In the second arrondissement near Paris Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange), Place de Victoire, the Banque de France and a hop, skip and a jump from Palais-Royale, is a secret hideaway of shops and an ancient passage, Galerie Vivienne, built as an indoor shopping mall for Parisians back in 1826, that continues to please Parisians and visitors alike.
Galerie Vivienne has something for everybody — a charming toy store of uncommon knick-knacks for kids, a shoe store for mom, a book store for grandma, a café and tea shop, a nostalgic brasserie for lunch or dinner and a store that sells top wines for dad and sugary treats for kids.
The galerie is simply beautiful to walk through and gaze around. Between shopping at the toy store, shoe store, book store, wine store, buying haute couture at Jean-Paul Gautier, sipping a café for a mid-afternoon break, starting your day with a petit déjeuner, or taking a lunch break at one of the three available restaurants, you can easily plan to spend 3 or so hours in this little spot — all indoors and very comfortable, great for a rainy day. Window shopping is what it’s all about at Galerie Vivienne, much like an indoor shopping mall, with no pressure to buy, even if you walk into one of the several charming boutiques that line this historic arcade.
Si Tu Veux (“If you want”) — Toy Store. This toy store is perfect for tiny tots to 12 year-olds, with lots of little gadgets and trick toys, and other unique items that will please your kids. My seven year old bought a little plastic flower that you pin to his shirt. A hidden hose hooks up to a ball you fill up with water and squeeze so water spouts out — perfect for playing a trick on dad. There are all types of homemade wooden toys and trinkets. Toys are reasonably priced and make a great little splurge on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Lucien Legrand Filles et Fils – Wine Store, Chocolate, Sweets and Epicerie. Since 1850 this wine store, which also sells sweets, chocolate and gourmet food has been pleasing Parisians with a taste for the best of everything. It’s a great store where children can admire the baskets of chocolate, sucettes (lollipops) and other sweets while mom and dad marvel at the tremendous array of wines, champagne, Armagnac, cognac and port to choose from. There is also a little wine tasting bar where you can sample wines and have lunch. The menu is quite good, with cassoulet, plates of saucisson (cured meats), fromage (cheese), salade, foie gras and more, accompanied with a fine selection of wines. Top bottles can be purchased (I bought a half bottle of Château D’Yquem), and the store has a large choice of very good magnums — one of the larger selections I have seen. Even if you don’t want to buy, it’s fun just to walk in and appreciate the display.
Bistrot Vivienne. This old-fashioned bistro is a nice little stop from the exterior of Galerie Vivienne for lunch or dinner. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, it offers traditional dishes in a nostalgic atmosphere.
A Priori Thé. This salon de thé is inside Galerie Vivienne and offers indoor seating within the restaurant or more charming terrasse seating within the Galerie. You can sit down for coffee, tea and a dessert of cheesecake, brownies or more, or a full-length breakfast or lunch. Open seven days a week.
Jousseaume. This book store offers both rare and everyday books, as well as a nice selection of unique postcards to send to friends or family. Many books and postcards are outside the store in the gallery’s corridor – creating a nice spot to stop and browse in the mid-section point of Galerie Vivienne.
Jean Paul Gaultier. If you have a taste for high-end fashion, stop at Jean Paul Gaultier’s shop, where you can find the trendiest in couture (haute couture). It can be intimidating to walk in here, so it is best to dress the part before you enter, or just be supremely confident when you march in for a look.
A complete listing of all of the shops of Galerie Vivienne may be found here: http://www.galerie-vivienne.com/index.php?q=boutiques.
From Galerie Vivienne, you can stroll to the gardens of Palais-Royale, or shop in high-end clothing boutiques, including Bonpoint (children’s clothing), off of Place de Victoire, at 50 Rue Etienne Marcel.