come back another time.
Although a bit far from all other covered passages on the list, La Cour du Commerce Saint Andre is worth a visit. It surely has the air of old Paris as we’ve seen it in all those classic movies made by the greatest French film directors.
Stop 2 – Passage Dauphine
You can find this passage on Rue Dauphine, soon after you exit La Cour du Commerce Saint Andre. This is a small but charming walkway that hosts a few shops, and a tea house and two restaurants, La Jacobine and Cepe Figue. Although the architecture is classy and elegant, the passage appears to be in need for some renovation works or at least a fresh coat of paint. It is also pretty dark. If you want to take photos, make sure you use the flash or a large aperture lens. I was lucky to get here on a sunny day, so I had enough light for decent photos.
Stop 3 – Passage Choiseul
Located in the Opera district, Passage Choiseul has been renovated and opened to the public in 2013. It has three entrances: one on Rue des Petits Champs, one on Rue Saint-Augustin, and the third one on Rue Dalayrac.
Stop 4 – Passage des Deux Pavillons
This historic monument is listed in Base Merimee, a collection of architectural heritage monuments curated by the French Ministry of Culture.
Stop 5 – Galerie Vero-Dodat
I somehow managed to skip this one but I think you should try to find it. I’ve found a photo for you on Wikipedia. The passage is located on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, with a second access from Rue du Buloi. I’ve heard that this passageway bears the names of the two “charcutiers” who built it.
Stops 6-7 – Galerie Colbert and Galerie Vivienne
As you leave Le Procope and the charming passage that hosts it, you can take either Rue Dauphine or Rue Mazarine to cross the Seine either on Pont des Arts or on Pont Neuf. Both bridges offer great photo opportunities, particularly on cloudy days, when the blue sky makes a beautiful contrast with the fluffy clouds and white boats. If you can’t be bothered walking that much, you can take the metro to get to the La Bourse station to continue your self-guided walking tour of Paris. I find walking much nicer, but I agree that you need to be in the mood for it. You also need good walking shoes.
There’s quite a long walk, but eventually you’re going to get to Rue Vivienne, where you’ll find Galerie Colbert and Galerie Vivienne, two of the most elegant “passages couverts” covered passages of Paris. Galerie Colbert is part of the National Library, so it’s open only during the working hours of the library. It is a lovely architecture gem, with its impressive marble columns and its stylish windows. I wasn’t lucky to find it open on the day I was here, so I could only look through the windows.
Galerie Vivienne has a different architectural style, but this doesn’t make it less gorgeous. If luxury shopping is your thing, you’ll find your happiness here. I still remember some antique furniture pieces I would have loved to have in my home. I’m allowed to dream, and so are all of us. There’s also a cool wine shop where I’ve seen some really huge bottles of fine French wine. Galerie Vivienne is my favorite covered passage of Paris. This explains the impressive number of photos I’ve taken. I also had a very hard time at choosing which ones to add to this article.
Stop 8 – Passage des Panoramas
As you get out of the Galerie Vivienne passage, you continue along Rue Vivienne until you reach Passage des Panoramas. This is one of the longest covered passages in Paris, and it has several annexes worth also a visit. These annexes include Galerie Feydeau, Galerie des Varietes and Galerie Montmartre. Everything looks so beautiful that you don’t know what to photograph first. If you have an wide angle lens, you should bring it with you, because you’ll make good use of it.
Stops 9-10 Passages Jouffroi and Verdeau
Passages Jouffroi and Verdeau are extensions of Passage des Panoramas. Passage Jouffroi is built from an interesting mix of glass and iron, and it still has the original tile pavement.
As you exit Passage des Panoramas, you’ll see the entrance to Passage Jouffroi on the other side of Boulevard Montmartre. Here you’ll also find Musee Grevin where you can admire wax models of famous people. I haven’t visited the wax museum, as I don’t really enjoy the tourist crowds. However, I can understand the fun of going there with your friends or with your children to take some cool photos.
Buy your Musee Grevin ticket here to save time.
To get to Passage Verdeau, you need to cross Rue de la Bateliere as you exit Passage Jouffroi. If you fancy a nice meal, you can stop by Victoria Station, the Wagon Restaurant inside Passage Verdeau. Shaped like a train carriage, this restaurant has its own charm that makes you want to try out their grilled meats and pizzas. You can book a table here.
Stop 11 – Passage Brady
This covered walkway is on Rue Strassbourg, and you need to walk quite a while to reach it after you’re done with Passage Verdeau. If you like Indian cuisine, you’ll be delighted to see that Passage Brady is home to some colorful Indian restaurants waiting for you to taste their traditional dishes. As a matter of fact, Passage Brady consists of three parts which are quire different in style and tenants. Vividly colored and full of Asian cuisine flavors, this covered passageway is worth a visit, and perhaps a coffee break. During my visit, there was a nice smell of Indian food coming from the restaurant Pooja in this passage. Unfortunately, it was too late for breakfast and too early for lunch, so I didn’t stop.
Stop 12 – Passage du Caire
As you exit Passage Verdeau, you need to take Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, and then Rue Bergere, to get to Passage du Caire. This walkway has nothing to do with any of the “passages couverts” mentioned above.Most of it has concrete flooring and barely any ornaments or embellishments.
Dedicated to sellers of bulk fabrics and clothing, Passage du Caire is full of textile shops and warehouses. Here you don’t see the massive marble columns, the glass windows surrounded by stylish iron frames, or the colored tile flooring of other passages. Very few of these shops are willing to sell to individuals, as they cater to businesses that buy huge volumes of fabrics and clothes.
If you aren’t exhausted by the time you get to this point of your self-guided tour of the covered walkways of Paris, you may want to search around Passage du Caire for L’Oasis d’Aboukir. This is a building that features a vertical garden on one of its walls. I’ve come across it by accident, but I think it’s one of the things to see in Paris, particularly during spring or summer, when it’s full of flowers and luxuriant leaves.
Stop 13 – Passage du Grand Cerf
After visiting Passage du Caire and L’Oasis D’Aboukir, take Rue Saint-Denis to get to Passage du Grand Cerf. Alternatively, you can go directly to Passage Vendome. That’s what I did, as I had enough of walking for one day.
Stop 14 – Passage Vendome
This passage is on Rue Beranger, close to Place de la Republique. If you think that’s too much for one day, you can leave it for another time. I’m mentioning it here, though, because it is one of the places to see in Paris, if you’re interested in old architecture.
Once you’re done, you can head over to the closest metro station, which is Etienne Marcel, and go to your hotel. Alternatively, find a nice brasserie, eat something, have a drink and relax. You’ll surely be tired. If you still have some energy left, go to see Les Halles. There you’ll find perhaps the largest fabrics shop in Paris (or in Europe), an open space inside an old building, where millions of colors and textures meet. Unfortunately, they don’t allow people to take photos, so I have nothing to show you. You have to take my word for it.
Passages Couverts not Included in This Self-Guided Walking Tour of Paris
I’ve left out a few covered passages, as they were too far away from all others to be part of a reasonable walking tour. Nonetheless, here they are, just in case you want to visit them on another day:
15 – Passage Du Havre
Located at the Saint Lazare train station, Passage Du Havre is actually a modern shopping mall, featuring some of the well-known international brands such as Sephora, Fossil, Naf Naf, Zara, GAP, and H&M. It is also beautiful, but it doesn’t have the charm of older ones. You can visit it during your shopping days or when you’re going to take a train from Gare Saint Lazare to visit Versailles or various landmarks outside Paris.
16 – Passage Des Princes
This passage is located on Boulevard Des Italiens, nearby the Richelieu-Drouot metro station. If you want to see it as part of the Passages Couverts Paris Self-Guided Walking Tour, you need to find it just after you finish with Passage Des Panoramas, before entering Passage Jouffroi. You can access it also from Rue Richelieu.
17 – Galerie de la Madeleine
This covered passage is located in Place de la Madeleine, with the second access from Rue Boissy d’Anglais. You can get here by metro, station Madeleine. If you don’t mind a short walk, you can come from Place de la Concorde.
18 – The Galleries of Palais Royal
The Palais Royal is surrounded by several beautiful galleries. Galeries de Montpensier, de Beaujoulais and de Valois host antiques shops, coins collectors, art galleries, and the Restaurant du Grand Véfour.