France, Paris, Galerie Vivienne
Hervé Hughes/age fotostock
Shopping passages were built in the 19th century to give Parisians protection from muddy streets and horse-drawn vehicles. Galerie Vivienne is a beautiful restored 19th-century passage with entrances at the Rue des Petits-Champs, Rue de la Banque, and Rue Vivienne. Built in 1823 in a neoclassical Pompeian style that includes a gorgeous canopy and is decorated inside with mosaics, paintings, and sculptures, Galerie Vivienne’s most famous resident is the Jean-Paul Gaultier shop. Some passage entrances are easy to miss, so be on the lookout! A stroll through these fascinating galeries is a fun and free activity on a rainy day.
A Fantastic Journey through Hidden Parisian Shopping Centers
During my three-day stay in Paris, I found five labyrinths of passageways from the late 18th century full of boutiques and bistros. One of my favorites was Galerie Vivienne. If you manage to peel your eyes away from its gorgeous neo-classical decor, you can buy a great wine at Les Caves Legrand and then browse the books at a biblitoeque. I even found a book with the same bookstore on the cover.
Malls from another century
Nearly two hundred years ago, precursors of the modern indoor shopping mall were built all over Paris. There used to be hundreds of these covered “passages” or “galeries,” but now only a couple dozen are left, mostly in the 2e arrondissement. Galerie Vivienne is on the border of the 1er and 2e arrondissement with an entrance on Rue des Petits Champs. Inside, like many of the others, there is an eclectic selection of specialty shops and restaurants. Even if you can’t afford the upscale boutiques, just the architecture and interior embellishments themselves make it worth a visit. I felt like I was walking into another era.