They are the memory of ancient Paris. The covered passages of Paris are a set of paths drawn in the middle of buildings, hosting today essentially little shops and restaurants.
Most passages were built in the early 19th century to shelter wealthy clients from the bad weather and offer a wide range of shopping venues. They also allowed the Parisians to leave the nuisances of the city, its smells and noises. They were essentially a place for purchases (through the shops), but also a place of meetings (including romantic ones), partly thanx to their unique light and atmosphere that comes from the sky through the glass roofs. They are centralized on the right bank of the river Seine, where the crowd was numerous between the main boulevards, close to theaters.
Paris will count up to 150 covered passages in the 1850s and will export the model to several other french cities. However, the work of Haussmann, who opened the streets by drilling large avenues, plus the increasing competition of the new big department stores lead to the disappearance of most of these passages.
The city of Paris has recently decided to re-develop the 20 remaining Parisian passages. Today, beneath their shiny glass, the stroller finds another town, secret and charming, and goes back in the past while admiring all the ancient shops and their old style signs… The passages have lived several lives according to the centuries, and remain today a souvenir form the ancient way of living in Paris.
Here are some shots of the most famous passages : passage Jouffroy, passage Verdeau, passage des Panoramas, Galerie Vivienne.