A gracious walkway dating back to 1873, the Galerie Vivienne is in perfect condition, all polished wood, glass and wrought iron, its mosaic-inlaid corridors lined with plants. Even at peak times this place has an air of quiet elegance, making it a pure pleasure to browse the array of chic boutiques – look out for Nathalie Garçon, bijou toystore Si Tu Veux and venerable wine cellar and deli Legrand Filles et Fils.
The forerunners to modern-day malls, Paris’s passages couverts (covered passages) allowed the 19th-century flâneur to take shortcuts, shelter from the rain, shop, dine... or spend a secluded, debauched hour in the arms of a lover. Nowadays these tucked-away arcades, mostly around today’s Grands Boulevards, are where to head for hours of sumptuous browsing. The Galerie Vivienne must be one of the prettiest, with its ochre paintwork and mythological mosaics. Best for a mooch, though, are Passage Jouffroy and its continuation, Passage Verdeau, inaugurated in 1847. Here you’ll also find the Musée Grevin waxwork museum and an array of dinky boutiques selling everything from precious stones, stamps and jewellery to antique cameras and furniture.
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