If you’d like to experience Paris off the beaten track, escape from the heat, the cold or the rain, and still stay within the city center, try and visit the arcades. Known as “passages” or “galeries” in French, they hold a lot of history and charm, including specialty shops, cafes, bookstores, art galleries and little or no tourists. Apartments are also housed within them. In the mid 19th century, there were more than 150 arcades in Paris but they began to decline with the advent of department stores or destroyed to make way for Haussmann’s boulevards. Today, less than 20 remain.
I’ve actually never heard of these arcades before, I just learned about them by chance: 1) Searching for accommodation where one stated it was within a “passage” and 2) Looking for the Louboutin cobbler, Minuit Moins 7, located inside Passage Véro-Dodat. Since then, I did a bit more online research and visited a few.
In 1826, two butchers, Monsieurs Véro and Dodat, constructed this arcade between Rue Bouloi Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Passage Véro-Dodat has a neoclassical style with marble columns, frescoes, a black and white tiled floor, and among the first to have lighting fixtures. While its architecture gives it the illusion of depth, it is actually quite short. If you love shoes, don’t miss this place as its home to two Christian Louboutin boutiques and the cobbler Minuit Moins 7 (where you get those red soles rubberized and fixed).
The most aristocratic looking and brightest of the arcades I visited is Passage Vivienne. It reminds me of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan with its beautiful glass and painted ceiling, paneled shop fronts, and (faux) marble columns — just 1,000 times smaller in size. This arcade is actually quite easy to miss due to the small and discrete entrances on Rue Vivienne and Rue de la Banque. Passage Vivienne is today home to several art galleries, bookshops, cafes, and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier’s boutique.
Built in 1825, Passage Choiseul runs between Rue des Petits Champs and Rue Saint-Augustin. It is the narrowest, longest and darkest of all the arcades I visited. It also need a bit of upkeep; hence, my least favorite. But if you’re hungry, it has several individually owned fast food places, in addition to shoe shops and quirky boutiques.
Until my next post … take care!