When I first moved to this city, I lived in the 9th arrondissement and worked in the Paris bureau of the Reuters news agency. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the hidden passage located near my apartment snaked through the city 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.”
Here is the Passage des Panoramas today:
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.
There used to be a restaurant-deli in the Passage Verdeau called Le Stube which sold divine German pastries (strudels, poppyseed cake, Sachertorte, etc.), pastrami and Black Forest ham sandwiches on rye, hot dishes of sauerkraut, bratwurst, etc. I once had a delicious potato and herring salad followed by warm cherry strudel and a double espresso there. They used to sell those irresistible Niederegger marzipan chocolate-covered loaves that I love. 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 passage. 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. Notice the gorgeous mosaic tiled flooring.
This is a great shopping area. Inside this passage and outside on the rue des Petits Champs heading towards the Place des Victoires are dozens of small clothing boutiques. There’s a shop 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.
This lovely-looking restaurant (below) is overpriced and a bit precious.
Instead, I recommend the Bistrot Vivienne at number 4 rue des Petits-Champs, just at the entrance of the Galerie Vivienne. It’s much more down to earth and serves delicious, hearty meals and good carafes of wine. Remember the movie, Something’s Gotta Give, with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton? The Parisian brasserie where they and Keanu Reeves ate at is Le Grand Colbert, located just around the corner at number 2 rue Vivienne.
If you’re a wine lover, you must visit LEGRAND wine merchants. From their website: A wine cellar, gourmet grocery store, a bistro, a tasting bar — visit Legrand’s many ideal spaces in which to share our passion for wine. You can have a meal there, drink a fabulous glass or bottle of wine, and buy some sweets afterward (and a few bottles of wine, bien sûr!)
Before you click on this in-depth link below of these shops, I just wanted to add that there’s a lesser known passage, very chic, that I haven’t been to yet, but intend to explore. It’s tucked away in a backstreet near the Louvre, and it’s called the Galerie Véro-Dodat. It’s a hidden gem, I hear, with a good French restaurant inside called the Restaurant Véro Dodat. (P.S. There’s a Christian Louboutin boutique inside this gallery, so it must be très chic indeed.)