2nd Arrondissement

The second Arrondissement is the First’s wingman. Just up north, it’s all the old-world elegance of the First: It looks and feels the same, but it’s not nearly as touristy. It’s as if there’s an invisible force field behind Palais Royal that subtly repels foreigners from passing through the membrane of  ‘touristiest place, perhaps on the entirety of Earth’  to ‘this should be touristy but it’s not’…. Fancy banks were first established here even though La Défense has long replaced the first as stock-broker central, but don’t break it to the posh le Deuxième. Because the Second is not swallowed up by the Louvre, it’s cozier and more eclectic. And there are no crowds. Bonus: You’ll inevitably run across beautiful covered passages (bonjour, Passage des Panoramas, et bonjour toi aussi, Galerie Véro Dodat…), a cute shopping enclave behind Place des Victoires and Paris’ only true Japanese food street, Rue Sainte Anne.

Some­body told all the tourists to go here for nightlife. We’re not sure who it was, but it cer­tain­ly wasn’t us. The effect is as expected—bars cater­ing to tourists. If you flew all the way to Paris to vis­it a wax muse­um or a Hard Rock Café, that’s on you. Don’t blame us for wast­ing your time star­ing at wax fig­ures of Mbap­pé and John­ny Hal­l­i­day. This com­plex neigh­bor­hood strad­dles the sec­ond and the ninth dis­tricts, which keeps it hum­ming and thrum­ming day and night, and packed with Paris’ biggest col­lec­tion of basic, high­ly avoid­able, main­stream pubs, and ‘just-keep-walk­ing’ restau­rants (the clubs and the­atres are cool though, so don’t lump them in with the bor­ing chain pubs that line the traf­fic-choked ‘boulevard’—depending on who is spin­ning, the Rex Club can be LIT…). With the good, the bad, and the ugly all smashed togeth­er, the Grands Boule­vards quar­ter is any­thing but subtle.

Instead of get­ting engulfed in this main­stream may­hem, keep it real by wan­der­ing around the cov­ered pas­sages, where the best restau­rants in the neigh­bor­hood can be found (Vic­to­ria Sta­tion, Racines…). Faux­hemi­ans pre­fer the Marais, but, if you hap­pen to be here and are a dis­cern­ing per­son (ahem, you are read­ing PARIS » DEFINED, so…), you’ll want to drill down a lit­tle deep­er on small­er side streets and spend time among locals by sip­ping on a straw of our lov­ing cura­tion below.

Quaint Rue Mon­torgueil is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly food­ie cen­tral and tourist trap, as it’s always packed with tourists…and some locals. It has a rich his­to­ry that includes a claim to Paris’ first boulan­gerie (Stoher–still worth it after almost 300 years). Rue Mont­martre, Rue Tique­tonne and all the oth­er small streets criss-cross­ing near­by are also worth check­ing out. The in-the-know locals are found on Rue du Nil – a hive of edgy offer­ings – Frenchie Bar a Vins (if you can’t snag a res at Frenchie), L’Arbre à Café, where you can try some very unusu­al tast­ing cof­fee (in a good way), PLAQ bean-to-bar choco­lates, Ter­roirs d’Avenir boulan­gerie (which recent­ly refor­mu­lat­ed its crois­sant to among the best in the city…) The area is worth a vis­it but stick to our rec­om­men­da­tions as it’s 50/50 tourist traps/absolute culi­nary gems…

And, if you love choco­late, stray a bit off the beat­en path to rue de Mul­house for one of the most deli­cious things we have ever put our mouth on — the raw veg­an hot choco­late at Rrraw Choco­lats where you can also get a tour of the choco­late-mak­ing process in this tiny, but mighty, space.

Fur­ther west and north, the streets get less touristy and this is where lies the authen­tic heart of the Sec­ond district.

Dress the part and alight upon these refined shop­ping streets: Place des Vic­toires (and the lit­tle enclave just north of it by the church), Rue de Riche­lieu, Rue du Mail and Rue des Petits-Champs. Or these beau­ti­ful cov­ered pas­sages: Galerie Vivi­enne, Galerie Col­bert, Pas­sage Choiseul, and Pas­sage des Panora­mas. Indulge on noo­dle soup and Asian sweets on Rue Sainte-Anne, an authen­tic Japan­ese enclave.