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Exploring the Covered Passages of Paris

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At the end of the 18th century, the covered passages in Paris were fashionable alleys to flee the muddy roads and to enjoy a new phenomena: window shopping displays. The new gas lights of the time also made it possible for people to enjoy a night stroll through those passages after their evening out at the theater. Today, walking through the passages is a great way to get away from the heavy traffic and street noise, and for photographers to go off the beaten path and be creative.

Covered Passages

The covered passages were located in some of the richest part of the city when they were first built. However, once Baron Haussmann created the new wide boulevards for which Paris is now famous, the covered passages fell out of fashion and were mostly abandoned, until they were recently rediscovered and rehabilitated.

Paris has a good number of covered passages that are not yet completely overtaken by tourists and my favourites ones are located close to the Palais Royal:

  • Passage Véro-Dodat, between rues Bouloi and Jean-Jacques Rousseau;
  • Galleries Vivienne and Colbert, accessible from rue des Petits-Champs, rue Vivienne or rue de la Banque;
  • Passage des Panoramas, accessible from rue St Marc and Boulevard Montmartre;
  • Passage Jouffroy, between rue de la Grange Batelière and Boulevard Montmartre;
  • Passage Verdeau, accessible from rue de la Grange Batelière and Faubourg Montmartre;
  • Passages du Grand Cerf and Bourg l'Abbé, accessible from rue St-Denis.

The passages have kept their picturesque charm of old Paris with their glass roofs and vintage wood molding store fronts. You will also find specialty boutiques, antique shops, old tea rooms and hidden staircases that are a paradise for unusual photos away from the main parisian sites. They also make a great place to visit when it rains.

Covered Passages

A polarizing filter will be useful to avoid some of the glare or reflexions in glass or shiny surfaces. Below are a few more suggestions that will help you capture some creative images:

  • Look for architectural details along the galleries;
  • Include the old wall clocks and barometers close to the glass roofs;
  • Appreciate the floor mosaic or unusual window displays;
  • Play with the glass and mirror reflections;
  • Use the back light for silhouette pictures at the various entrances of the galleries;
  • Capture the activities of the shop keepers or strollers looking at old books;
  • Look out for the hidden stairways with their endless curves;

It is easy to spend a few hours in the covered passages and get a wide variety of pictures away from the usual 'blockbusters' of Paris. It is also these old hidden places that make the city what it is, and it is yours to discover, camera in hand!

TIP: If you go, be aware that some of the covered passages are closed by a gate on Sundays.

Covered Passages

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About the Author

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.