Ok, they’re not really secret, more like less of a tourist trap and off the beaten track. If you’re planning a visit to Paris, you must save an afternoon for a stroll along the covered passageways (passages couverts). Located in the 2nd and 9th arrondissements, around the Grands Boulevards area, they date back to the 19th century when they were supposed to allow the wealthy Parisians to shop even in bad weather conditions.
You can walk around and do some lèche–vitrine (“window licking”, i.e window shopping) through the tens of fashion and crafts boutiques, or sit down for a coffee in one of the many cafes inside the galleries. Whatever you do, you will definitely notice the charm of these passages and will feel as if you’re a character in Zola’s or Balzac’s novels.
Passage Verdeau & Passage Jouffroy (Enter: 10-12 Boulevard Montmartre, or 9 rue de la Grange-Batelière; 2nd/9th arrondissement; Metro: Grands Boulevards)
Located in Passage Jouffroy is The Grévin Museum, Paris’ version of Madame Tussauds’. For a completely authentic experience you can book a room at Hotel Chopin, and really feel like stepping back into the 19th century. You’ll also notice a needlepoint (broderie) shop called “Au Bonheur des Dames” just like Zola’s novel. In Passage Verdeau the majority of the boutiques sell antique books and photographs.
Passage des Panoramas (Enter: 11 Boulevard Montmartre, or 10 rue Saint-Marc; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Grands Boulevards)
This is the oldest passageway (1799) and the first public place to be lit by gaslight. There are many cafes, restaurants and the Théâtre des Variétés built in 1807.
Galerie Vivienne (Enter: 4 rue des Petits Champs, or 6 rue Vivienne, or 5 rue de la Banque; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Bourse or Pyramides)
It is perhaps because of the mosaic floor or the beautiful glass ceiling, but this is my favorite. You’ll find a lot of high-end fashion boutiques here as well as antique book stores. How amazing is the window display of The Little Prince in lots of different languages?
Galerie Vero-Dodat (Enter: 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or 2 rue du Bouloi; 1st arrondissement; Metro: Louvre Rivoli)
It’s a classy setting for antique shops selling everything from vintage furniture to collectible musical instruments and toys.
Passage du Grand Cerf (Enter: 145 rue Saint-Denis, or 10 rue Dussoubs; 2nd arrondissement; Metro: Etienne Marcel)
I loved the intricate wrought iron ceiling and the wonderful florist shop, right at the entrance.