Think you’re ready to hit the city? Don’t go anywhere without checking out our Nightlife hints, tips and reviews. Let’s start with the basics…
This nightlife section includes bars and lounges (places to go for a drink, may also be a club or a restaurant), dancing venues (all dance types from disco and techno to swing and salsa) and soirées (or special events that take place periodically). There are five very loose categories to help you pick a bar that fits your mood or lifestyle:
Chic & Glam
Stunning décor, absurdly expensive cocktails, exclusive door policies and an international jet-set of supermodels, rock stars and Saudi princes keeps these establishments in the society pages until the next flavor of the month comes along. Dress your best and give it a go (and have a back-up plan just in case). Most charge €20 for cover, although this usually includes at least one drink.
Elegant & Classic
The French have the Americans to thank for the birth of the cocktail bar, but you’ve got to admit the Parisians have done a fabulous job turning them into elegant and welcoming havens for barflies from around the world. Many of these bars are found in palace hotels or chic neighborhoods. “Casual Friday” to semi-formal attire is appropriate if you want to blend in. And don’t forget the plastic – posh pampering doesn’t come cheap.
Being a cosmopolitan city with a large foreign student population, Paris has a healthy selection of “expat” pubs with English, Scottish, American, Australian, or Irish themes. Most people don’t visit Paris to hang out in an English-speaking bar where Guinness, Budweiser, televised Cricket matches and pub quizzes are main staples. But they can be a relief for travelers too jet-lagged to attempt ordering anything en français, and they’re quite popular with French people looking to practice their English with charming foreigners. International students tend to congregate in these bars, but everyone is welcomed without fuss.
Cool & Casual
For those seeking a watering hole with character, not hype. These bars range from alternative rock bars to lively multicultural haunts, but have in common a mixed, often eclectic clientele of all ages, reasonable prices, no bouncers and certainly no attitude. Many are locals bars, the French equivalent of “Cheers”.
Hip & Trendy
This is where stylish locals try hard to look like they’re not trying to look cool. Think limited edition sneakers under custom-frayed jeans, the latest combination cell phone/camera/MP3 player on a necklace, and artfully mussed-up hair and you get the idea. Scruffy venues like industrial lofts and art squats are popular, but many of the intimate hole-in-the-wall Marais bars also fit into this category. Some serious DJ talent keeps it all real.
- Cafés and wine bars are mostly listed in the Dining Reviews section.
- Legal minimum drinking age in France is 18, although minors are allowed in places that serve alcohol (and in most nightlife venues with an adult).
Paris Nightlife – Pigalle to Grands Boulevards
The titillating and sleazy Pigalle has been somewhat gentrified by the encroachment of artsy intellectuals (and busloads of tourists) from Montmartre. Nowadays, the in-crowd often talk of South Pigalle or SoPi as one of the best nights out in town. For those on a budget, La Fourmi or Les Caves Populaires are great places to start an evening with a carafe or two of the decently priced house wines. If you feel like something a bit classier which still has an edge, try the retro chrome decor and excellent cocktails at Le Mansart. Later in the evening check out Le Divan du Monde or Bus Palladium for live music – or descend into the glitzy darkness Chez Moune, former lesbian cabaret turned lively nightclub.
Wandering down the hill to Grands Boulevards, you soon discover that the once boring area around Métro Bonne Nouvelle is now populated by some of the city’s best clubs and stylish new restaurants. There’s also an abundance of Irish and Australian bars for those craving an Anglophone fix, a happy hour pint or a bit of dancing on tables. While surprising numbers of French can actually be found in such places, many of the younger Parisians prefer the techno and electro scene at Social Club and Rex.
Paris Nightlife – Chatelet and the Marais
A quick walk north-east off Rue de Rivoli will soon bring you to the Marais, still happily gay and busy nearly every night of the week. Open Café is always worth a visit for its lengthy happy hour and relaxed atmosphere. While it does stay busy all night, those wanting to show off their moves would be well advised to head to a nearby club such as Cud, housed in a medieval basement.
The area is certainly not off-limits to straight nighthawks either, but the focus tends to be on bars rather than clubs. The mojitos in Les Etages are always worth trying, and the heated terrace at Le Troisieme Chinon stays open later than most if you want to finish your evening with a spot of late-night people-watching.
Paris Nightlife – St-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter
Most of the Latin Quarter remains prime stomping ground for students, but is welcoming to any tourists and natives wanting a cheerily raucous night out. Rue de la Huchette is still a hive of activity, with tribes of all ages and backgrounds wandering its cobbles at night. Jazz club Caveau de la Huchette is a Parisian institution – go and join (or at least watch) clientele between the ages of 18 and 80 jiving in a basement with a revolutionary past.
Odéon and Mabillon attract a young, studenty crowd to the numerous bars, clubs and pubs, with partying going on late into the night. Check out Chez Georges, a tiny basement where dancing on tables becomes obligatory as the floor space diminishes over the course of the evening.
St-Germain-des-Prés itself has become one of the few Left Bank neighborhoods to attract the Gucci-clad stiletto wearers after dark – it might be a cliché, but a cocktail or two in Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots will be an experience to remember.
Paris Nightlife – Champs-Elysées
Definitely dress to impress and be prepared to fork out for entry at the big clubs on the Champs-Elysées – staples such as Le Queen, Le Duplex and Le Pavillon Champs-Elysées are full of wealthy young Parisians (often a little older than in student haunts, given the prices). Entry usually includes at least one drink, however, and the huge dancefloors are nearly always packed. For something a bit more unusual, head to Showcase under the Pont Alexandre III, where international DJs play in industrial darkness right by the banks of the Seine.
Paris Nightlife – East Paris
The Bastille, once the only decent place to get a drink east of the Marais, has been upstaged by the edgy bars and clubs in the converted ateliers of Belleville, Oberkampf, and Ménilmontant. The cobbled street of Rue de Lappe remains popular, however, especially with international students attracted by Happy Hour deals at Le 66 and Havanita. Crowds then hit Le Balajo to go dancing (the Lady Pass entitles girls to free entry before 2am and free Kir Royale for groups of 5+), but remember that dance music is only on at weekends – the rest of the time you might encounter salsa, rock and roll or even a tea dance! In fact, salsa lovers are well-catered for in the area, with the immense grandeur of Barrio Latino channeling Cuban vibes throughout the night.
Heading north and up Rue Oberkampf to Ménilmontant, the crowds get increasingly trendy and Parisian. Hip bars such as Lou Pascalou are ten-a-penny and often feature music and art as well as reasonably priced drinks. Belleville is close by and continues the string of arty hangouts, as well as places like Aux Folies – a little rough around the edges, but plenty of charm and buzzing at night.
The nearby Canal St-Martin is lined with both trees and bohemian-bourgeois bars. Notable highlights include Le Point Ephémère and Le Comptoir Général, where hipsters recline on vintage chairs and sip African-inspired cocktails. Find one of the more scenic dance spots at Rosa Bonheur, a cozy lodge with a view over the gorgeous Buttes Chaumont park during the day and a busy but friendly club on weekend evenings.