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.