Culture + Style

Exploring the Hidden Shopping Passages of Paris

Discover the City of Light as Parisians of yesteryear did in a maze of historic passages hidden throughout the city. Designed to protect 19th-century shoppers from the elements, these restored galleries now house chic boutiques and quirky shops underneath ceilings of sparkling glass.

Less than 25 of Paris’ 150 passages remain open, and stepping back in time at these seven out-of-sight spaces is a great escape from Eiffel Tower and Louvre crowds.

Passage du Grand Cerf

Beautifully restored to its former glory, this Montorgueil District arcade used wrought iron and glass-roof construction, tiled floors and high ceilings to create its striking look. Though it’s off the tourist track, Grand Cerf’s the place for unique souvenirs — think beyond tiny Eiffel Towers and berets — at hip jewelry ateliers, fashion boutiques, and vintage knickknack shops.

Passage Jouffroy

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You’ll find plenty of oddities in this passage. (Photo: Getty Images)

Step out of Passages des Panoramas and into bustling, oddity-packed Passage Jouffroy. Specializing in antique canes, baroque decor and handmade children’s toys, the Ninth Arrondissement’s Jouffroy is full of fascinating finds and is nearly always crowded.

Meander through its antique shops and rare bookstore and then continue on into Musée Grévin, Paris’ version of Madame Tussauds’ wax museum, which connects to Passage Jouffroy. Strike a pose with modern stars cast in wax, from Madonna to George Clooney. Then travel back in time and come face to face with Louis XIV, Napoleon III and other powerful characters from French history.

Passage des Panoramas

Recognized as the city’s oldest covered walkway, Panoramas opened in 1799, and its maze-like construction makes this arcade thrilling to amble through. Bisecting the Ninth and Second Arrondissements, the passage houses curious boutiques like Tombées du Camion, along with old stamp, postcard and autograph shops that collectors love. Sip vins nature (unsulfured wines) at trendy bars or dine grain-free at Noglu, the city’s first gluten-free eatery.

Galerie Vivienne

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Pay a visit to the most elegant of passages. (Photo: Getty Images)

Steps away from the Palais Royal, you’ll find the most elegant passage of all: Vivienne. Its mosaic floors, stunning glass ceilings and bright, light space make this charming gallery a spectacular place to shop, and abundant luxury boutiques means there’s no shortage of items to covet. Feast on wood-fired pizzas at Italian comfort-food hot spot Daroco, housed in Vivienne’s historic Jean Paul Gaultier boutique.

Passage Choiseul

Revamped in 2012, the city’s longest passage shines again thanks to glass-roof restorations that keep weather out but let light in.

Passage Choiseul is just steps away from the Palais Garnier opera house. Come stroll through curio shops specializing in clocks, handmade jewelry, antiques and old books, or recharge at ZZZen — the world’s first nap bar. Doze in a zero gravity chair or shiatsu massage bed and then amp up the pampering with a head massage or pedicure.

Not just a shopping arcade, Passage Choiseul has places to refuel, with organic burgers and house-made chips at Bio Burger, or try Ari Ari for sit-down Korean cuisine.

Passage Brady

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You’ll stumble blissfully into Little India in this passage. (Photo: Getty Images)

Travel across the world without leaving the City of Light at this gallery built in 1828. Wander through Parisian Little India as music plays, smelling fragrant spices as you browse bazaars peddling colorful clothing, aromatic essential oils and classic Bollywood films.

Dine for next to nothing at authentic curry houses or amble indoors and out at this half-covered, half-open-air passage in the 10th arrondissement.

Passage Moliere

Named for French playwright Molière, this walkway tucked in the Third Arrondissement is not covered like many passages are, but instead is a cobbled, open-air lane known for its preserved historic facades. The former Théâtre Molière still stands — reinvented as La Maison de la Poésie (House of Poetry) — a site for literary and cultural events. Don’t skip small shops like Tamano, an atelier selling custom-made Japanese shoes, or a verre de vin (glass of wine) at the wine bar’s outdoor terrace.