Of course you aren’t running loose in Paris after the Metro has closed its door for the evening. You’re in bed, a productive little expat you are. But let’s just say, for example, that your pals have popped over on the Eurostar for three days of crazed debauchery. No time to sleep, is there? That’s what late Sunday afternoons are for. And you don’t want your amis to think that you, the cool bobby who lives in Paris, have no clue where to go once the early hours creep up on you. After all, your friends from London can’t drink in their own pubs after 11pm and your American and Antipodean friends are so jetlagged that they’re not about to go to sleep at 2am. So where do you go?
Every neighborhood has its own little all-hours bar that annoys the neighbors. Except maybe the 16th. But they pay extra for the silence. Walk the streets of your own ‘hood at 3am and you’re sure to find at least one place absurdly packed with the tireless party crowd. Of course, the discothèque clubs are always open late, because no one in their right minds would show up before 1am. The Paris Timeout Guide (with its own weekly listing in English at the back of the French Pariscope) will give you a good idea of where to find a decent club nearby. Paris Si J’y Suis is a very cool French website that lists all of the bars, concerts, clubs, and parties going on around Paris. They even tell you how to get past those Dobermans at the door.
As for bars, there’s enough variety that you should be able to find at least one you like in your neighborhood. Over in the now firmly-established-as-cool Oberkampf area, Cithea has been welcoming the early morning crowd until 6am with its jazzy musical concerts and coy atmosphere. The Montorgueil area north of Les Halles has the Horse’s Mouth, open until 5am, as well as Porte de Montmartre (Metro Grands Boulevards) and Le Tambour, open 24 hours, with a much more interesting crowd in the wee hours.
Deeper into Paris, Polly Magoo’s (“revoltingly sleazy!” says Paris-Anglo), which looks like an abandoned building during the day, has been a long-time Left Bank staple of the night crowd from Violon Dingue, Café Oz on rue St. Jaques, and the Galway. The Hideout, around the corner from The Fifth on rue Mouffetard, is also open late for the Guinness fans. Over near Odéon, there are quite a few late-night bars and snack shops (caveat emptor on the 22-hour-old croissants). Notably, the Pub Saint Germain is open 24 hours, and it actually has decent food and beer. Go there when it’s your friend’s turn to buy the round.
Near Bastille, the What’s Up Bar is open until 5am on the weekends. After the Lizard Lounge, Stolly’s, the Auld Alliance, and the Pure Malt (formerly Hairy Lemon) in the Marais close down for the night, the brave ones in the crowd attempt entry into the Oiseau Bariole around the corner, where the wooden shutters are closed and a very, very large Hell’s Angel-looking bouncer guards the door. When you get in, don’t be surprised at how tiny it is, and don’t run into that mirrored wall (ouchie!).
As you get closer to Châtelet (a smart move if you want a “free” lift on the Nocatambus to get home), the Sousbock Tavern on rue St. Honoré will make you french fries and impress you with their foreign beer list. After Café Oz on rue St. Denis, which will entertain its dancing crowd with their talented DJ’s until 2:30am, the drunken crowd usually heads across Place St. Opportune to the Cruiscin on rue des Halles, open until 6am, and home to a very loyal pack of expats, including yours truly, where I met Mr. Yours Truly.
There are others, but I won’t mention any places I haven’t actually been to myself, for your own safety. You can check out the definitive list of all bars at Galivanting About Paris (see that dancing Eiffel Tower? I want to steal it!). You can vote for your favorite bar here as well.
Were you a bad boy? Stay out all night and didn’t call her? Elyfleur, 82 av. de Wagram, is at the rescue with flowers 24 hours a day, if you need a little help grovelling. Need your nicotine kick? If you aren’t content to bum a few off of the passers-by in the rue, swing by the 24 hour Tabacs at St. Germain des Pres (Old Navy), Champs Elyseés (Drugstore Publicis), or La Havane at Place de Clichy. And if you’d like to send a postcard at 4am (um…why?), you can go to the 24 hour post office at 52, rue du Louvre. They also now have iMacs, so that you can buy a pre-paid card to check your e-mail.
Okay, so maybe you’re up, but you don’t want to be. Germs are having a party in your sinuses. A nasty winter cough is making your throat raw. No Nyquil in France, folks, but there’s hope. There’s always a pharmacy open all night, its green neon blinker like the lighthouse beacon of our weakened little bodies. Pharmacie Dehry at Metro Georges V, Pharmacie Europeenne at Place Clichy, and the Grande Pharmacie at Metro Daumesnil are open 24 hours. Also handy if you and your new “friend” need some supplies for an evening d’amour.
Update November 2019
In 1999 Paris still had a LOT of late night pubs, bars and clubs. You could still smoke indoors back then, so the neighbors were spared the noise and smell of dozens of revelers getting their fix on the street below their windows. Unsurprisingly, after many closures Paris seems quieter. But it could also be that 20 years ago (or even 10) I was out almost every night, which is no longer the case, so I’m probably unaware of all the great spots hiding quietly from their neighbors. Some of the classics below are still open (a special shout out to the Pure Malt, fighting for their survival), despite the city’s current preference for more stylish cocktail bars over expat pubs. It will be interesting to see who makes it to 2039!
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’m publishing them all here, one by one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris”