A little-known Paris treasure is the open-air passageways that are dotted throughout the former working-class parts of the city.
To be clear: We’re not talking about the famed covered passages of the 2nd arrondissement, full of shops and restaurants. We’re talking about the sometimes stunning cobblestoned alleys that are outside and are plentiful in the 11th arrondissement.
Many years ago, these places would have been teeming with artisans; furniture makers, frame fixers, handymen and more. Or sometimes they were just private courtyards of the wealthy. Nowadays the passages are open to the public, and often overlooked even by the locals.
It’s a shame, because if you know where to look, you’ll find stunning oases of calm and sometimes an artisan from today plying their trade.
As part of our explorations in this district, we walked through the best and most unexpected of these passages, some of which were so beautiful that our photographer thought she had died and gone to heaven. Here are our photos and information on how to explore this area yourself.
And note: If you’re an Earful member or thinking to become a Patron, I did a live video Walk Show through these streets so you can truly get the inside look on the replay. More info here.
How to find the passages
The first thing: you must have the courage to walk into them. Sometimes they look residential, or as if they belong to a business. Sometimes they look really small, but they can turn off into lengthy hidden gardens. Dare to explore!
The second thing: Pull up a map and look for the roads that don’t lead anywhere. On GoogleMaps (screenshot below), the passages are grey. These ones, to the east of the Opéra Bastille, make for an excellent walk. Our own tour began at Cour Damoye, which is the long thing stretch at the top left of the picture below.
Cour du Panier-Fleuri
This one was truly the gem of the area. Surprisingly large, exceptionally beautiful, and calmer than the French countryside.
Passage du Cheval Blanc
Cour Saint Joseph (feat Cour de Juin)
That’s it for this set of photos at least. These places would make for a great adventure in “offbeat Paris”! You’re unlikely to see another tourist, perhaps not even another Parisian!
Other passages in the 11th arrondissement
There are LOADS more passages to find in the district, particularly around the Oberkampf area near the Parmentier station. Seek out may keywords like passage, cour, and cité, all of which essentially mean passageway. Cité du Figuier is a good place to start!
Happy hunting! Or, happy armchair exploring, if you’re watching the Patreon video replay! Patreon support helps us make this show better as you’ve hopefully noticed this season.
The Earful Tower podcast episode
You can listen to the podcast where we talk all about our discovery of the passageways in the 11th arrondissement, stick around to the end of the episode where my wife, Lina, and I share our findings from the 11th arrondissement and give the district a score out of 100.
Video guide to the 11th arrondissement
And that’s it! A big thanks to Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting and Augusta Sagnelli for the photos, and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here and you will be able to see my video from these passages.
You can find all our tips for the 11th district’s best restaurants, cafes, and attractions here. Otherwise see you next week for our trip to the 10th arrondissement.
Want more? You can support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!