Paris in Person | Gallery Vivienne and Gallery Colbert
Private, custom-made guided tours of Paris with expert art historian guides. We propose walking tours, car tours, theme tours, museum visits and excursions outside of the city.
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Gallery Vivienne and Gallery Colbert

Parisian arcades (passages) are one of the most beautiful spots in Paris- hidden and romantic they are also the places where the spirit of XIX century is so present even today. The modern arcade was invented in Paris, and, while the concept was imitated in other cities (there are particularly fine mid-nineteenth century examples in Brussels) – the Parisian arcades remain the type of the phenomenon.

“In our own time, the arcades are, while not the most obvious of Paris’ tourist attractions and, indeed, frequented more by Parisians than by outsiders, a subject of discreet attention to the more discerning of international visitors to the French capital, who may window-shop and browse to their heart’s content among the milliners’, jewellers’, stamp-dealers, vendors of antique dolls, second-hand bookshops and traditional bistros, thanks to which the nineteenth-century structures have preserved (or re-created) their highly particular character.”

Most of them were constructed between 1800 and 1830. All these arcades (in their heyday they numbered between twenty and thirty) were located within a relatively small area of the city, on the right bank of the Seine.

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Galerie Vivienne

“These arcades, a recent invention of industrial luxury, are glass-roofed, marble-panelled corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings, whose owners have joined together for such enterprises. Lining both sides of the corridors, which get their light from above, are the most elegant shops, so that the arcade is a city, a world in miniature, in which customers will find everything they need”. W.Benjamin, The Arcades project

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I recommend you A priori thé if you want to drink your coffee in peace surrounded by this gorgeous decor.

“The arcades offered the Parisians of the nineteenth century an alternative universe of consumption, in which they could walk free from the deafening noise of horse-drawn carriages and the discomforts of rain, snow or mud outside. They were “a shelter from showers, a refuge from winter wind or summer dust, a comfortable and seductive space to wander through”, and also “a route that is always dry and even, and a sure means of reducing the distance one has to walk. Amédée Kermel, 1831.” (C. Rollason, The passageways of Paris: Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and Contemporary Cultural Debate in the West)

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An old library

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Cute homemade candles – shop Secret d’apothicaire

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The arcades created a new form of spectacle. Idling, window-shopping and observing became an art, summed up in the French verb “flâner“, meaning to stroll, which, with its derivatives “flâneur” (stroller) and “flânerie” (the activity of strolling), became inextricably bound up with this special form of urban space.

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Galerie Colbert

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As an historian of architecture I’m impressed with these passages. Don’t miss it when you visit Paris, be a “vrai Parisien”.

© Anita Ruso@cherryblossomtime