What is Galerie Vivienne?
Hidden between the Palais Royal and La Bourse, two stunning buildings in their own right, Galerie Vivienne outshines its surroundings. Its intricate mosaic floors, high glass ceilings and ornate archways combine to form one of the city's most eye-catching shopping arcades. And there's more...
The History of Galerie Vivienne
Built in 1823 it was to begin with called Galerie Marchoux, after the President of the Chamber of Notaries, but then renamed Vivienne. It soon filled up with fine boutiques: tailor shops, cobblers, a wine shop, a restaurant, a Jousseaume bookshop, a confectioner, the list goes on.
It developed into a fashionable shopping hub for Europe's elite, and remained that way until the fall of the 2nd Empire in 1870. Around this time the city's Avenues were growing in prominence, particularly Champs-Elysees and Madeleine, and the city's most popular shops were moving there.
Galerie Vivienne, along with the historic passages of the Grands Boulevards, suffered a loss of clientelle but remained as elegant as ever. Since the 1960s it has once again grown in popularity and is now a property of the Bibliotheque Nationale.
The Galerie Vivienne's Most Notorious Resident
The most infamous chapter in the Galerie's history is no doubt that involving Eugene Francois Vidocq. Vidocq was a deserter and crook who, having escaped France's prison system several times, turned his hand to criminology, opening the first known private detective agency.
This was a private police force for hire made up mainly of ex-cons. It served the interests of businesses and private citizens and often tangled with criminals, often in illegal ways.
As a business it fluorished but it made Vidocq a lot of powerful enemies and in 1842 his offices were stormed by 75 police officers. he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 5 years in prison for the mishandling of funds.
Whilst in prison he wrote several short books and essays, and over time his legend grew to inspire many great writers like Victor Hugo, Edgar Allan Poe and Honore de Balzac, who wrote several novels featuring characters based on Vidocq.
Whilst in Paris he lived at No. 13 Galerie Vivienne at the top of a monumental staircase that can still be seen today. One can only imagine the crooks, criminals, authors and other characters that crept up and down those steps!
The Design of the Galerie Vivienne
The Galerie's interior was designed by Francois-Jacques Delannoy and modelled to look like a neo-classical Pompeii palace. Goddesses and nymphs adorn the rotunda, half-moon windows welcome light into the shops and simple mosaic patterns decorate the floors.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try a CityDays urban exploration game - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Paris and beyond.
Or, for similar places further afield, check out our articles on London's Burlington Arcade and Melbourne's Royal Arcade.