The 2nd arrondissement is located firmly on the right bank of the River Seine. It is a part of Paris’s business district and the historic stock exchange, Paris Bourse, is located there. The 2nd arrondissement is divided into quarters: Quartier Gaillon, Quartier Vivienne, Quartier du Mail, and Quartier de Bonne-Nouvelle.
The business feel of the 2nd arrondissement, which manifests itself in its many enterprises and banks, is interspersed with historical monuments of great beauty. The arrondissement contains Opéra-Comique, a textile district known as the Sentier, and most of all – the majority of the remaining Parisian passages.
With its land area of just 0.992 km2, the 2nd arrondissement is Paris’s smallest arrondissement. It owes its current shape to the re-organisation of Paris in 1860.
While the first dwellings in the 2nd arrondissement date back to the 14th century, the area is the product of the extension of the city in the 15th and 16th century. Its limits were demarcated in 1860 during Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.
As the streets of Paris in the 19th century were poorly lit and muddy, entrepreneurs invested in glazed commercial arcades, so hauntingly described in Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, a book that inspired many a modern philosopher. Survivors include: Passage des Panoramas, Galerie Vivienne, Passage Choiseul, Galerie Colbert, Passage des Princes.
This triangle-shaped quarter owes its name to an old hotel and an old gate of that name. It contains the Passage Choiseul, where Louis-Ferdinand Céline used to live as a child. He described the passage as Passage des Bérésinas in his novel ‘Death on Credit’.
Quartier Vivienne – the sixth quarter of Paris – is the site of the Paris Bourse and the Galerie Vivienne. The famous criminal-turned-criminologist Vidocq used to live there (among other places).
The seventh quarter is renowned for its many hotels, including historical ones, and rue du Croissant, where Parisians get their newspapers.
The eighth quarter was named after the church of Notre-Dame de Bonne-Nouvelle, which also lent its name to the nearby hill. Interestingly, the hill itself is mostly artificial: it started as a pile of dirt around the 10th century and just kept on growing. Its dubious pedigree notwithstanding, the hill witnessed many historical events.