Paris is all about shopping, and over the years many galleries and shopping arcades have been built. During the late 18th century a maze of hidden passages were built across the city, and although many of them have fallen into disrepair and have been demolished, others have been lovingly restored. Here are some that have survived the test of time.
The Passage du Grand Cerf was recently restored and is now one of the more beautiful passages in the city. Located well away from the usual tourist areas, it is many visited by the locals. There are some excellent shops including florists, jewellers, funky wine bars and antique shops.
Passage Brady is Paris’s answer to Manchester’s Curry Mile. It is lined with Indian restaurants, bazaars that sell Indian fabrics and incense, and numerous spice shops. Unlike Curry Mile, the Indian food has been tailored to Parisian Tastes, so don’t expect a Chicken Vindaloo to be anything other than mild.
The Galerie Vivienne boasts imposing architecture with fine mosaics and well preserved statues. This is the home of many very expensive and chic shops including the original Jean-Paul Gaultier store. Here you can easily spend some serious money as you rub shoulders with rich locals. There are some excellent cafes and restaurants as well as Les Caves Legrand, supposedly the Paris’s finest wine shop.
Passage Molière took its name from the Molière theatre which is now called the Maison de la Poésie. The passage is also famous for the Librairie Scaramouche which contains a huge collection of artefacts from the cinema.
The Passage du Caire boasts a magnificent glass roof and is the home to garment producers. Essentially it is an industrial area, though there are also some good restaurants and wine bars.
Cour du Bel Air is one of the many passages and courtyards off the Faubourg Saint-Antoine which are the home to many ancient workshops and create a kind of rural village in the heart of the city. There are cobbled streets, trees, flowers and ivy covered walls amongst which nestle a number of arty shops.
The Passage Jouffroy contains Paris’s answer to Madame Tussauds called Grévin, a major visitor attraction. There is also Pain D’épices, a toyshop and Segas which sells antique canes and walking sticks. You will also find photographic exhibitions and artistic book shops.
Passage Choiseul is in a rather decrepit state; the glass ceiling is held together with netting and it lets through the rain, though there are some interesting shops including an antique store, a book shop, and various eateries including a Korean restaurant and a health-food café.
The best way to get around these fascinating galleries is to travel by bus to the general vicinity and then just wander round on foot and explore. It is very easy to spend several days exploring this hidden part of the city which is off the beaten track for most visitors. Nowadays you can travel by coach to the city from London, which is by far the cheapest way of getting there.