Located near the very center of the French capital, the 2nd arrondissement of Paris harbors noteworthy attractions many tourists never see, including an intact medieval tower that was once the site of a brutal royal assassination, one of the best permanent market streets in the city, glamorous old covered passageways and edgy boutiques from both established and blossoming new designers.
Yet, despite its many obvious draw cards, many visitors manage to completely miss out on this hidden-in-plain-sight district, skirting it around it unknowingly as they focus on famous adjoining tourist attractions such as the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Les Halles shopping complex.
Read on to learn why you should make some time to explore the area, and how to make the most of the 2nd if you're staying nearby.
Getting There and Getting Around:
One of the city's more compact districts, the 2nd stretches across part of central Paris on the right bank of the Seine. It's in relatively close reach of big-ticket attractions such as the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens.
The easiest way to get to the 2nd is to take line 3 or 4 on the Paris metro to the Sentier, Etienne-Marcel, or Bourse stations. Most of the main tourist attractions in the area are in close reach of these main stops. You can also easily access the area on foot from adjoining neighborhoods including the Marais, Les Halles, and the Louvre-Tuileries district.
Map of the 2nd Arrondissement: View map here
Main Sights and Attractions in the 2nd Arrondissement:
- The Rue Montorgueil neighborhood: This cheery pedestrian district is paved with marble and dotted with some of the area's most-coveted restaurants and cafes, markets and bakeries. Read the full guide for more details.
- Grands Boulevards neighborhood: A bit further north, Paris during the glamorous Belle Epoque period haunts this glamorous old area, with its covered passageways or arcades and classic "boulevard"city theatres that once catered primarily to working class audiences.
- La Tour Jean-Sans-Peur: This fortified tower from the medieval period is a fascinating sight to behold, especially for history enthusiasts. A gruesome assassination involving the Duc d'Orleans is said to have occurred here, making it notorious. An inexpensive ticket lets you climb to the top.
- Paris Stock Exchange (Bourse de Paris): The historic headquarters of the Parisian stock exchange is not especially remarkable as a tourist site, but the square on which it stands is very pleasant, and is lined with restaurants, brasseries and shops worth exploring.
- Opéra Comique: One of Paris' classic old theatres is worth a night out.
- Bibliothèque Nationale de France: This is the classic, breathtakingly ornate original site of the French National Library. Sadly, you need a reader's (researcher's) card to enter the library-- but it may be worth the effort to get the credentials if you're a bibliophile or a lover of old, gorgeous libraries.
- Passage des Panoramas: Along with some of the other famous "arcades" or passageways in the area, this one is especially beautiful, and great for a stroll or shopping spree.
- Le Grand Rex: This historic movie theatre, club and concert hall is instantly recognizable from its red-and-white signage.
Eating & Drinking in the Area
Finding a place to eat in the 2nd isn't especially tough: Rue Montorgueil, Rue Pierre-Lescot and Rue Etienne-Marcel are lined with restaurants and brasseries that are mostly quite decent even when picked at random, while the area around Metro Bourse has several reputed restaurants, including the recently opened Terroir Parisien at the Palais Brogniart, and one of my favorite solid Parisian Belle-Epoque brasseries, Gallopin.
You can find more suggestions for places to eat out in the second at this page on Paris by Mouth (scroll down to "75002" for a list).
Street goodies: If you're more of a street-food lover and market nibbler, you're in luck. The district is dotted with some of the city's best bakeries, produce vendors and gourmet traiteurs. See our complete guide to the Montorgueil neighborhood for more suggestions.
Where to Stay in the 2nd?
Since this district is so central and close to too many important tourist attractions and amenities to count, it's probably no surprise that vacancies can be hard to come by in the 2nd, and prices are often less than budget-friendly, even for two and three-star accommodations.
While we haven't yet personally vetted any of the hotels in this district, we do recommend searching for hotels that have fared well with ordinary travelers.
You can do so by visiting this page at TripAdvisor (read reviews and book direct).
Shopping in the Area
Rue Etienne-Marcel and Rue Tiquetonne (both Metro Etienne Marcel) are lined with designer boutiques, with stores from established designers like Agnes B and Barbara Bui, and up-and-coming names in fashion. The concept store Espace Kiliwatch offers a variety of new and used threads and is popular with style-conscious, boho professionals.
Meanwhile, make sure to head over to the ornate old passages (including Passage de la Cerf near Rue Montorgueil and Rue St Denis and Passage Vivienne near Metro Bourse) for old-world glamour and unique gifts.