While it might be the smallest district of Paris, the 2ème arrondissement has an immense concentration of the most beautiful, cool and romantic places in Paris. On the rise over the last decade or so, this zone just north above Les Halles has been shedding its both somewhat shady (around rue St Denis) and somewhat boring (the office-packed streets closer to Opera), to become the hub for some of the city’s hippest bars, restaurants and shops. It was very challenging to whittle the selection down to only ten, so I’ve hinted at a few others which you may also like to explore. Happy romancing!
Most Romantic Street
It’s hard to beat the charm of rue Montorgueil. In fact, if I had to pick one favorite street in the whole city it might be this one. The main road leading down to the defunct Les Halles food market, the street still has vestiges of it in the form of a number of historic restaurants and high-quality food purveyors. The street is the main artery of the maze of old, narrow streets which criss-cross the block and themselves are packed with buzzing bars and trendy take-away eateries. Must sees and dos on the street include gazing up at the golden snail at L’Escargot (on the 1st district side of the street), picking up a treat at Stohrer’s (the oldest pastry shop in Paris dating back to 1730) and grabbing a drink or bite to eat en terrace to people watch!
Most Romantic Hidden Spot
Named after a private mansion which previously occupied the vicinity, the Passage du Grand Cerf is one of the loveliest of Paris’ remaining historic passageways. These once numbered over 150 and were mainly concentrated in the 2nd and 9th districts, only a few have been successfully revived and Le Grand-Cerf, built in 1825, is one of the most unique. It’s tucked away within some quiet side streets a block east of rue Montorgueil and thus makes for an enchanting surprise when arriving at it for the first time. Take your time to peruse its artisans, jewelry designers and other trendy boutiques.
Most Romantic Historic Site
The Opera Garnier may be the most famous theatre in Paris, however, I’m partial to its jewel-box little cousin, the Opéra Comique – Salle Favart. Not only is the building absolutely gorgeous, it’s also hidden within a city block, so as you round the corner, you can’t help but be awe-struck by the elaborate and elegant facade of this Belle Epoque marvel. It’s equally stunning on the interior and I highly recommend keeping your eye on their performance schedule which also features some more avant-garde productions, including some in partnership with the IRCAM, the French Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music.
Most Romantic Quirky Historic Site
Walking along busy rue Etienne Marcel, you may have noticed an ill-fitting tower squashed between the row of homogeneous Haussmannian buildings. This is in fact a rare medieval building in Paris, the Tour Jean-sans-Peur. Completed in 1411, it’s all what’s left of the palace complex of the Dukes of Burgundy, which formerly sprawled over the surrounding streets. Standing 21 meters (69 ft) high, it holds the record of the tallest medieval civic building in the city. It houses temporary exhibits on medieval topics like love and wine and your entrance ticket includes climbing the heights of the tower (with plenty of spots for a tender kiss) Wednesday to Sunday 1:30pm – 6pm (entrance fee 6 euros adults/3.50 students).
Le Jacques’s bar – ouvert en fin de journée et le soir – propose des cocktails. • • • @thehoxtonhotel @humbertetpoyet #thehoxton #thehoxtonparis #paris #hotel #instaplace #instamoment #design #decoration #designer #style #lieudevie #lobby #chambres #accueil #instagood #instaphoto #instatravel #travel #voyage #jacquesbar #bar #cocktail #ambiance
Most Romantic (and Trendy) Bar
The Experimental Cocktail Bar is terribly seductive, however, I opted for something a more up-to-date for this list. The Paris branch of the Hoxton Hotel has been the talk of the town since opening last autumn. While the restaurant/courtyard café is where most hip Parisians and guests are gravitating towards, the hotel also has a stylish bar, located above courtyard’s spiral staircase. Finding Jacques will be part of the fun. Once inside, you’ll find an contemporary decor of floral wallpaper, cozy seating and a delicious Moroccan inspired cocktail menu by Quixotic, the team behind Candelaria, Glass and Les Grands Verres (the new restaurant of the Palais de Tokyo).
Most Romantic Restaurant
There are lots of cute contemporary places in the second arrondissement, but for a special romantic dinner then book a table at the Gallopin. Opened in 1876 as a beer and wine wholesaler, Mr Gustave Gallopin first expanded into a bar, catering to the financiers of the nearby Stock Exchange, then into the beautiful restaurant which still exists. The handsome interior features the original bar and a wall of magnificent stained glass, making it a sublime setting for a dîner à deux. The not-so-pricy menu presents classic French dishes with a modern twist. For something a little different, every Thursday they do a menu paired with cocktails, book in advance though as spaces are very limited (more info here).
Most Romantic Garden
The 2nd arrondissement is one of the least green in the city. It’s high density simply doesn’t allow for much green space, that said, the one it does have is divine. Found opposite the Bibliothèque Nationale, the small Carré Louvois used to be the private gardens of the 18th-century Louvois mansion, which has since been destroyed. The classy fountain was installed in 1844 and pays homage to four of France’s great rivers: the Seine, the Garonne, the Loire and the Saône. Later in the century the square and its buildings were redesigned under Haussmann’s grand development of the area. The little park is bordered by shady benches perfect for a little lovers’ break.
Most Quintessentially Parisian Romantic Square
Tucked away a few paces from the showier Place des Victoires (also regally romantic!), a smile comes across my face every time I approach the splendid Place des Petits Pères. It is just the perfect conduit to everything we love about Paris. Walking up the short rue Vide Gousset you’ll be able to admire the dainty historic tiles of the Moulin de la Vierge, a tea salon and bakery making its breads with organic flour and in one of the oldest working brick ovens in Paris. To the right at the beginning of rue Mail is Chez Georges, a charming traditional French restaurant that’s been in business since 1964 (why not stop in for lunch?). The south side of the square has a branch of the chic Dammann Frères, purveyors of exquisite tea since 1692, and the north side is dominated by the Basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires, previously the chapel of the Augustinian fathers, or the Petits-Pères, which gave the square its name. The whole ambiance is magical, peaceful and very local Parisian. Straight ahead and slightly right there is a little alley which will take you to the next place on the list.
Most Romantic Place “With it All”
The one place in the second that I think has the most all around wow factor is the breathtaking Galerie Vivienne. Not only is this one of the oldest covered passages in the city, constructed in 1823, it also is incredibly magical. In addition to its lovely mosaic work and decoration, it has a range of refined shops, one of the city’s most stylish historic restaurants, The Bistrot Vivienne (read more about in my restaurant article here) and one of its oldest and most famous wine shop, Legrand Filles et fils, with roots descending back to the 1880s. So you can first stroll in awe through the alluring arcade then return back to ogle the precious collections of wine at Legrand (they have a wine bar too), then finish off with dinner at the Bistrot Vivienne!
Track down these romantic places of the 2ème arrondissement with the help of this google map and see the other articles in this series below!