Hurrah! Or should that be ‘très bien’ – we revisit the romantic-weekend capital of the world, with a peek at some more insider secrets from Paris, in the second Smith Travel Blog communiqué from Francophile femme and founder of Girls’ Guide to Paris, Doni Belau. Here, she reveals the Paris hidden away in its many ‘passages’ – that’s a bit like an arcade, to you and me.
Heading to Paris this summer? Why not tuck into one of the city’s 19th-century passages for a bit of shopping, sheltered from the midday sun. Yes, occasionally Paris does have its hot days, and nothing says Paris like its passages. Of course they are perfect to tour on rainy days as well. Built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, these covered passageways were the precursor to our present-day malls, allowing the ladies of the day to do their shopping in a more sheltered fashion, without the mud from horse and buggy defiling their petticoats.
There are many passages in Paris, but they tend to be centered in the 1st, 2nd and 9th Arrondissements. Each passage has its own flavor and style. Some are void of shops, but most house adorable little boutiques or restaurants. And every one of them gives you that ‘I know I’m in Paris’ feeling.
Galerie Vivienne is probably my favorite, with its spectacular mosaic tiles and great shopping. Here you’ll find a charming modern art gallery, Martine Moisan, which gives art lessons on Saturdays; a fabulous florist, Emilio Robba; a killer tea salon, A Priori Thé; and a bookshop of rare finds. There’s even a bistro (Bistrot Vivienne) and a fine wine shop, Legrand Filles et Fils. But the crème de la crème is Jean Paul Gaultier’s shop — oh la la, and there’s more… But I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.
The Passage Colbert is also quite beautiful, possibly more grand than Vivienne in style, but the only place to enter it is the brasserie Le Grand Colbert (left), of Something’s Gotta Give movie fame—remember the romantic scene where Diane Keaton orders the roast chicken? It is one of the few independently owned bistros left in Paris, though it could use a bit of a polish.
Not to be missed is the Galerie Véro-Dodat, in the 1st, with the über-famous Christian Louboutin — do I hear a flock of fashionistas running? And as if that weren’t enough, you’ll find cosmetic goddess Terry de Gunzburg’s shop, By Terry, for make-up and a quick redo. And discover antique dolls at Robert Capia’s store.
The Passage du Grand Cerf is home to fashion and was declared the hippest of the arcades by the New York Times back in 2003. It houses Satellite, a costume jeweler (see cuff, right), as well as Bei Style, a Chinese designer, among other interesting shops. Rickshaw is a fun store for interior accents with a Bollywood vibe. There’s also MX Sylvie Branellec for pearls and PM Co Style for interesting interiors. The Passage des Panoramas is the oldest and has many restaurants and cafés, most notably Racines, now run by a new owner, but its natural wine list is still to die for.
Another shop of interest is the engraver Stern (profiled here), a great source if you need an invitation engraved or would like to make yourself a proper French calling card. Is there a cooler item to come home with than your own proper French calling card?
In the Passage Jouffroy (left) there’s a darling toy store, Pain d’Épices, for all manner of doll and bear needs, and a needlepoint hop, Le Bonheur des Dames. Old movie posters, Lebanese pastries and the wax museum of Paris, the Grévin, can also be found in Jouffroy. The Passage Verdeau has antiques, comics, musical instruments and engravings. The Passage des Princes specializes in toys.
There are a multitude of passages to explore: why not make a day of it?
Read more of Doni’s tips in Girls’ Guide to Paris.