Hidden Gems in Paris to experience the old-world charm and unique shopping
Paris is renowned for its breathtaking architecture, from the iconic Eiffel Tower to the marvelous Notre Dame Cathedral. However, the city’s charm also lies in its hidden gems, such as the covered passages (Les Passages Couverts).
The 7 most beautiful covered passages in Paris in this post feature stunning 19th-century architecture and are home to vintage bookstores, charming cafes and one-of-a-kind shops. These glass-roofed pedestrian walkways offer a glimpse into Paris’s glamorous past while offering a unique shopping experience at the historic shopping malls.
Whether looking for shelter on a rainy day or exploring the city’s enchanting atmosphere, passages are an excellent place to experience Paris’s old-world charms.
Check out my other articles to plan your perfect trip to the City of Light!
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Les Passages Couverts
I stayed in a hotel near Opera Garnier on the right bank. Thanks to the proximity to notable covered passages in the neighborhood, I explored many on my most recent trip to Paris.
Say, you have already checked off your Paris bucket list, such as the Louvre and Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine cruise, etc. And you return to Paris and are ready to explore the hidden gems of Paris. Parisian Passages are an excellent destination for its exquisite architecture and eclectic shopping experience.
Also, I’d like to add that you don’t have to visit the covered passages on rainy days. Although they were initially created for the Parisian bourgeois to shop without getting wet under the rain, their architecture allows plenty of natural light. These covered shopping malls are even more gorgeous under the sunshine.
Insider’s Tip: The passages open early in the morning; however, visit in the afternoon for a better experience. Morning is dead quiet and more for the passing-through traffic.
#1. Galerie Vivienne
Galerie Vivienne is the most beautiful covered passage in Paris, located in the 2nd arrondissement. It was first opened in 1826 and named after its developer, Madame Vivienne. It has now been fully restored.
One of the unique features of Galerie Vivienne is the beautiful arcade at the passage’s entrance, featuring stunning sculptures and a clock that chimes every hour.
The passage’s elegant architecture is a beautiful blend of neoclassical and romantic styles, with a glass roof that allows natural light to illuminate the passage. The floor is paved with original mosaics with the former businesses’ names at each shop’s entrance. And the walls are adorned with ornate moldings and sculptures.
Galerie Vivienne is my favorite covered passage. If you want to experience the charm and elegance of old-world Paris, this is the one you should not miss. While covered passages are great for rainy days, Galerie Vivienne is best visited on sunny days to fully appreciate the stunning architecture under natural lights.
Discover several high-end boutiques, cafes, and restaurants for a unique shopping and dining experience:
- Legrand Filles et Fils: one of the best wine shops in Paris
- Librairie F Jousseamme: One of the oldest bookstores in Paris where you can buy souvenir postcards.
- Danico: One of the World’s Best 100 Bar offering creative cocktails in a beautifully decorated high-ceiling space
Hours: 10 am – 8 pm
Location: 4 rue des Petits Champs [Open Google Map]
Metro station: Bourse (Line 3) or Palais Royal Musée du Louvre (Lines 1 and 7)
#2. Galerie Colbert
Galerie Vivienne connects to the Galerie Colbert, which opened in the same year to compete with its neighbor. However, it saw little success. Nevertheless, its marble columns and glass-domed rotunda make it worth visiting.
Also, Galerie Colbert is home to several prestigious institutions, including the National Institute of Art History and the National Library of Art History, making it a hub for art and cultural events.
No notable shops here, just classes and lectures.
Hours: 10 am – 8 pm
Location: 6 rue des Petits Champs – 2 rue Vivienne [Open Google Map]
#3. Passage des Panoramas
Passage des Panoramas opened in 1800 to link Grands Boulevards and the Palais-Royal. It is one of the oldest passages couverts in Paris.
Before I visited, I heard that one of the unique features of Passage des Panoramas is the beautiful hand-painted frescoes that adorn the walls of the passage. The frescoes depict scenes from Parisian life in the 19th century. I was excited to see this painting that gives character to the passage. But I actually did not see it. I am unsure if I completely missed it or if it no longer exists.
You should visit Passage des Panoramas to experience Paris’s rich cultural history and explore the charming boutiques and shops that line the passage. One of the best-known shops here is Philatélie, where you can browse old stamps, postcards and coins.
But the main attraction here is the food:
- Certified Cafe: The best coffee shop in Paris. I went there every morning while staying at a hotel nearby. I tried a variety but my favorite is Certified Latte (a dab of condensed milk + milk foam). They offer oat milk as well, which is rarely found in traditional cafes.
- Bo Bun Vivienne: Amazing fait-maison pho with tender premium beef cuts. Amiable Vietnamese staff patiently listened and responded to my broken French.
- Henri Stern: The French engraving and printer set up business here, but the shop turned into a fancy cafe today.
- Faggio Panoramas: Lively pizzeria serving delicious Italian pizzas.
- Victoria Station: An Italian restaurant decorated with an eye-catching blue train theme
Passage des Panoramas
Hours: 6 am – 12 am
Location: 151 rue Montmartre – 11 boulevard Montmartre [Open Google Map]
Metro station: Richelieu-Drouot Lines 8 and 9 or Grands Boulevards Lines 8 and 9.
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#4. Passage Verdeau
Passage Verdeau is a short covered passage located in the 9th arrondissement. Built in 1847 and named after its original developer, the gallery boasts exquisite 19th-century architecture, including glass roofs, intricate mosaics, and ornate moldings.
One of the most unique features of Passage Verdeau is its collection of antique bookstores and vintage shops. No wonder why the passage was a popular gathering spot for artists and intellectuals in the 19th century. Today it remains an old-world charm destination to showcase the city’s rich culture.
Besides many bookstores, Neko Ramen is a super hot place near the entrance. There is a long line of people during the lunch hour.
Hours: 7:30 am – 9 pm (close at 8:30 pm on Sat. & Sun.)
Location: 6 Rue de la Grange Batelière [Open Google Map]
#5. Passage Jouffroy
Passage Jouffroy is a stunning covered passage located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. (If you continue south from Passage Verdeau, it is just a crosswalk away.) It was built in 1846 and named after its developer, Monsieur Jouffroy.
Its architecture is a beautiful mix of neoclassical and romantic styles, with a glass roof that allows natural light to flow into the passage. The floor is paved with intricate mosaics, and the walls are decorated with ornate moldings and murals. Passage Jouffroy has kept the most original form, so it is a great place to visit if you are curious about what the covered passages looked like in its golden days.
The passage is home to several charming cafes and boutiques, making it a perfect spot to shop for unique souvenirs.
- Pain d’épices & La Boite à Joujoux: An old-fashioned toy shop/dolls house
- Librairie du Passage: A second-hand books and vintage posters
- Galerie Fayet: Offers unique canes and umbrellas
- Paris est toujours Paris: A unique shop carrying high-quality Parisian souvenirs, including the iconic haut-couture Laulhère béret.
- Musée Grévin: A Parisian wax museum. There is a long line for this museum in the afternoon. Buy your tickets in advance [Included in Paris Pass].
Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30 am – 7:30 pm, Sun 10am-7pm
Location: 10 boulevard Montmartre – 9 rue de la Grange Batelière [Open Google Map]
#6. Passage du Grand-Cerf
Passage du Grand-Cerf is one of the unique covered passages in Paris, located in the 2nd arrondissement. It was built in 1825 to connect the Rue Saint-Denis with Place Goldoni. Its name comes from an old company building on the same street: the Maison du roulage du Grand-Cerf, a terminal for the royal mail service.
The passage boasts an impressive wrought-iron and glass roof that stretches over 12 meters high, making it one of the tallest covered passages in Paris. The passage’s architecture combines neoclassical and art deco styles with intricate moldings, colorful mosaics, and elegant columns.
It is home to artisan shops and boutiques. The shops here reflect Parisian craftsmanship from jewelry to furniture, leather goods to yarns. If you appreciate jewelry like me, you will particularly enjoy this gallery.
- Cécile Boccara: A costume jewelry shop offering a tax refund. A lovely designer owner showcases her stunning hairpieces and unique design earrings and necklaces.
- Eric et Lydie: A contemporary jewelry shop with a collection from independent designers worldwide. No tax refund.
- Satellite Bijoux Paris Sentier: A costume jewelry shop offering bold, colorful statement pieces
- Pour Vos Beaux Yeux: A vintage eyewear with historic store signs.
Passage du Grand-Cerf
Hours: 8:30 am – 7:45 pm, Closed on Sundays.
Location: 10 Rue Dussoubs – 145 Rue Saint-Denis [Open Google Map]
Metro station: Étienne-Marcel Line 4.
#7. Galerie Véro-Dodat
Galerie Véro-Dodat is a magnificent covered passage located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It was built in 1826 and named after its developers, two wealthy businessmen, Véro and Dodat. The passage was restored in the 1990s to feature beautiful neoclassical architecture with arched glass roofs, ornate sculptures, and elegant storefronts.
One of the most unique features of Galerie Véro-Dodat is its stunning black and white checkerboard flooring, which gives the passage a timeless and sophisticated feel.
The passage has been a popular spot for high-end shopping and dining:
- Marc-Antoine Barrois: A tiny boutique shop by a talented Parisian perfumer Marc-Antoine Barrois. It offers only six perfumes (and candles), each with a unique and lovely fragrance.
- Il Bisonte: A good-quality, reasonably-priced Italian leather goods store.
- Thomazine: High-end fashion accessories shop with one-of-a-kind gloves
- Christian Louboutin: A luxury designer shoes store with iconic red soles.
Hours: 7:30 am – 11:30 pm. Closed on Sundays.
Location: 19 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau & 2 Rue du Bouloi [Open Google Map]
Metro Station: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre Line 1 or 7, or Les Halles Line 4
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