This Beer Is Stronger Than Whiskey
The gang behind Le Perchoir have opened a series of almost painfully trendy hangouts for good looking Parisians over the last few years. Specializing in rooftops and other overlooked locations they have a knack for making a lot out of a little. This place, the original one, is the most charming of the bunch. On the ninth floor of an industrial building just off the infamous rue Oberkampf, with a view over both landmarks like the Sacre-Coeur and over 60’s apartment blocks, this slightly offbeat venue features several bars, rustic wood tables and benches and barrel fire pits to keep you warm even if you’re there in February. There’s a restaurant downstairs as well as a bar menu on the roof if you feel like having a burger with your pint.
On a quiet and rather mundane street off the main chunk of the Marais neighborhood lies Sherry But. Balancing perfectly on the verge of both refined cocktail bar and laid back bobo bar it’s decorated in chic retro style with leather and velvet sofas, high bar stools and homey little details like shelves with books and candles. The light is dim and flattering, so this is the perfect place to bring a date that you want to impress with your worldliness. Order two Soul Mates (vodka; dry vermouth, apple and lemon) and tell your special company that story about when you went hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo…
If you can manage to grab one of the scrappy plastic chairs outside this neighborhood hangout, stick your butt to it because they don’t come easy. Aux Folies is not a fancy place -- the beer is cheap and the crowd is a bit raucous -- but it is a favorite among locals of the neighborhood, students, struggling artists and old men drinking black coffee at 11 PM. Drinks are ordered while sitting at your table but expected to be paid as they are served, rather than racking up a bar tab, so bring cash, preferably in small values. As the evening progresses, don’t be surprised to see the barmen get up on the bar to dance, Coyote Ugly style.
Even though Soléra just recently opened, word around the hood is that this niche bar, focusing on “the foodrink experience” is a bit of a game changer. Nestled between dive bars frequented by students, tourist traps and charming but dull neighborhood brasseries where a mature crowd with deep pockets dine, this venture is a breath of fresh air to the quartier. Cocktail pairing is the concept and tapas and small dishes are served with a recommendation of cocktails that should give your experience that extra oomph! Prices are surprisingly affordable and generous happy hours (until 10:30 PM) make this the perfect place to bring your friends for an after work.
Behind a clandestine, frankly quite boring looking door in Pigalle lays one of Paris nightlife’s best kept secrets. Previously a sauna catering to a libertarian crowd, a few years ago this space was transformed into an epicurean music venue with an interesting bar. Decorated like the apartment of a really cool old lady that likes art deco and red lamps, the ambience is intimate and frivolous. Everything about this bar is a reminder to not take life (or yourself) so seriously, so bring your most decadent friends for a night of fun and mischief, lean back with a glass of bubbly and enjoy the music of the evening -- either it’s some avant-garde electro or Celine Dion.
In the middle of a lively and fashionable street with plenty of things going on is Pause Café, with its terrace, perfect for relaxing and watching the world go by and chic people of the quartier live their lives. Once featured in Cedric Klapisch’s 90’s classic Chacun cherche son chat, it has held a near cult status for the locals of the neighborhood for decades, and it takes its status seriously. The food is simple but made with love, and the drink menu extensive. In the evenings (and all day on weekends), it quickly fills up with hipsters, young and old -- so come early. It’s the perfect spot for a brunch or drinks with friends, or for sitting down alone with a book to have a drink. Obviously, the book is just your alibi for some good old people watching. While in the neighborhood, check out the band of chichi shops that have opened along Rue de Charonne in recent years -- with a bit of a buzz the prices might not alarm you as much.
As the opening of the Gare de Lyon ushered in the 20th century, this beautiful Belle Epoque style restaurant, located inside the train station, provided pastime for well-to-do passengers heading South towards Lyon and the Mediterranean. One hundred years later, the amazing space was brought back to its former glory through arduous restoration efforts. The clientele nowadays is a bit different -- businessmen, German tourists, elderly French ladies dining alone -- but the place still has charm and an air of a bygone era, with its ornate luggage racks, painted ceilings and gilt stucco. Get a piece of classic Paris by visiting the less formal restaurant bar, which entertains a more relaxed patronage, and have the cocktail named after Luc Besson’s ‘Nikita;’ the champagne based cocktail gets its sting from vodka, grenadine, lime and Angostura -- a real killer!
The original Rosa Bonheur, perched on the top of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, has been a watering hole for hipsters, the gay scene and families with toddlers that are better dressed than most adults for as long as anyone can remember. Two years ago the team behind the popular guinguette brought their concept to the very heart of Paris -- specifically, to a boat floating on the Seine, just next to the iconic Pont Alexandre III (that is the really flamboyant one with huge gold statues). Hip but laid back, Rosa Bonheur sur Seine, just like its big sister, doesn’t try too hard. Opt for a pint of blonde, a simple lager to match the mellow ambience of the place. Oh, and for this one -- don’t bring your kids, because, you know, it’s a boat.
A tongue in cheek homage to the unholy saint of all things kitsch, Andy Warhol, this bar is decorated to the brim with conspicuous nods to his art. Have a seat on a stool mimicking his famous cans and admire the retro packaging neatly displayed on shelves on the wall while enjoying a ‘Kiss with Passion’ -- and by that I mean the drink with that name; vanilla vodka, passion fruit and champagne, decidedly getting busy in your glass. The crowd is young, pretty and cheerful but to fit in all you need is relaxed, slightly messy hair and a sweater from A.P.C.
Behind a rather non-descript door, with no sign, on the edges of Le Marais, in the no man’s land right before the chic neighborhood gives way to the vast open space of Place de la Bastille, lays a cosy cave, painted red and filled with boxes of wine and comfortable furniture. The owner, a rather eccentric man in his late fifties with a great big beard and an even greater love for wine, is friendly and funny and knows where to find just the right wine from you in the assortment of boxes and bottles in a surprisingly well-organized mayhem taking up most space in the bar. Prices are modest and this is the perfect place to share secrets with friends over a bottle of Chilean red wine. Bonus fact: bubar is slang for bearded.
Built as the private residence of Napoleon’s slightly garish nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, in the end of the 19th century, this lavish building now not only contains one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. Since September, it is also the home of the super trendy hotel bar, Le Bar Botaniste, which pays tribute to its original occupant’s interest in Botany. The bar is the epitome of elegance, right down to the smooth, soft leather chairs and (somewhat) authentic absinthe fountains, and the menu consists of elaborate cocktails made from rare botanical spirits infused with herbs and spices. This bar requires quite deep pockets (a cocktail comes to a grand total of 27€) but not nearly as deep as a stay at the hotel would. Try the ‘Vanilla Sky’, a polished interpretation of the classic Manhattan, with cherry, vanilla, cinnamon and vermouth added to a rye whiskey base. Dress casually chic for the occasion and bring a fancy date or your parents here to enjoy the sense of life as royalty.
With its, at this point, iconic stuffed cow above a piano, Piano Vache has been a haunt for students and jazz aficionados alike since the 60’s. The walls are covered in old posters, photos, and scribbled messages from previous visitors and the tables and chairs are chipped but the drinks are cheap and the entrance is free. Come on Monday to see the live band jamming and bring a friend or two.
Just off the world’s arguably most famous avenue, in a street lined with Haussmanian buildings and modest looking restaurants, there is a portal to another world. Welcome to Blaine Bar -- that is, if you know the password (hint: you might want to politely ask them ahead of arriving). Once you are in, you will be greeted by the portrait of John Blaine, the US senator known for ending prohibition in America. Lights are dim and the walls are covered with an eclectic mix of art. Bring your most adventurous friends for some live music and a tropical flavored Byzantin, a Sailor Jerry rum based cocktail flavored with passion fruit, pineapple and fresh mint.
For the holiday season, follow in the footsteps of such legends as Zola and Baudelaire, later Picasso and the Fitzgeralds and, yet more recently, Sartre and Beckett and head to La Closerie de Lilas at the bottom of the Luxembourg gardens. A place where some unforgettable literature was conceived, this establishment is still very much with its time, and hosts a yearly ceremony for the Prix de la Closerie de Lilas, a literary award exclusively recognizing the contribution of female authors. With its tiled art nouveau floors (the same that were there in the good old days) and oxblood leather chairs, this classic brasserie, opened way back in 1847, will transport you to another era. Although you might not be there to write the next great novel, it is perfect for curling up with a vin chaud after doing some christmas shopping in the nearby Saint-Germain de Près.
Set up in the renovated space of what to used to be the quite legendary 1979 club, this newly opened venue has some pretty big shoes to fill. Word on the street is they are doing quite well, though. The crowd is young and beautiful and the restaurant offers some beautiful dishes, but in the sweaty, dimly lit and slightly equivoque basement is where the party is. Deco bordering on the vulgar but managing to stay on the right side and funky music make this a place to spend the entire evening, from aperitif to crawling out of the night club and sending for an Uber. Dress code is chic, urban and expensive looking. You can’t go wrong if you go with black.
The brainchild of the people behind clandestine coup Moonshiner, Le Bluebird is the new omphalos on the bar scene of this groovy quartier. If Mad Men was about twenty-somethings in California, this is where they would go for after work cocktails. Smooth curves and bold colors, the deco resembles what the future must have looked like in the 60’s. It would be tempting to dress up in your shortest psychedelic print dress and orange block heels but if you want to fit in, the crowd here wears cashmere knits and Isabel Marant booties. The bar opened just this fall, so there is still a chance you will be the first in your circle to visit this new spot. Go for the Belleville Sling, inspired by the Singapore Sling, obviously.
The So-Pi area, the knot of streets just below the metro station, is très cool. There is a jungle of bars such as Lulu White, Dirty Dick, Le Bonnie and Clyde and the ever crowded dive Le Sans Souci. All just a skip and a hop apart from each other, which makes this an optimal spot for bar hopping. Make sure not to miss Glass, run by the team behind success stories Candelaria and Le Marie Celeste. The floor of the bar is lit from below and the wooden benches are a bit uncomfortable, but nevermind, because unless you were waiting outside for them to open, you won’t have a seat. The cocktails are innovative and if you feel like a snack, they have some really tasty hot dogs in buns with all the trimmings.
This super chic design boutique hotel only has a few rooms, each individually and exquisitely decorated, and the bar and restaurant has been decked out with the same restraint and a keen eye for tasteful details without skimping on the personal touches that gives the hotel a home-y atmosphere. Relax with a glass of chilled Chablis in one of the Danish designer chair in the lounge, take in the photo art by well known names such as Emma Ledoyen, Antoine Legrand and Jean André or just choose a book from one of the bookshelves. There is an old jukebox and a fumoir (that is a fancy French word for a smoking room) in the basement, and oh, the restaurant also has all day breakfast on Sundays.
Adding a bit of Brooklyn to the Folie-Méricuort neighborhood, this vast space, situated on a wide avenue, is decorated like a Williamsburg apartment - with chipped paint, leather Chesterfield sofas, artsy books and Heinz ketchup bottles. Try the Ginger Ti’ Punch, a piquant variation of the cocktail du jour. The ‘ti’ is short for petit as in little, and the potent cocktail is made from cane juice rum, cane syrup and lime - here with the added punch of tangy ginger.
1. Le Perchoir14 Rue Crespin du Gast, Paris
2. Sherry Butt20 rue Beautreillis, Paris
3. Aux Folies8 rue de Belleville, Paris
4. Solera283 rue Saint Jacques, Paris
5. Orphée Club Privé7 rue Pierre Fontaine, Paris
6. Pause Café41 rue de Charonne, Paris
7. Le Train Bleu1er étage, Gare de Lyon, Place Louis Armand, Paris
8. Rosa Bonheur sur SeinePort des Invalides, Paris
9. Andy Wahloo69 rue des Gravilliers, Paris
10. Bubar3 Rue des Tournelles, Paris
11. Bar du Shangri-La Hotel10 Avenue d'Iéna, Paris
12. Le Piano Vache8 rue Laplace, Paris
13. Blaine Bar65 rue Pierre Charron, Paris
14. La Closerie des Lilas171 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris
15. Else Club49 Rue Berger, Paris
16. Bluebird12 Rue Saint-Bernard, Paris
17. Glass7 rue Frochot, Paris
18. Le Pigalle9 rue Frochot, Paris
19. Barbershop68 avenue de la République, Paris
Among the clever speakeasy-inspired venues infiltrating the Paris bar scene, Le Perchoir is accessible only through an unmarked doorway. While the spot is generally recognizable by the ever-present, well-to-do crowd standing somewhat aimlessly by the entrance, the charming lack of advertising maintains its appeal. Once the hidden bouncer grants you entrance, you step directly into an elevator that opens just seconds later to reveal arrangements of potted-greenery, plush seating, and most importantly, panoramic views of the city below (yes, that includes the Eiffel Tower). The raved-over rooftop locale, stationed atop Le BHV department store, serves a smattering of small plates -- think ham and cornichons -- but the food is merely an accompaniment to the craft cocktails and the seemingly infinite supply of chilled rosè.
Though it's carved into a quiet and otherwise nondescript side street on the edge of Le Marais, Sherry Butt's got style, sporting leather and velvet sofas, industrial bar stools, shelves with antiques, and most important: exceptional craft cocktails. The chic decor and dim lighting of this hidden gem make it a romantic date spot, as does the aptly named Soul Mates cocktail with vodka, dry vermouth, apple, and lemon. Whiskey lovers will feel right at home here, too, as the expert bartenders are slinging a selection from across the globe, including in the bitter Shimbashi with Japanese whiskey, Fino sherry, and bitters. DJs even spin beats on the weekend, when the place gets particularly packed.
Once a café-theatre frequented by French legends like Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf, Aux Folies is now a grungy favorite among locals, students, and struggling artists who pack this place for its cheap drinks and raucous crowd. What sets this graffitied Belleville dive apart is its sun-soaked back-alley seating, a rarity for the typically shaded, narrow streets of the surrounding area. If you can manage to grab one of the plastic chairs outside, glue yourself to it -- they don’t come easy. Pints and cocktails are ordered table-side and are expected to be paid as they're served, rather than racking up a tab at the bar, so bring cash, preferably in small bills. Don’t be surprised if you see barmen hop up on the bar to dance at the end of the night, Coyote Ugly-style.
Nestled between dive bars, tourist traps, and neighborhood brasseries, stylish cocktail lounge Solera is a welcome respite in Quartier Latin, offering a refined yet casual space with a clever cocktail-pairing concept: shareable, avant-garde plates are served with an expert drink recommendation to ensure your experience is of the highest quality. Prices are surprisingly affordable for the level of these craft cocktails (some are topped with flower petals, others are served inside a steaming genie's lamp), and generous happy hours make this an ideal spot to meet with friends after work.
Orphée is one of the most clandestine bars in Pigalle. Only distinguished by a brass plaque on the bar’s exterior, Orphée is a cocktail bar transported from the ‘50s, complete with a smoking room furnished with plush armchairs, a dance floor enclosed by mirrored walls, and a coatroom that was once a former massage parlor frequented by Jean Marais and Jean Cocteau. The beverage program offers both well and top-shelf liquors, twisted into cocktails like the Erotica, with Beluga vodka, Billecart-Salmon champagne and fresh strawberries, and the house old fashioned. As you sip, you’ll be serenaded cabaret singer who, accompanied by a pianist, bellows sultrily at the mic.
The Pause Café could have hit its peak when it was featured in Cedric Klapisch’s ‘90s cult classic film Chacun Cherche son Chat, but it continues to maintain its monopoly on Bastille locals today, with its large terrace, refined cocktails, and French bistro bites, like sautéed veal scaloppini with risotto smothered in a thick brown gravy. The wait for food can be lengthy, so the trick at Pause is to bide your time with a house cocktail like the refreshing mojito.
Originally created for France’s Universal Exposition in 1900, Le Train Bleu is a world-renowned restaurant housed in the hall of the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris. Le Train Bleu is comprised of multiple dining rooms, each ornately decorated with rich woods, deep leathers, ceiling frescoes, and gilded carved ceilings. An impressive visual spectacle, Le Train Bleu offers a menu saturated with traditional French fare, like foie gras, cheese plates, and veal cutlet Foyot. Pair your main dishes with rum baba for dessert and a cocktail, like a pisco sour.
The little sister of the Rosa Bonheur bar in the Parc Buttes Chaumont (which is also fantastic), this drinking and eating venue floats on the Seine. Part of the stretch of reclaimed riverbank called the Berges de Seine, Rosa serves up beer and affordable bottles of rosé -- what else do Parisians drink in the summer? Weather permitting, the crowd grows thick along the banks, so go early to secure a spot.
Andy Wahloo emulates Andy Warhol as its main concept, but through a Moroccan lens. Decorated with kitchen supplies from ‘70s Moroccan homes, Andy Wahloo is a destination for both day and night. In the afternoon, you can lounge on cushions for a mint tea, while in the evening you can bask in the bar’s warm candlelit glow, suitable for a date night. There is a menu of small hot and cold bites, like a seasonal tartine and ceviche, opposite the beverage menu that is well-stocked with classic cocktails and spirits. Try the Hanky Panky or the negroni, two crowd favorites.
By the time you’ve finished your wine at Bubar, you’ll understand why the joint is named a French slang word for bearded. The Le Marais wine bar is helmed by an eccentric wine connoisseur who is distinct not only for his talent in recommending reds and whites but also for his voluminous beard. Bubar is unique for its decided grunginess; wine crates line the walls in no particular order, and the place is arguably cluttered. Though not as polished as other local spots, Bubar owns its authenticity and serves as a sort of antihero in Paris’s trendy bar scene.
Le Bar Botaniste at the Shangri-La is a botanical, libational shrine to Prince Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s grandnephew, who at one point assembled the world’s largest private plant collection. Cocktails are made with rare botanical spirits, matching the nature-themed décor throughout the bar, from pale green walls with flower details to plants in every corner and authentic absinthe fountains. The Vanilla Sky cocktail combines fragrant cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, and vermouth added to a rye whiskey base.
Le Piano Vache is bar frequented by Sorbonne students and infamous for its walls papered with hundreds of posters that stand like monoliths behind old couches. Live bands and DJs play genres across the spectrum, from reggae to rock to EDM. Le Piano Vache might be packed during happy hour, but try and catch a glimpse of the bar’s old piano, overlooked by a stuffed cow’s head just enjoying the atmosphere with you.
A romantic, sinful, and, above all, clandestine spot off the Champs-Elysées, Blaine is accessible through an unassuming black door and down a dingy flight of stairs to a cellar draped in darkness. The speakeasy theme pays homage to John Blaine, the US Senator notorious for ending American prohibition, and it’s complete with live jazz performances, cigar smoke, and strong cocktails, like the Byzantine, with rum, fresh mint, pureed passion fruit, lemon juice, and pineapple. You’ll need the nightly password to enter, so do some internet hunting ahead of time.
Not all worthwhile places are new kids on the block. Some, like La Closerie de Lilas, have been around for their share of Parisian summers: this joint is famous for being a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Left Bank institution has the perfect terrace for intimate dining, so go for the giant platter of seafood, which comes studded with crabs and shellfish, to really enjoy this historic -- but often overlooked -- Parisian establishment.
If you’re looking for a spot to fulfill your desires for both eating Middle Eastern food and dancing, look no further than Else, a restaurant and bar near the Louvre. Chef Daniel Renaudie’s food program plates starters and mains like baba ghanoush tartar, ceviche, and javan, which is grilled fennel and cabbage with feta, mint, and almonds. The basement dance-bar of Else pours up cocktails like the Bijour, with Zubrowka vodka, cinnamon syrup, and apple juice, which you’ll drink while grooving to beats provided by the live DJ or singer until 4am.
Named for a Bukowski poem, Bluebird is the Bastille Popincourt innovation from the guys who brought Moonshiner to Paris. Here, the smoking room is encircled by an aquarium (we’re still trying to figure that one out), and the atmosphere is relaxed, but decidedly trendy. Park yourself on a stool beneath the copper ceiling and sip on a cocktail from the gin-focused beverage program. The Negroni is a cult favorite at Bluebird, comprised of bitters, red vermouth, and thyme liqueur, imported directly from Italian producers.
Smaller than your living room, Glass, a So-Pi bar, packs a mighty punch with its alcoholic slushy machine. American beers, and an eccentric selection of bar bites, from hot dogs to house-made pickles. The décor is simple and the space is mostly dim, apart from the broken mirrors, disco balls, and tea lights. Come for a few drinks and stay for the live music that drives electric crowds to Glass weekend after weekend.
On the ground floor of Le Pigalle, a So-Pi neighborhood hotel, you’ll find a café, a vinyl record library, and a newspaper and book kiosk. The real gem, though, is the restaurant and bar, which offers up a menu of seasonal local items that are hand-picked and prepared with home-made jams, terrines, pickles and preserves. Décor is distinctly Parisian, with floor-to-ceiling windows, velvet armchairs, and black-and-white photographs housed in oversized frames that dot the walls. The menu emphasizes small plates; for breakfast, opt for bites like croissants with fresh jam and a soft-boiled egg, and for dinner, taste the creamy burrata and well-seasoned artichoke.
Barbershop is a trendy gallery-bar in Oberkampf that celebrates contemporary art in a shabby-chic, bistro-style atmosphere. Street art and painted canvases are on exhibit at Barbershop for customers to browse as they make themselves at home in Chesterfield armchairs and lived-in red leather banquettes. Enjoy breakfast, brunch, and dinner at Barbershop, on a multi-cuisine menu that offers poached eggs, burgers, and salads. The full bar offers cocktails, wine, and champagne, and DJs often mix beats on weekends.