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The 2nd district is the smallest district of Paris (0.99 km2). Its main features are the Stock Exchange in Palais Brongniart and the prostitutes of rue Saint-Denis. No relation.

Population was 19,585 in 1990 (2nd least populated district). The district is bordered on the west and north sides by the boulevards, and on the east side by the Boulevard de Sébastopol:



                                              10th     | |
      Bd. Haussmann                                    | |
     ==================================================| |===
                    //                             r   |B|
    9th           //                               .   |d|
                //                                 S   | |
      Opéra   //          St.Ex                    a   |S|
            //                                     i   |é|
          //                                       n   |b|   3rd
        // \\                                      t   |a|
      //    \\                                     -   |s|
    //       \\        Bib.Nat.                    D   |t|
  //\`========\\================================== e ==|o|==
//             \\                                  n   |p|
                \\         1st                     i   |o|   4th
                                                   s   |l|


Everything in italics on the map is outside the district. The top direction is not north, but north-west-north.

Banks and theaters

The western part of the district, bordered by the boulevards described by Maupassant in Bel-Ami, belongs to the rich and powerful. Most banks have large buildings there, as well as the the Paris Stock Exchange (St.Ex on the map) in Brongniart's Palace. The boulevards also contain one of the biggest concentration of movie theaters in Paris, and the small streets between the Opera and the Stock Exchange are dedicated to theaters.

South of the Opera, the rue de la Paix, the most expensive street in the French version of the Monopoly game, goes south and joins Place Vendôme in the 1st district. Around the Avenue de l'Opéra and rue Saint-Anne, the little-known Japanese quarter provides you with Japanese udon and yakisoba that you will find nowhere else in Paris. One of the two most important Japanese libraries in Paris is located in rue Saint-Augustin. And the former National Library (Bib.Nat on the map) occupies a large building along rue Etienne-Marcel.

Textile, startups and rue Saint-Denis

When going east, the banks are replaced with tens or hundreds of small textile businesses in the Sentier quarter. The area became famous two years ago with the movie "La vérité si je mens". A new kind of industry invaded the area in 1999 and 2000: the IT startups. The area was quickled known as the "Silicon Sentier". The startups took advantage of the ideal position in central Paris and the relatively low rents due to the little prestige of the area.

The low prestige was due in part to the rue Saint-Denis. In its northern part, the street hosts textile shops and startups along with dozens of sex shops and maybe the highest concentration of prostitutes in Europe after Amsterdam. The street is dark and gloomy, so you don't really want to go there unless you are a tourist or a customer.

Have a walk on old rue Montorgueil by 12am instead, a few blocks west of rue Saint-Denis. Rue Montorgueil is one of the most pleasant and friendly streets in Paris with its groceries, delicatessen, bakeries and small restaurants. So many movies are shot in rue Montorgueil that the people do not even turn the head when they see a camera.

Architecture

I will not describe the Palais Brongniart, home of the Paris Stock Exchange; every Parisian knows it, and the foreigners will find it in their tourist guide. Besides it's not that beautiful.

Regular houses are more interesting. Even more than in other Paris districts, you should keep one eye up on the façades (keep the other eye on dog droppings). For example, the 2nd district hosts several of the very few houses built during the French Revolution. In rue du Caire, near rue Saint-Denis, you can see a house ornated with strange Egyptian bas-reliefs on the lower floors (and gothic on the upper floors!). The house was built around year 1800 when Egypt was fashionable due to Napoleon's campaign and discoveries. Also, one block away from the Stock Exchange, don't miss the rue des Colonnes, an interesting and original street built in 1797 and unfortunately shortened later.

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