If you’re visiting Paris, you might be looking for something unusual to do in Paris besides seeing the Eiffel Tower. Either way, you will not want to miss the arcades of Paris. In my time living in Paris, I loved getting lost in the covered passages in Paris, which retain an air of magic and make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This free self-guided walking tour through Paris should give you glimpse into the secret Paris that Parisians know, love, and guard with their lives. This walk through the covered passages of Paris includes some of Paris’ most beautiful passages, including Passage Verdeau, Galerie Vivienne, and Passage des Panoramas as well as some off the beaten path attractions.
This free walking tour of the covered passages in Paris is about 4 kilometers total and it should take you about an hour without stopping, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. You’re better off doing your walk through the Paris arcades prior to 5pm on a weekday if possible as shops might close after 5pm and it will be less crowded. Plan for about 2-3 hours if you follow this itinerary with stopping off to take photos.
*MAP OF COVERED PASSAGES AT BOTTOM WITH STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS* You can also do this route in reverse very easily. 😉
Starting point of the walk
Start off your trip at the Cadet Metro Stop, which is along the 7 line. Walk a block towards Passage Verdeau. On the way, you’ll pass La Mere de Famille, a beautiful old school Parisian confectery.
Passage Verdeau is a covered arcade built in 1847 named for its founder. It is an antique lovers paradise with many antique bookshops. Even if your budget is fairly low, you can get some lovely vintage postcards from Paris. Passage Verdeau tends to be less crowded than the surrounding passages. Arcades are the precursors to modern-day malls as we know them.
Lunch or dinner at Le Bouillon Chartier
If you’re hungry for lunch or dinner, be sure to get in line at Le Bouillon Chartier, one of Paris’ most affordable French restaurants. The line can be long although the atmosphere as well as the food is worth it. Amazingly, Parisians actually come here, so although you’ll find tourists and an English menu (if necessary). The menu changes daily and if you’re after trying traditionally French food, be sure to stop off here.
is my favorite passage in Paris and it is one of the most famous passages in Paris for good reason. Its interesting window displays as well as the fact that it houses a hotel (Hotel Chopin), museum, and nightclub within its walls. Within Passage Jouffroy, you’ll find the quirk factor with businesses like La Maison du Roy, specializing in antique inspired decorations, as well as Cannes Fayet, which specializes in walking sticks/canes. I also have a weakness for the miniature furniture store on the corner next to Hotel Chopin.
Passage des Panoramas
If you continue forward, you’ll be in Passage des Panoramas, which is full of vintage stamp/coin shops as well as restaurants. Here, you’ll find one of Paris’ best restaurants for gluten free dining atNoglu
. After you see the passage, exit and walk a couple blocks down towards Galerie Colbert (check hours).
has limited hours as it’s part of the National Library. Its stunning marble columns might still call to you. When I visited, we were the only ones there besides a random person scurrying between rooms. Unlike other Parisian covered passages, there are no stores here, but the atmosphere is a nice change. Don’t be deterred by the security guards although I’d avoid bringing a backpack if possible as it might cause issues.
After visiting Galerie Colbert, walk around the block to see Galerie Vivienne, another famous passage although you’ll find it full of tourists. Within it, you’ll still find a variety of shops, mostly with luxury goods, although there’s some adorable used bookstores. I didn’t successfully get into the one with the miniature second story, but you’re likely to find plenty to admire within this long passage. It has multiple entrances, so just be aware of where you exit.
Jardin du Palais Royal & Surrounding Galeries
Afterwards, walk through the iconic Jardin du Palais Royal. Imagine yourself in a movie here. This is the domain of Parisians walking their dogs although depending on which side you’re closer to, you’ll discover some galeries surrounding Jardin du Palais Royal with exclusive clothing brands as well as artisanal goods. If you’re looking for something truly unique, stop off along Galerie de Valois and Galerie de Montpensier after enjoying a relaxing stroll in the park.
Le Palais Royal
After walking through Jardin du Palais Royal, you’ll end up by Le Palais Royal, the former royal palace dating back to the 17th century. It’s now used by the French government although you’ll find tourists and Parisians posing on its striped columns within the courtyard.
Although Galerie Véro-Dodat is a bit smaller than some of the other covered passages in Paris, I loved how quiet and serene it was. Given that you’re about to enter one of the most crowded parts of Paris, enjoy this moment and the beautiful black-and-white floor marble floor tiles. Interestingly, it was one of the first galeries to have gas lighting, an achievement at the time. There used to be more businesses inGalerie Véro-Dodat, but after after stagecoaches declined in popularity, its location close to a stagecoach hub meant that it lost a lot of businesses. There’s some clothing businesses and high-end art galleries within the gallery today.
Stop for a cocktail at Le Reset
After this, you’ll be walking through a very high traffic area. If it’s almost five (somewhere), stop off at Reset. Reset is one of my favorite bars in Paris and if you’re into video games, this geeky bar is a must with some delicious cocktails accompanied by old-school videogames. This is where you’ll find me out in Paris. 😉
Passage du Bourg l’Abbé & Passage du Grand Cerf
Photo of Passage du Grand Cerf by Franck Boston / Bigstockphoto.com
After a refreshing drink, you can stop in at Passage du Bourg l’Abbé, one of the smallest passages in Paris, with many art galleries. It’s very close to the entrance to Passage du Grand Cerf, so if you’re not tired of Passages yet, be sure to stop in at the little boutiques. The entrances for these are a bit tougher to spot compared to the larger galleries.
Continue walking towards Passage Molière, which differs considerably from the other galleries that you’ve seen so far. It’s not a covered passage as it’s open-air, but it has cobblestones still, which gives it an old world vibe with a twist. It became famous for the theatre located there for many years, but you’ll find boutiques that cater to things that you neverknewthat you needed. I know it’s not technically a covered passage, but if you’re into secret Paris, be sure to stop in here.
Lastly, stop in at 59 Rivoli, an artist-owned building that used to be an artist squat. Now, this building has been apportioned into artist studios and every day people can stroll in most days (besides Monday) to see the artists in action. The facade is often changing although it’s always a unique sight to behold and be sure to bring some extra cash with you as you might find some interesting art (along with stories) to bring home with you as you can discuss the work with the artists themselves. Most of the artists ask people NOT to take photos of their work without permission, so be careful shutter-bugs when visiting this off the beaten path sight in Paris.
I hope you enjoyed this self guided walking tour of Paris’ covered passages and it encourages you to discover a bit more of the parts of Paris that make it truly special. Click for another local’s one day guide to off the beaten path Paris
If you’ve visited any of the covered passages in Paris, which one is your favorite?