Built for the most part in the 19th century, these arcades covered with glass roofs, created by piercing through other buildings, are a typically Parisian architectural feature. Most of them now house shops, tearooms and restaurants. There are around 20 of them in Paris in the vicinity of the Grands Boulevards.
One of the oldest, the Passage des Panoramas, dates from 1799. It is home to the Théâtre des Variétés, inaugurated in 1807 and still providing entertainment. Each arcade has its own character. Passage Brady, commonly known as Little India, houses numerous Indian, Pakistan, Mauritian and Reunion shops. The Passage Verdeau houses numerous antique dealers. As for the Passage du Caire – the longest and the narrowest in the capital (more than 360 metres long) – it has a large concentration of wholesalers in ready-to-wear clothing as well as other clothes manufacturers.
Galerie Vivienne next door to the Palais-Royal is one of the most iconic covered passages. The nearby Galerie Véro-Dodat has many upmarket shops, like Christian Louboutin’s workshop-boutique. Passage du Grand-Cerf, a 12-metre-high structure made of metal and wrought iron, is one of the most spectacular arcades in Paris.
Finally, the Galerie Colbert, built in 1823, has the particularity of having no shops. Its colonnade and rotunda surmounted by a glass dome house the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and the Institut National du Patrimoine. The public are free to walk through the gallery and can stop off for lunch at the Grand Colbert brasserie, located at the entrance and famous for its art deco style.