The only three-tiered arcade shopping mall in Europe can be found in the heart of Nantes, not far from the regal Place Royale and Art Deco café, La Cigale. Filled with sumptuous architectural features such as Corinthian columns, Renaissance sculptures, and wrought-iron railings, today the 19th-century covered walkway is home to plenty of boutique shops, independent stores, and even a café or two! Here’s everything you need to know before visiting Passage Pommeraye.
Otherwise, it’s worth noting that the city of Nantes can be found in the West of France and was once the destinations from which the Dukes of Brittany chose to run their Kingdom. Best known as being the birthplace of Jules Verne, today the city is the gateway to the Loire Valley and is perfect for a weekend getaway…
A history of Passage Pommeraye
Construction of Passage Pommeraye began out of sheer necessity. At the time, the area where the pedestrian walkway is now to be found was dangerous and crime-ridden. The aim of the passage was to create a space where commuters could safely pass through the city, shops could sell their wares, cafés could serve coffee, and apartments could be built on the upper floor.
Conceived and funded by Notary turned Property Developer Louis Pommeraye, the building of the walkway began in 1840 and was only completed three years later, on the 4th of July 1843. Two Nantes architects, Jean-Baptiste Buron and Hippolyte Durand Gasselin, also worked on the design of the arcade.
Due to its construction on a steeply sloping hill (the difference in height means close to a nine and a half metre difference), the metal and wooden central staircase means that, as you ascend the passage, the detailing of the mouldings and railings get that much more ornate. In the past, this would have also been where the luxurious shops would have been located.
Of course, in more recent times, the sheer uniqueness and beauty of Passage Pommeraye means that it has been used as the backdrop for many movie scenes. Some of the more famous films shot in the Passage include Lola by director Jacques Demy, Une chambre en ville by director Jacques Demy, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg by director Jacques Demy, and La reine blanche by director Jean-Loup Huber.
How to visit Passage Pommeraye
Since 1976, Passage Pommeraye has been listed as a historic monument. For those wishing to visit the covered shopping arcade today, there are a few things to know before you go. First of all, a stroll inside this shopping centre is completely free, though you’ll probably want to bring along some money to pick up a souvenir or two!
If you want to visit with a local guide so as to get a more in-depth look at the history of Passage Pommeraye, as well as hidden gems of the surrounding area, then Nantes Tourisme offers a selection of guided tours, some of which are included in the Nantes Pass (which is well worth the money if you’re planning to see all of the major city attractions in a short space of time).
Otherwise, it’s worth noting that this is easily one of the most beautiful covered passageways in Europe and is ever so reminiscent of the covered arcades in Paris and those of the Italian city of Turin. Open on a daily basis, the best time to take photos is earlier in the day (i.e. when the passage first opens for the day) as opposed to later when all the other tourists arrive!
Passage Pommeraye Opening times
Monday – Friday 8 AM – 8 PM
Saturday & Sunday 9 AM – 8 PM
The walkway is closed on the 1st of May. Although opening times tend to operate throughout the year for the actual passage, individual shops operate their own opening hours and may well be closed during Sundays and on special events days, such as Bastille Day.
Attractions worth visiting close to Passage Pommeraye
Chocolatier Gautier Debotté: Often said to be one of the best chocolatiers in Nantes, this mouthwatering shop offers all kinds of sweet delights. Step inside and you’ll soon discover a vintage store selling traditional sweets, as well as more contemporary concoctions served with a modern twist.
Coiffard Books: Hands down, my favourite bookshop in Nantes is that of Coiffard. Celebrating its centenary year of operation this year, wander into this independent store and you’ll soon discover a fantastic selection of books, all stored in wooden cases stacked from floor to ceiling. And for the discerning traveller, Coiffard also offers a fantastic selection of travel books, including plenty about Nantes.