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Galerie Vivienne, A Covered Passage in the 2nd Arrondissement

Last Updated on 17th November 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

Sumptuous and splendid, of all of the covered passages of Paris, Galerie Vivienne is probably the most ornate and likely the most beautiful. Situated right in the heart of the second arrondissement, close to Bourse and steps away from the Palais-Royal Gardens, this covered passage of Paris is a must-see when in the city. Here’s a quick history, as well as how to visit and things to know before you go!

Galerie Vivienne, A Covered Passage in the 2nd Arrondissement

A history of Galerie Vivienne

Once upon a time, there were over a hundred and fifty covered passages, littered across the Parisian landscape (though predominantly found in the second, eighth, and ninth districts of the city).

Largely constructed during the 18th and 19th-centuries, these covered arcades were the precursor to modern-day shopping malls and featured a wide array of boutiques.

Due to Haussmann’s intense overhaul and renovations of Paris during the latter half of the 19th-century, many of the passages were demolished so as to make way for wide new boulevards.

Today, only around two dozen or so passages remain today, most of which remain commercial centres where you can stop for a bite to eat, grab a coffee to go, or browse for unique gifts in independent shops.

Galerie Vivienne, A Covered Passage in the 2nd Arrondissement

Galerie Vivienne itself was constructed in 1823 and is one of the most famous of the covered passages, not to mention the most ornately decorated. After all, gilt golden moulds decorate the ceiling, parts of the passage walls are decked out in mirrors, and mosaic tile covers the floor.

The passage was built at the behest of Marchoux, President of the Chamber of Notaries, on the site of a former Vanel de Serrant hôtel (mansion house) and the Petits Peres passage.

Completed in 1826, the passage was originally called ‘Passage Marchoux,’ though this was swiftly changed to Vivienne. Since its outset, the arcade has been in close competition with its neighbour, Galerie Colbert.

At 176 metres long and 3 metres wide, the passage is most certainly not the smallest in Paris. And since 1974, the Galerie has been listed as a historical monument. Today, Galerie Vivienne can be accessed via rue Vivienne, rue des Petits Champs, or rue de la Banque. The closest metro stations are Bourse (line 3) and Palais-Royal – Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7).

Galerie Vivienne, A Covered Passage in the 2nd Arrondissement

How to visit Galerie Vivienne

If you want to visit Galerie Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement for yourself, then it’s worth noting that entrance into the passage is completely free. The passage is open from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM on a daily basis. Due to its central location and ever popular destination for snapping photos, the passage can become particularly busy during the weekends and later on in the day.

If you want to take the best possible photos, then be sure to arrive earlier in the day and mid-week if possible. If you’re visiting Paris during the Christmas period, then you’ll be delighted to discover that the passage is strung with tens of thousands of twinkling fairy lights during the winter months, making for an even more magical atmosphere.

A stroll through the covered passages of Paris is one of the best rainy day activities, and Galerie Vivienne is no exception, particularly owing to the fact that it’s called ‘home’ by several delightful bookshops.

Nearby, Passage des Panoramas is the oldest still standing covered passage of Paris, while Passage Jouffroy is home to a hotel and a wax museum.

Highlights of Galerie Vivienne

Bistrot Vivienne

If you’re looking for a high-end dining experience or a place to grab a glass of wine for a romantic date night served with a side of traditional French food, then Bistrot Vivienne is the place to head to.

When there were socially distanced placed teddy bears all around Paris, Bistrot Vivienne was one of the many bars and bistros which participated in bringing joy to their clientele!

Legrand Filles et Fils

If you’re looking to enjoy a glass (or two) within the covered passage itself, there is perhaps no better place to head to than Legrand Filles et Fils, which sets up little chic tables on the mosaic floor of the passage itself. The wine menu is extensive and the service is exceptional- the perfect date night venue!

Librairie F Jousseaume

Of all the bookstores of Paris, one of the most beautiful of them all is that of Librairie F Jousseaume, which can be found right in the heart of the passage, on the right angle of where the passage turns.

Books spill out onto the mosaic floor and there are even more tomes to be found inside- there are also plenty of second-hand and vintage books for sale, making this bookstore a fantastic place to pick up a souvenir of your time in Paris!

The little pigs!

While visiting Galerie Vivienne, it’s worth noting that one hidden Paris gem which many visitors and locals alike miss is the window stacked with books and home to three little pig sculptures which can be found on the street side, just outside of the rue Vivienne entrance to Galerie Vivienne. As this window is street-facing, it can be seen outside of opening hours, even when the gallery is closed to visitors.

pigs galerie vivienne paris
The little pigs, Galerie Vivienne, Paris, France

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Galerie Vivienne, A Covered Passage in the 2nd Arrondissement, Paris, France

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently lives in Paris. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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