Paris’s covered passages: Galerie Vivienne

galerie vivienne, paris

Galerie Vivienne is a covered passage located in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris, and is a real gem to visit. Nestled between the Bourse and Palais Royale, right in the heart of Paris, the gallery has entrances from the Rue des Petits-Champs, Rue de la Banque, and Rue Vivienne. When it’s cold or raining, I would rather spend my day browsing the shops here than outside.

The covered passages in Paris, such as Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroyand Passage des Panoramas, are invitations to travel back in time. Each passage is full of fascinating history, antique shops and beautiful cafes. Despite their proximity, every passage is different – each has its vibe and style. 

Covered passages in Paris, also known as “passages couverts,” are a unique and charming feature of the city’s architectural and cultural landscape dating back to the late 19th century. They were the predecessors to modern day’s department stores. The passages served as sheltered escapes from the bustling streets and bad weather, attracting elegant Parisians who strolled, shopped and dined here. The reconstruction of Paris led to the demise of many passages, but the very chic Galerie Vivienne, built in 1823, remained a prominent and elegant location.

History of Galerie Vivienne

Its architectural design dates back to 1823 and is credited to François Jean Delannoy. In 1826, the gallery was inaugurated under the name of Galerie Marchoux, later undergoing a renaming to Galerie Vivienne, derived from its location on Rue Vivienne.

The gallery features a glass roof, brass lamps, colourful mosaic floors, and elaborately decorated facades. The neoclassical and Renaissance-inspired elements contribute to the overall charm of the passage, which attracts many flaneurs to wander and shop. The floor of the gallery from 1880 is a work of art in itself, composed of a marble mosaic and coloured ceramic tiles made by Giandomenico Facchina. He was a mosaic expert from Venice and worked on many locations in Paris, including Opéra Garnier and Petite Palais.

Over the years, Galerie Vivienne underwent several renovations and restorations to maintain its historical charm. Despite facing competition from larger department stores and changes in shopping habits, the gallery managed to preserve its unique character. In 1974, the gallery was recognized as a “historic monument” in France.

Its best-known resident was undoubtedly François Vidocq, a former convict turned police inspector who helped to create the police de sûreté (“security police”) in France. Vidocq counted among his acquaintances some of the foremost writers of his era, including Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Balzac.

With its fashion boutiques, bookshops, and wine vendors, Galerie Vivienne continues to be a destination for locals and tourists, especially during Christmas when it sparkles with festive decorations.

galerie vivienne paris

Shops in Galerie Vivienne

From the beginning, Galerie Vivienne was home to various shops, boutiques, and cafes. The passage quickly became a popular destination for Parisians seeking a refined and exclusive shopping experience. High-end establishments lined the gallery, including bookstores, clothing shops, and gourmet food stores.

Favourite addresses:

Librarie Jousseaume, 45-46-47 Galerie Vivienne

Established in 1826, this is one of the oldest bookshops in Paris selling antique and second hand books. The bookstore offers works dating from the 19th and 20th centuries: literature, history, poetry, illustrated books, theatre, music and other.

Si Tu Veux, 68 Galerie Vivienne

This shop sells simple and beautiful classic toys for all ages, birthday party supplies and games. Here you will find original presents for kids that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. The store has plenty on offer including wooden toys, creative materials and educational games.

Legrand Filles & Fils, 4 rue des Petits-Champs

Dating back to 1880, this is one of the best wine merchants in Paris, representing more than 350 winemakers. There is a bar and restaurant inside and I recommend stopping here for food and some wine tasting. They also offer wine tasting workshops throughout the year if you want to learn about the basics of tasting, or taste wines from the emblematic wine estates in France.

Wolff & Descourtis, 18 Galerie Vivienne

Established in 1875, this family business sells (very expensive) luxury silk and wool scarves woven in Lyon and printed in Como. When you enter the shop, you will be greeted with a mosaic of shawls, hanging on the walls, and a colourful display of the finest fabrics. You can visit their online shop to view their latest collection.

For a full list of shops in the Galerie Vivienne, see the official website.

Pause for a cup of coffee or perhaps a drink, and indulge in the authentic 19th-century Parisian ambiance. You’ll be glad you did.

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