Last Updated on 21st October 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
Wander throughout Paris for any length of time, and you’re sure to stumble on at least one of the many covered passageways dotted around the city. Although Passage du Grand-Cerf is just one of many, there’s no denying that it’s certainly one of the grandest. After all, with a 12-metre high glass ceiling, and designs dating all the way back to 1825, it’s well worth a meander along.
One of the few covered passages still remaining in Paris to this day, once upon a time, there would have been some one hundred and fifty Parisian arcades, shielding shoppers from the elements and acting as a precursor to modern-day shopping malls. Today, just a handful remain, with even fewer still offering the kinds of shops and eateries as those to be found within Passage du Grand Cerf.
Passage du Grand-Cerf: A History
Located in the 2nd arrondissement of the city, the passage connects Rue Saint-Denis with Rue Dussoubs and is so named for the wooden ‘cerf’ (stag’s head) hanging in the alley. Other animals adorning the shopfronts include a crab, an elephant, and a dragonfly, so look out for them on your visit!
The passage is built on the site of Hôtellerie du Grand Cerf, which was demolished in 1825. Around this time, covered passageways were becoming more and more fashionable. Up to 150 similar covered passageways were built during the Second Empire.
Unfortunately, only around 30 survive to this day as a result of the Haussmannian reforms. Although no one knows the exact date Passage du Grand-Cerf was opened, records show that the walkway was open to the public as early as 1827.
The passage is so iconic that, in 1960, it was featured in the fantasy comedy Zazie Dans le Metro. Today, it is filled with original boutiques, independent shops and living quarters on the upper floors. There are also furniture stores and handmade jewellery to be found here. On the Rue Saint-Denis side of the passage, you’ll find the humorously named ‘Pas Sage’ (literally translated as ‘not wise’ or ‘naughty’ and a play on the word ‘passage’).
Visit Passage du Grand-Cerf
You can’t go wrong by heading a little off the well-worn tourist path and strolling down this pretty little passageway. If you want to capture the best photos (i.e. with the best lighting and with fewer crowds), then you’ll want to head to the passage as soon as it opens, preferably mid-week!
Nearby, you’ll find the shopping centre of Les Halles and the lovely Museum of Arts et Metiers which is an industrial design museum set against the backdrop of the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs. Of course, there are also plenty of other unique and quirky covered Passages of Paris to be discovered in the second and ninth arrondissements of the city.
Otherwise, if you want to see a particularly interesting metro station, then make sure to plan your metro journey as to pass through line 11 of the Arts et Metiers Metro station. After all, once inside you’ll soon discover a Steampunk Jules Verne copper tunnel with porthole details that are pretty unique.