Winter can be a bit cold and rainy in Paris, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore our beautiful city. There are dozens of museums to keep you warm and bring you culture, churches to amaze you and other covered spaces that are perfect for wandering, exploring and taking in the unique atmosphere of the capital.
The Galerie Vivienne is one of those places. Recently renovated (after five years of work) it has never looked so good. We went down and took a few photos.
Galerie Vivienne opened in 1826, meaning that it’s just shy of 200 years old! Over the years, as you might imagine, it aged and even started to crumble – the glass roof became dangerous in places, and paint job after paint job started peeling away (up to 20 layers were found in some places). A vast programme was urgently needed.
It took four full years of work to bring the gallery back to its former splendour, with the work being done in stages, often with large amounts of scaffolding that the gallery’s boutiques did not particularly appreciate. Some choices (like replacing rippled glass in the roof with clear panes) were unpopular with regulars of the gallery – an online petition was even started.
However, now that the work is finished (last September) it’s difficult to criticise the work that’s been lovingly done. Only the mosaic floor has not been treated, and might be part of a further programme of renovation.
One crisp day in January, with the Xmas decorations still in place (actually, they rather suit the place) we went down to Galerie Vivienne. Hopefully, our photos will make you want to go and see for yourselves!
There are three entrances – rue Vivienne (which explains the gallery’s name), rue de la Banque and (perhaps the best place to start) rue des Petits Champs. The latter leads directly to one of the main alleyways in the gallery.
Here, you’ll find designer clothes shops, restaurants and tea rooms, a liquor store, arts and crafts…
It’s also here that you’ll find the rotunda, with its new glass ceiling and renovated frescoes, before continuing through the gallery.
The gallery forms more or less an ‘L’ shape, and at the corner there’s a bookshop and… a staircase. Yes, people actually live above the place! What a pleasure it must be to come down from your apartment and find yourself in the Galerie Vivienne!
In the final section of the gallery there are a few more boutiques, inclidung a large toy store for kids selling old-style wooden toys, and before arriving at the end there’s another staircase that’s actually grander than the first, although in need of a little TLC. It’s like seeing Paris in the 1950s.
This end of the gallery used to have a Jean-Paul Gaultier boutique (in place for nearly thirty years starting from 1986), but in its place now is a smart Italian restaurant called Daroco.
And to end our visit, you’ll find the name of the gallery written in mosaics in the floor (better preserved than at the other end of the gallery). Bye-bye Galerie Vivienne and hello rue Vivienne!
If you want to continue exploring, you can go to the National Library opposite, see the old Stock Exchange building five minutes away or seek out other covered passages near the Grands Boulevards. It’s not far, and there are hundreds of metres of history just waiting to be discovered…