The noble covered passages of the Grands Boulevards and the stairs of Montmartre are well-known features of the Parisian landscape. Further off the beaten track, the arrondissements of Eastern Paris are just as full of urban surprises.
Narrow streets, pathways, courtyards: venture further from the center of the capital to find such charming lanes and their bucolic flair. Treading on the palimpsest cobblestones of a lost Paris, testament to its rustic and working-class past, strollers can escape the motorized chaos of the modern city.
The passages referenced on the map below are guaranteed (almost) traffic-free! For the sake of clarity, we only described those located in Paris’ 10th, 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th arrondissements:
Neighborhoods and streets with many passages (main streets listed below)
Courtyards, pathways and passages
Cour des Bretons
Also called “Cour de Bretagne” – as written on its pediment over the entrance from Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple – this courtyard splits in two before leading to the Rue du Buisson-Saint-Louis. Adorned with many plants, it offers a pleasant alternative to reach the Sainte-Marthe neighborhood.
Cour des Bretons, 75010 Paris
Cour des Petites Écuries & Passage Reilhac
Located where the royal stables stood before the French Revolution, the Cour des Peittes Écuries is a long and angular passage. A true haven of peace between the lively Strasbourg-Saint-Denis and Château d’Eau metro stations, it is home to some cafes and restaurants spreading their terraces. Just across the street, the Passage Reilhac and its elegantly sculpted pediment are difficult to miss.
Cour des Petites Écuries / Passage Reilhac, 75010 Paris
Very different from its urban neighbors of the Grands Boulevards, this half-covered passage built in 1828 is without a doubt one of the most colorful alleyways of the French capital. The restaurants coming in succession under its glass roof honor the culinary traditions of South Asia. Not so surprising: the “Little Jaffna” neighborhood is not far, spreading up north between the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord train stations. The Passage Brady is also home to specialized groceries offering everything to spice up your cuisine!
Passage Brady, 75010 Paris
Passage du Désir
If the origin of its intriguing name remains a mystery – it was later adopted by a chain of sex shops! – the Passage du Désir makes for a great urban escape at the heart of the lively Château d’Eau neighborhood. It is split in half by the Boulevard de Strasbourg. The segment leading to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin is flanked by elegant buildings with red facades, dating back to the late 18th century.
Passage du Désir, 75010 Paris
Passage du Prado
Deemed disreputable until rather recently, the Passage du Prado is the second of the two covered passages of Paris’ 10th arrondissement. It went through a major renovation including an artistic installation in 2012. Forming an angle under a surprising rotunda, its Art Deco glass roof now boasts a range of bright colors. The passage is mostly home to hair salons and other businesses managed by Parisians originating from South Asia.
Passage du Prado, 75010 Paris
A few steps away from the Ménilmontant metro station, this peaceful courtyard leading to Rue Oberkampf has maintained a rustic atmosphere, remote witness of the neighborhood’s gardening past. It is flanked by little houses, which used to serve as workshops starting in the 19th century – when Eastern Paris fully entered the industrial era and became home to a sizeable working-class population. With artists and craftspersons still among their ranks, residents of the Cité Durmar have been resisting real estate speculation and the disfigurement of this unique heritage ever since the land was purchased in 2004.
Cité Durmar (via 154 rue Oberkampf), 75011 Paris
Cité du Figuier
A bit more polished than its neighbor the Cité Durmar, this pleasant courtyard flanked by colorful faces hides behind the numbers 104-106 of Rue Oberkampf. In addition to a few cats, these workshops now welcome Parisians working in communication agencies and NGOs – as evidenced by the many bikes parked between the plants adorning its cobblestones.
Cité du Figuier, 75011 Paris
It may not be the most charming passage of Paris’ 11th arrondissement, but the Cité Industrielle is worth a detour! Close to the Voltaire metro station, this narrow alleyway is flanked by former workshops and well maintained by its residents – the passage is adorned with plants and flowers, and hides a discrete community garden.
Cité Industrielle, 75011 Paris
With street lamps and plants hanging from its facades, the Cour Damoye distinguishes itself with elegance from the many passages of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine neighborhood. The former workshops indicative of the industrial past of the neighborhood have been turned into office spaces, even though art galleries and a coffee roaster are also based here. This cobbled alleyway is not too hard to find, as it leads directly to the Place de la Bastille!
Cour Damoye, 75011 Paris
Cour de l’Industrie
A stone’s throw from the Faidherbe-Chaligny metro station, the Cour de l’Industrie is full of surprises. First of all, it is made up of not only one, but three adjacent courtyards! Threatened for a long time, they were registered in the list of historic buildings before undergoing six years of renovation works until 2017. An iconic element of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine’s industrial past, the Cour de l’Industrie and its 1850 buildings now welcome dozens of craftspersons and artists.
Cour de l’Industrie (via 37 bis rue de Montreuil), 75011 Paris
Passage Alexandrine & Passage Gustave Lepeu
Named after the former owner of the land and his daughter, these two narrow passages have been planted with trees by their residents. They both lead to the pleasant Rue Léon Frot, the epicenter of the Charonne grape harvest.
Passage Alexandrine / Passage Gustave Lepeu, 75011 Paris
The Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the Rue de Charonne are home to many courtyards. Long dedicated to workshops specializing in the furniture and decoration industry, some of these passages and their businesses still perpetuate this tradition to this day. With their flowered facades and charing boutiques, the Passage Lhomme is one of the most striking examples of this heritage.
Passage Lhomme (via 26-28 Rue de Charonne), 75011 Paris
This distinctive passage holds a singular detail: take a look under the porch and you’ll see one of the last examples of wooden pavement remaining in the Parisian landscape! At the end of this alleyway planted with lampposts is the elegant thrift store La Frange à l’Envers.
Passage Saint-Maur (via 81 rue Saint-Maur), 75011 Paris
At the heart of a little-known neighborhood close to Place de la Nation, the Cité Debergue leads to a cobbled passage flanked by the quiet facades of small houses. A surprising billiard hall is hiding at the end of this discrete alleyway.
Cité Debergue, 75012 Paris
With its colorful facades and old cobblestones, this passage ranks without a doubt among the most photogenic streets of Eastern Paris. It is home to a community of craftspersons, as evidenced by the finely wrought signs crowning some of their workshops.
Cour d’Alsace-Lorraine, 75012 Paris
While we could not find astounding historical facts about this remote passage in the periphery of Paris’ 12th arrondissement, it can be worth a detour to enjoy the local village flair. The Bel-Air neighborhood is surprisingly rich with these distinctive alleyways. Behind its pleasant name, the Impasse Canart hides pleasant and colorful facades with gates of wrought iron.
Impasse Canart, 75012 Paris
The messier neighbor of the polished Cour d’Alsace-Lorraine is a timeless little passage, flanked by workshops and colorful little houses you cannot find anywhere else in this part of Paris. Adorned with vegetation, the Impasse Mousset is a very distinctive industrial courtyard, still home to a few workshops and even a surprising tennis club!
Impasse Mousset, 75012 Paris
Passage de la Voûte
Leading to the Porte de Vincennes, this short alleyway and its stairs are topped by the red arch of the sculpture “Le Chat”, an artwork made in 2013 by the students of the metalwork section of the nearby Chennevière Malézieux highschool. The cat is a nod to the famous singer Charles Trénet, who apparently used to stay at a hotel on Passage de la Voûte.
Passage de la Voûte, 75012 Paris
Sentier des Merisiers
This little-known passage at the edge of the capital holds a singular record: with a minimal width of 87 centimeters (2.9 feet), it is the narrowest street in Paris! Find its entrance from Boulevard Soult or Rue du Niger to explore its stone walls and intriguing iron gates.
Sentier des Merisiers, 75012 Paris
Villa du Bel-Air
A beautiful alley adorned with prosperous-looking buildings, the Villa du Bel Air stands across the former railway of the Petite ceinture, offering a clear view on its planted courtyards and fancy front steps. Don’t hesitate to have a look at the Sentier de la Lieutenance nearby – albeit less pleasant than the neighboring Sentier des Merisiers, its stairs form a pleasant entrance above the Boulevard Soult.
Villa du Bel-Air, 75012 Paris
Like a charming little village perched atop a hill overlooking the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the Butte Bergeyre ranks among the few micro-neighborhoods spared by the Parisian traffic. Standing at an altitude of 100 meters (330 feet), this residential – and rather wealthy – neighborhood is lined with many houses and villa, some vines, and a community garden. It also offers some of the best views of Paris’ most famous hill, Montmartre! We can only recommend to enter from the staircase located at 54 Avenue Simon Bolivar, celebrated in a 1950 photograph by Willy Ronis.
Rue Rémy de Gourmont / Rue Philippe Hecht / Rue Georges Lardennois / Rue Edgar Poe, 75019 Paris
*An article exploring the Butte Bergeyre in details will be published soon… Stay tuned!*
Quartier de la Mouzaïa
Standing on former gypsum quarries, “La Mouzaïa” is undoubtedly one of the most atypical neighborhoods of the French capital! Between the Danube metro station and the Rue de Bellevue, two dozen pedestrian alleyways form a charming maze flanked by former working-class houses and a few workshops. The heart of the neighborhood is at the crossroad of the very “Républicain” triangle shaped by the Rue de l’Égalité, Rue de la Fraternité and Rue de la Liberté.
Rue de la Mouzaïa / Rue de l’Égalité / Rue de la Fraternité / Rue de la Liberté, 75019 Paris
*An article exploring the Mouzaïa neighborhood in details will be published soon… Stay tuned!*
Passage de l’Église orthodoxe Saint-Serge
Hiding between a few blocks at the edge of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, the Saint-Serge Orthodox Church is one of the best kept secrets of Eastern Paris. With two entrances from Rue de Crimée and Rue Meynadier opened in the daytime, the passages surrounding the church offer a rare glimpse of Parisian urbanism.
93 Rue de Crimée, 75019 Paris
Passage du Plateau
This surprising passage is the second narrowest in Paris, following the Sentier des Merisiers at the edge of Paris’ 12th arrondissement. A stone’s throw from the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, this pleasant pathway hides beautiful addresses behind tall brick walls.
Passage du Plateau, 75019 Paris
Villa de l’Adour
Make sure that the door is open and that you’re not bothering any residents before exploring this charming private alleyway of Paris’ 19th arrondissement, leading to the pleasant Rue de la Villette. Small gardens, wrought iron doors and trees make a great combination for this bucolic escape a few steps from the Rue de Belleville.
Villa de l’Adour (via 13, Rue de la Villette), 75019 Paris
Campagne à Paris
Along with the Butte Bergeyre and the Mouzaïa, the Campagne à Paris (“Countryside in Paris”) is one of the most charming residential neighborhoods east of the city. Built between 1911 and 1928, its hundred or so pavilions were originally meant to house working-class Parsians at a moderate cost. It has since become much more bourgeois, as evidenced by the recent move of former President François Hollande to the neighborhood! A few steps away from the Porte de Bagnolet, the aptly-named Campagne à Paris boasts quiet cobbled streets and flowered flights of steps, which are sure to please any Parisian missing the outdoors.
Rue Irénée Blanc / Rue Jules Siegfried / rue Paul Strauss, 75020 Paris
*An article exploring the Campagne à Paris neighborhood in details will be published soon… Stay tuned!*
Cité des Écoles
With its two-story buildings, cobblestones and beautiful red brick walls, the discrete Cité des Écoles is worth a quick detour from the pleasant Place Martin Nadaud nearby.
Cité des Écoles, 75020 Paris
Cité de l’Ermitage
Perched atop the hill of Ménilmontant, the Cité de l’Ermitage is a peaceful remainder of the neighborhood’s rustic and working-class past. Lined up with street lamps, this passage is home to small houses hiding behind stone walls, as well as a small cobbled square. To extend this bucolic experience, make sure to explore the Villa de l’Ermitage nearby.
Cité de l’Ermitage, 75020 Paris
Passage Perreur & Villa Perreur
Close to the Place Gambetta, the Passage and Villa Perreur make for a pleasant urban escape. Linked by a small flight of steps, these two passages are flanked by workshops and charming houses. We can only recommend to visit in the spring or summertime, when the climbing plants are spreading their foliage.
Passage Perruer / Villa Perreur, 75020 Paris
If you’re checking out the wonderful view from the top of Parc de Belleville, don’t hesitate to make a little detour to the Passage Plantin! Lined up with street lights and beautiful brick walls, it is one of the few passages that survived both time and the neighborhood’s densification. Connecting the Rue des Couronnes to the Rue du Transvall, it is home to lovely houses with planted gardens.
Passage Plantin, 75020 Paris
Passage des Soupirs
This narrow passage has a fittingly poetic name, as it makes a true oasis of calm overlooking the lively Rue des Pyrénées. Former industrial workshops and elegant houses share this quiet alleyway, along with many plants and a community garden.
Passage des Soupirs, 75020 Paris
Rue des Vignoles
More than a dozen passages and dead-ends flanked by former working-class buildings lead to this charming street, boasting a unique village atmosphere – its name recalls the winegrowing past of the old village of Charonne. With the Rue des Haies nearby, the neighborhood is a surprising maze, yet remains particularly pleasant to explore. Notice the sometimes odd names of these passages, such as the trinity of Passage Dieu, Impasse Satan, and Impasse Saint-Pierre.
Rue des Vignoles / Passages attenants, 75020 Paris
*An article exploring the Vignoles neighborhood in details will be published soon… Stay tuned!*
Square des Grès
A few steps away from the pleasant Rue Saint-Blaise, at the heart of the Charonne neighborhood, the quiet Square des Grès is a breath of air in the Parisian hustle-and-bustle. You can access this discrete green space surrounded with small houses through the Passage du Village-Saint-Blaise, a bucolic but semi-private cobbled alleyway.
Square des Grès (via 57 rue Vitruve), 75020 Paris
Villa du Borrégo
Perched a few steps away from the Belleville Cemetery, this pleasant passage flanked by little houses is full of nostalgia, reminiscent of a lost Paris. Adorned with plants and trees, the Villa du Borrégo leads to small gardens protected by brick walls and iron gates.
Villa du Borrégo, 75020 Paris
Villa de l’Ermitage & Cité Leroy
A well-known detour for Bellevillois, the Villa de l’Ermitage is without a doubt one of the most charming passages of Eastern Paris. Artists workshops, sunny courtyards, finely wrought porches and lush vegetation – by Paris standards – it is hard to imagine that the lively Rue de Ménilmontant is right around the corner! With an old fashioned and simple charm, these two passages are a must-see for those exploring the hilltops of Belleville.
Villa de l’Ermitage / Cité Leroy, 75020 Paris
The Villa Georgina is certainly not the most spectacular Parisian passage, yet its small houses offer a singular contrast with the modern buildings surrounding the quiet alleyway. You may feel a bit envious of the quiet gardens kept by its residents.
Villa Georgina, 75020 Paris
Villa Riberolle & Cité Aubry
A few beautiful passages are nestled in the shade of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, of which the Villa Riberolle is a striking example. Bearing the traces of the neighborhood’s industrial past, you will find its entrance on the Rue de Bagnolet. Along this lively street, don’t hesitate to stroll down the pleasant Rue Lignier, and if the doors are open, around the small gardens of the Villa Godin.
Villa Riberolle / Cité Aubry, 75020 Paris
Given the myriad of small passages and charming courtyards of the French capital, it is hard to give an exhaustive list! In addition to those, some streets of Eastern Paris are known to hide many secret 19th century courtyards, usually invisible from the sidewalk and yet usually open to curious strollers.
If you feel like exploring some of them, we recommend you to check out the Rue de Charonne (11th arrondissement), the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine (11th/12th), the Rue Oberkampf (11th), the Rue Saint-Maur (10th/11th) and the Rue de Belleville (19th/20th).
Photos: © S.T.