IN FEBRUARY, I PRODUCED a blog piece about the Rue de Vaugirard, which at 4.3 kilometres is the longest street in Paris. Having explored that street, I thought it would be interesting to go to the other end of the spectrum and search out the shortest street in this city.
At 3.3 metres wide and 5.75 metres long the Rue des Degrés in the 2nd arrondissement has the distinction of being the shortest street in Paris. It’s been here since the middle of the seventeenth-century.
The Rue des Degrés comprises just fourteen steps linking the Rue de Clery and the Rue Beauregard. These two streets run along the former line of the Charles V wall, built between 1356 to 1383 and demolished in the seventeenth-century to make way for the Grands Boulevards.
The Rue des Degrés is so short that it’s hard to imagine that it is a formal street … but it is and like all streets in Paris it even has the street name affixed to the wall at either end of the street.
The Rue des Degrés also has the distinction of being one of the quietest streets in Paris. I went there in the middle of a Saturday afternoon yet there was no traffic, no people and scarcely a sound to be heard.
The Rue des Degrés may be the shortest and possibly the quietest street in Paris but the large Boulevards and characteristic city sounds are never far away.
A short walk from the Rue des Degrés led me to the grand Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle where I found, in great contrast to the quiet of the Rue des Degrés, this group of street musicians.
Street Music in Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle:
IT WAS A DECREE SIGNED on 3rd September 1860 by Baron Haussmann that authorised the opening of the Passage des Princes, the last of the passages couverts parisiens to be opened.
The Passage des Princes sits between the Boulevard des Italiens and the rue de Richelieu in the 2nd arrondissement and it, along with the Passage des Panoramas, the Passage Jouffroy and the Passage Verdeau, form the quartet of passage couverts known as the Passage du Boulevards.
Sounds inside the Passage des Princes:
The Passage des Princes was originally called the Passage Mirès, named after the banker, Jules Mirés who bought the Grand Hôtel des Princes et de l’Europe at 97 Rue de Richelieu. Mirès demolished the hôtel to make way for the passage and a new pedestrian access connecting the Rue de Richelieu and the Boulevard des Italiens. Unfortunately for Mirès, his bank collapsed shortly after his funding of the new passage couvert was completed.
Originally, this passage comprised relatively small ground-floor shops surmounted by a sloping glass roof punctuated by a double span metal arch decorated with arabesques and it looks much the same today. However, what we see today is not the original Passage des Princes.
In 1985, the original Passage des Princes was destroyed in the interests of another real-estate scheme. Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed and the passage was subsequently rebuilt faithful to its original form.
Today, the Passage des Princes is a lively and elegant place where all the shops cater for children. It’s a veritable Kid’s Kingdom.
Passage des Princes, 3/5 boulevard des Italiens and 97 rue de Richelieu 75002 Paris. Métro Richelieu-Drouot. Open Monday to Saturday 10.00 to 20.00
You can see more of Les Passages Couverts here: