The idea of providing protected shopping 'centers' is as old as trading : no one wants the goods to be ruined or the potential custommer deterred by weather conditions. The form may differ depending on the era and the country but such places always and everywhere exist(ed), be they souks, covered markets or shopping malls.
While the wooden galeries du Palais Royal, built in 1786 and destroyed since, are considered as the parisian galeries prototype, the real expansion of the concept occured in the first half of the19th century.
More than 30 passages or galeries have been built since and most of them still exist, each of them having its own personality: from the luxuous shops in Galerie Vivienne and Colbert to the simple passage way like Passage Dauphine, from the fashion designers haunt in Passage du Grand Cerf to the little Indian/Pakistan restaurants' collection in the shaddy Passage Brady; including the more 'classical' Passage Verdeau, Passage Jouffroy and Passage des Panoramas.
After a quasi-disapearance during the 2nd empire (overshadowed by the new 'Grands Magasins'), they found a second youth at the end of the 20th century and continue to change : the Passage du Havre has been renovated and turned into a modern mini-mall, new passages have even been created like the marche Saint Honore (hosting furniture designers)...
But they all have some things in common, the light and the sounds: due to their glass roofs, the natural light, even filtered through pebble-glass differs from any sort of man-made light, and they retain this incredible quality of peace due to muted sounds.
Some more photos here
I have known this gallery, one of the numerous ones built in the 19th century, and which is located in the 2nd district when it was just a run-down passage between rue Vivienne and rue des Petits-champs, handy to use in the rainy Parisian winter. It joins Galerie Colbert, and nowadays, they have been beautifully restaured, and specially around Christmas time, with lights and decorations,there is a magical atmosphere in both. Antique books, original toys, an excellent second hand clothes retail shop, tea-rooms, and brasseries are among the finds that both Parisians and tourists enjoy.
I just love this passage, very short but so much character. Never very many people, gives one time to have a good look. Artists and theatre people are side by side here, even the cinema has its own boutique of posters. The theatre Moliere and the Maison de la Poesie have the same premises but when I was here last I'm not sure that it was still open, although there were posters attesting to the fact. Plus, their website does not respond. Pretty restaurant next door to the theatre but I didn't try it.
Rambuteau metro is the closest.
The "Passage du Grand Cerf" is one of the prettiest in Paris. With its 3 floors and heighth of the glass roof at 11,80 metres it is the highest of Paris. It has 33 shops mainly dedicated to decoration and antiques, but does also have a brazilian restaurant. Built in 1835, this was the departure point for the postal wagons.
Etienne Marcel is the nearest metro station.
In the middle ages this passage was first called "No chief Lane" and then "Bas-Fours Lane" and gave on to a plaster factory. Later the factory became the cemetary for the Trinity hospital. Today it is one of the cleaner and prettier open-air passages.
Closest metro is Reaumur-Sebastopol.
The "Passage de la Trinité" was opened in 1827 and is parallel to "Passage du Basfour". Also built on the old Trinité hospital and its cemetary. There is not one shop or café in this thoroughfare so has nothing much to attract anyone and is left until the evening when late night revellers use it as an open air toilet.!!!!!
Closest metro is Reaumur-Sebastopol.
This passage opened in 1785 and originally called "Passage du Bois de Boulogne" is on e of the rare Parisian passages to have a dog-leg in the passage. Covered in 1925 and re-baptised "Passage du Prado" in 1930 it is one of the most cosmopolitan of passages. A turkish pizzeria ??? and tea-shop mingles with an Indian barber and a Pakistani patisserie.
Nearest metro is St. Denis.
The emplacement of the Passage du Ponceau was originally part of the Passage du Saumon. It was covered in 1825, renamed and re-opened in 1826. Ponceau meant "the small bridge that crosses the gutter. The open-air gutter in question was in rue St. Denis.
Typical of some of the passages in the Sentier area, it is full of textile wholesalers.
Closest to the Reaumur-Sebastopol metro.
This passage is rather difficult to follow as it has two or three levels, also makes one feel apprehensif, as the district around here is not the best and it's not very well lit. History tells us it was rebuilt in 1813, doesn't seem to have been repainted since then.
Closest metro is at St. Denis or Reaumur-Sebastopol.
Passage created in 1828 as a continuation between the passages "Grand-Cerf" and "de l'Ancre", lost some of its original length in 1858 when Blvd. Sebastopol was opened at one end and rue Palestro at the other. At the rue Palestro entrance there are still two "cariatides" that represent Industry and Commerce. These were sculpted by Aime Millet in 1863. Unfortunately the passage has suffered fire damage, and although renovated, pales in compararison to others, so much so that there is only one artisan left still operating in the passage.
Closest metro is Etienne Marcel.
These are a number of early 19th C shopping arcades, the best of which are in the Opera Quarter. The longest of these starts off Rue du Faubourg Montmartre just south of Rue Richer / Rue de Province. This is the Passage Verdeau which becomes the Passage Jouffroy and eventually the Passage des Panoramas. There are all manner of shops and small cafés. There are a number of other passages and galeries but the above is the best for exploring. If you want upmarket shopping and a taste of the passages, try the Galeries Colbert & Vivienne. If you are near the Pompidou Centre, there are a few passages off Rue Reaumur near the Arts et Metiers Metro Station. A visit to Paris is not complete for us without at least one walk through some of these arcades.
Passage Brady is is one of a couple of covered passages in this area, although one half is uncovered. Constructed in 1828, it is now very well known for its Indian restaurants and grocers.
Passage Brady is quite close to Chateau d'Eau and St. Denis metro stations.
Also known as the "Passage du Marché St. Martin" this is a quiet calm passage and is just around the corner from "the smallest house in Paris" at 39 rue du Chateau d'Eau. Quiet street café for a café/croissant in the morning and a superbly coloured "Kosher" butchers shop.
Chateau d'Eau is the nearest metro.
This passage used to be called "Passage du Puits" "Passage of the well" until a local hotel, more used to different types of activity, gave its name today, "Passage du Desir""Passage of Desire". It is a private passageway today closed by an iron grill.
Metro Chateau d'Eau is a couple of hundred metres away. Be warned, this is not the most reputable part of Paris, but safe during the day.
Being built in 1799/1800 Passage des Panoramas is almost the oldest of Parisian passages still in existence (oldest being passage du Caire) others built in the 1700's all having been demolished or built over. Passage des Panoramas is known for its shops and collections of stamps and postcards, so if you want a p/c that dates, this is the place to come. The world famous engraver Stern's shop is on the list of historic monuments whilst the passage is described in Hugo's book "Nana".
Nearest metro is Grands Boulevards or Richelieu-Drouot.