When the winter comes, Paris can be a wet and windy place, so you are often grateful for an escape from the elements. Fortunately, Paris has many passages dotted around that can act as stunning sheltered shortcuts<, As a tour guide here in Paris I love to share my adventures and often tell visitors to venture down the passages, whether as a more exciting way to get from one place to another or simply to meander and window shop.
One of my favourite ones is Passage Brady, also known as Little India, which houses numerous Indian, Pakistan, Mauritian and Reunion shops but I will save that for another post because I have a lot to say about some of the produce and ingredients that can be picked up there. Today I am going to talk about three of my favourite passages that can be explored together.
I like to exit Cadet Metro and wander south-west down Rue de Cadet, which is a lovely Parisian street lined with cheese shops, butchers, grocers, wine shops and restaurants. At the end, I cannot ever resist popping into A la Mère de Famille, one of the oldest chocolate shops in Paris having been established in 1760 and one of my favourite places to pick up sweet treats, before entering the first passage just next door, Passage Verdau off Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. This passage houses, under its neo-classic glass ceiling, antique shops, bookshops, plus a charming embroidery shop, called “Le Bonheur des Dames” (The Happy Women) after the eleventh novel in the Rougon-Macquart series by Émile Zola. My favourite place in this passage is the photo gallery, Paris is a Picture, which is friendly and displays and sells a charming selection of pictures at reasonable prices. This passage is the quietest of the three passages, so acts as a good warm up too.
When you exit and cross rue de la Grange-Batelière, you will enter Passage Joufroy, in which you will first be struck by the art and prints in the gallery windows before perusing a selection of books at the new and second and hand art bookshop, Librairie du Passage. Libraire Farfouille and Libraire le Petit Roi are havens for comic book fans, whilst there are plenty of biscuit and confectionary, jewellery and linen shops. I love to see the black cat sat on a chair in the lobby of the Hotel Chopin.
The final passage on the southern side of the traffic-filled Grands Boulevards. Passage Panoramas, is the oldest passage, opened in 1800, and here you will find many eateries catering for the Parisians who work in the offices around the area. Alongside many postcards, coins, autographs and old stamps collectors you will find foodies enjoying international street food from two Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant Passage 53 by Sinishi Shato, Kapunka, and Gyoza bar; natural wines from Racines and Constot Vino, duck and champers at the clearly named Canard and Champagne; gluten-free menus and baked goods at Noglu; and a bizarre experience at Caffè Stern, which occupies a former engraver’s shop that received a contemporary twist courtesy of Philippe Starck – think eating North Italian food whilst surrounded by taxidermied wolves in wigs or with wings, or even both.
It is needless to say that venturing through these passages is like going on an adventure into a Parisian wonderland. There is always something new to see and experience in these historic covered walkways, that are so easily passed by. Each contains a treasure trove of fantastic sights, tastes and smells making the passages seem to be microcosms of this city which requires you to keep scratching below an often slightly worn down surface in order to keep uncovering fresh delights.