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Five legendary shopping passages in Paris

Paris is known for its legendary shopping passages. Starting from the end of the 18th century and on into the 19th century, the passages became places where you could spend your money in style and they’ve maintained this atmosphere to a certain degree even today. The passages’ little cafés, wine bars and shops provide pure shopping pleasure and an aesthetic experience at the same time. These narrow pedestrian alleyways, which usually join two parallel streets, ensure convenient and quick access from one street to the other. Some have glass roofs and decorative architecture, matching the fine wares offered by the little shops along the way. The Duke of Orleans, who was a cousin of King Louis XVI, developed the first Paris passage, while the initiators of the rest came mainly from the ranks of the bourgeoisie, their professions being just as diverse as the passages themselves, including an engineer (Passage des Panoramas), butchers (Galerie Vero-Dodat), a notary (Galerie Vivienne) and bankers (Passage Choiseul). During the July monarchy or Kingdom of France (1830-1848), more than fifty passages were constructed in Paris, with their glass cupolas, massive iron gates and a variety of details embodying the industrial achievements of that period. Each passage had its own character, like a miniature city within a city. Writers, artists and politicians gathered there, as did pleasure-seekers, prostitutes and illegal traders. In addition, the closed passages were a place to keep your shoes dry amid the muddy streets of 19th-century Paris. Although not all of the city’s passages have survived the vagaries of history and time has had its effect on their “little village” feel, they continue to be a way of getting to know a completely different Paris. Your walking speed immediately slows down, encouraging you to savour and enjoy the moment in all of its colourful glory. As Christmas approaches, the passages and their little shops are also a great place for finding that non-traditional gift.

Cour du Commerce St-André, ParisPassage du Cerf, ParisPassage Molière, ParisGalerie Vivienne, ParisPassage du Chantier, Paris