When I first moved to this city, I lived in the 9th arrondissement and worked for the Paris bureau of Reuters news agency in the 2nd arrondissement. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the hidden passage located near my apartment connected to other hidden passages that snaked through the city center and led directly to my place of work. Fresh from North America, I was utterly charmed by the historical aspect of these late 18th-century and mid 19th-century conduits. I imagined myself in an Emile Zola novel. In fact, Zola wrote about the passages in his novel, Nana. Here’s a brief excerpt (published in 1880!)
“One December evening Count Muffat was strolling in the Passage des Panoramas. The evening was very mild, and owing to a passing shower, the passage had become crowded with people. There was a perfect mob of them, and they thronged slowly and laboriously between the shops on either side. A perfect stream of brilliancy emanated from white globes, red lanterns, blue transparencies, lines of gas jets, gigantic watches and fans, outlined in flame and burning in the open. And the displays in the shops, the gold ornaments of the jeweler’s, the glass ornaments of the confectioner’s, the light-colored silks of the modiste’s, seemed to shine in the crude light of the reflectors behind the plate-glass windows.”
Each passage has its own character; some a bit shabby and run-down, others well-tended. Here’s the Passage Verdeau, near rue Cadet in the 9th arrondissement, that was my starting point when I walked to work all those years ago.
Today there’s a restaurant-deli in the Passage Verdeau called Le Stube which sells divine German pastries (strudels, poppyseed cake, Sachertorte, etc.), pastrami and Black Forest ham sandwiches on rye, hot dishes of sauerkraut, bratwurst, etc., and great coffee. I highly recommend this place. I had a potato and herring salad followed by warm cherry strudel and a double espresso. They sell those irresistible Niederegger marzipan chocolate-covered loaves that I discovered as a teenager and raved over. I still rave over them. (update 2015 – sadly, Le Stube is no longer there.)
Here’s the next connecting passage. It’s Sunday, so this bookseller’s shop is closed. For several years, twice a day, I walked this route, dawdling in the shops on the way home, never tiring of its appeal.
Exit the Passage Jouffroy, cross the boulevard Montmartre, and into the next stretch of passageway. For anyone wanting to come here, the nearest metro station is Grands Boulevards.
Further south, on the other side of the Bourse (the stock exchange) is another, independent passage called the Galerie Vivienne. This is the most elegant and well-tended of the glass-roofed shopping arcades. At Christmas-time it’s all lit up with fairy lights.
This is a great shopping area. Inside this passage and outside on the rue des Petits Champs and heading towards the Place des Victoires are dozens of small clothing boutiques. Here’s a high-end, expensive clothing store inside the Galerie Vivienne called Nathalie Garçon which sells original one-off pieces. Directly across from it is another shop that sells exquisite scarves.
Further up is a second-hand clothing shop called La Marelle where I’ve bought and sold many shoes, handbags, clothes and accessories over the years. You can pick up a gorgeous pair of Prada shoes, a Fendi handbag or items of clothing with Miu Miu, Hermès, YSL labels and other luxury brand names, depending on what’s in stock.
It seems a tad mean to post a photo of a lovely-looking restaurant and then say that you don’t eat there, but I find this one (below) overpriced and a bit precious.
Instead, I recommend this place which is more down to earth and serves delicious, hearty meals and good carafes of wine. It’s such a success they’ve expanded into the space next door. It’s located just at the entrance of the Galerie Vivienne on the rue des Petits Champs.