So I spent six months in Paris, and 90% of those nights were spent at bars or clubs (just being honest). But getting around Paris can be trickier than you expect, so here’s a comprehensive guide to some of the best places to hang out after the sun goes down. Most of the bars/clubs mentioned aren’t super posh, but more suitable for student life. Bottoms up!
Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice just to hear your own language! Honestly, the expat-hangouts I went to were some of the best bars in the city, especially since Parisians tend to flock there. The following bars have no cover charge, and the drinks are pretty cheap (for Paris). I found that, in Paris, it was nice to just hang out at a bar where there was more potential for meeting people (ahem, guys) and actually having a conversation. To each his own, but for me, these spots were perfect for a casual night, or a good way to start a more exciting evening.
The Highlander (Scottish)
8 Rue de Nevers, 75006, Quai des Grands Augustins; www.the-highlander.fr
Metro: Chatelet, St. Michel
A wonderful little bar right on the Seine in St. Michel. It is cozy, warm, and has all the makings of the bar inside a Scottish castle. Drinks are pretty cheap, and the staff is very friendly (when the bartender there couldn’t find the game we had come to watch, she offered us a free round of shots on the house. We accepted). The best part: they’re open until 5 am. Every. Night. Cheers!
The Great Canadian Pub
25 Quai Grands Augustins (right near the Highlander), 75006; www.tgc.paris.com
Metro: St. Michel
A casual, spacious, lively pub in St. Michel, on the banks of the Seine, with Canadian beer offerings – as well as some American beers, like Corona – and wing nights weekly. Hockey is played on the TV’s frequently, thank God, and the bar itself is sizable. Wear plaid and carry a bottle of maple syrup!
The Moose (Canadian)
16 Rue des Quatre-Vents, 75006; www.mooseparis.com
Metro: Odeon or Mabillon
Clean, friendly, well-decorated, and lively. In a very quaint quarter of Paris, in between the posh, upper-crust area of St. Germain-des-Pres and the famous Latin Quarter, and right near one of Paris’ lovely little cathedrals, Saint Sulpice. A great place to pre-game with a group of friends, or meet someone for drinks before heading to a club. They offer Canadian beer and hockey games on television, amid lumberjack-esque decor that had me feeling right at home.
The Longhop (English/American)
25 Rue Frederic Sauton, 75005; www.long-hop.net
English-owned, the Longhop was our favorite haunt while in the City of Lights. Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, about a block from Notre Dame, the bartenders were friendly, down to earth, and always accommodating. Tuesday is Ladies’ Night, and you can get a G&T for 2 Euro, as well as other cocktails for under 4 Euro – a major price-break from the usual night in Paris! They also have beer pong if you ask for it at the bar, and if the crowd is right will help you set up for a few rounds (you buy your own beer, and the table is really long, but it’s still fun). Very chill, a great atmosphere, and I would highly recommend it. You’ll find a mix of locals, solo travelers, and students, and you’ll feel right at home.
Other Bars/Areas to Check Out
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine
A road in the Latin Quarter that is more than popular with tourists and local students (as well as foreign ones like myself), Rue Mouffetard, I’m proud to say, was the destination of my first date in Paris. It is a charming little road, and although it is quite touristy, is a great place to head for drinks. Most bars/clubs don’t charge for entrance, but I can’t vouch for all of them. I tended to steer away from those!
- L’Antidote (45 Rue Descartes): A great bar on Rue Mouffetard, not far from the Pantheon, with a lower floor that is a cave (a common theme in Parisian bars). Standard drink prices (5 Euro beers, 7 – 10 Euro cocktails), but a great atmosphere, and a great staff: when I left my debit card there by accident one night, and came back after closing, they gave it to me without hesitation. No cover to get in.
- La Verre a Pied (118 Bis Rue Mouffetard): Okay, so I’ve never been to this bar, but it is one of the locations in the film Amelie starring Audrey Tautou. I would give it a thumbs up just for that!
- Bowling Mouffetard (73 Rue Mouffetard): Obviously not a bar, but if you’re craving a good old American past-time, this is your spot.
- There are many other bars, restaurants, and clubs along the road; my suggestion would be to walk a bit and pick one that serves your interests. You may surprise yourself!
Metro: Parmentier (or Oberkampf, but Parmentier is closer)
Get off the metro at Parmentier (enjoy the potato statues inside the stop while you’re there), and walk up the hill on Rue Oberkampf: you’ll find a street bustling with nightlife, in this increasingly young and hipster-ish area that has become a hotspot for students. The drinks are a bit expensive since it has become more and more popular, but the bars are pretty good. My best suggestion is Nouveau Casino (109 Rue Oberkampf), a music venue/bar/club/art gallery that got rave reviews from a friend who went to see a band play there. The shows are cheap, the atmosphere is great, and the nearby bars are good for hanging out until the show opens. No cover charge for the bars nearby.
Not far from Oberkampf, Bastille was one of my favorite areas to go out to. A small network of roads right off Place de la Bastille is the setting for a vibrant and affordable nightlife culture that has grown increasingly in the past few years. The crowd is young, and the only place where I will readily admit that I danced on a bar that was consequently set on fire. By far the best place for a late night out drinking, as you can start at one of the more casual bars nearby, and then head to one of the better clubs for dancing.
- Cafe Iguana (15 Rue de la Roquette): The aforementioned bar in which I danced on a bar that was lit on fire. A lot of fun, expensive drinks, but perfectly reasonable if you take care of that part beforehand. A little cramped near the bar, so be ready to get cutthroat when it comes to finding space. Usually crowded on the weekends, but a great time.
- Rue de Lappe: TONS of bars and clubs. I won’t waste time recommending any, because the best part is going there and exploring for yourself. I did really enjoy this one bar with crazy, awesome paint smeared all over the walls, but I cannot for the life of me remember the name. The best place to go with friends, though, and I would highly recommend a trip there.
15 Rue Deval, 75011
I went into this club for about 5 minutes and left. It has a pretentious, over-aggressive atmosphere that I was not feeling, but a good dance floor and a DJ. I wasn’t in the mood for it that night – or the mandatory coat check that cost 6 Euro – but I wouldn’t write it off entirely. If you’re in the mood for a more posh club and lots of dancing (and guys), this is your place.
A Weird, Nameless Bar
But seriously, I have no idea what it’s called. Right down the block from Wax is a nameless bar with a statue of the Virgin Mary in the window, and intimidatingly religious artwork all over the walls. The bar is a local hangout, devoid of tourists and foreigners, and the wall in the back of the bar is painted with a mural of Adam and Eve: a prelude to your trip to the bathroom. Open the door to the French-style toilet (unisex, a hole in the floor that you squat over), and you find walls literally covered in porn. Straight porn, gay porn, lesbian porn, fetish porn – all kinds of porn. Covered. Completely. Not a blank spot on the wall. One of the funniest, quirkiest bars in Paris. I just only wish I knew the name….
The Latin Quarter/St. Germain-des-Pres
Rue des Canettes
One of the best roads for student nightlife, and my favorite next to Rue de Lap, St. Germain-des-Pres surprisingly offers affordable bars for young people despite its reputation for being the high-end district where rich Parisians go to retire, fur coats and all. Chez Georges (11 Rue des Canettes, 75007, metro: St. Germain-des-Pres or Rue du Bac) is a personal favorite, with a cozy cave downstairs and a lively, though small, upstairs and bar. Good for meeting up with friends, especially after classes!
Metro: St. Michel
Rue de la Huchette, right off of the Seine and in plain view of Notre Dame, is a great introduction to Paris. It’s touristy, for sure, and the crowds alone might kill you, but some of the clubs are worth it. They are slightly overpriced, but fun. There are two clubs right next to each other on this road – names are escaping me – but you’ll know them when you see them. Both are free of entrance fee, and one is where I had great luck in finding a gorgeous Parisian man to show me the romantic side of the city. They’re a good mix of a dance club and a bar, with ample seating and just enough dance space. The best part are the late-night eateries nearby, including kebabs and gyros, as well as crepes. I would recommend checking it out early in a trip, when the novelty of Paris has not yet worn off!
Montmartre: Our Favorite Hang-out
Yes, my personal favorite hangout was Montmartre. Let’s be honest, the winding, hillside streets of this adorable section of Paris are irresistible, whether for photos or for drinks. One of our favorite pastimes was buying cheap wine and hanging out on the steps of Sacre Coeur, drinking and looking out over the beautiful city. A popular activity on warm nights, especially. Our favorite bar was Au Rendez-Vous des Amis (23 Rue Gabrielle, 75018), which had reasonably priced drinks and a cheese platter that will blow your mind (8 Euro). The walls are decorated with the photos of local residents, taken by an unknown photographer, and they provide a friendly and warm atmosphere that is inviting and intriguing. My favorite, without a doubt. The area is also abound with jazz clubs and other hole-in-the-wall bars, as well as great restaurants that are the perfect start to an evening out. All I have to say is: bring your camera, and enjoy.
Other Random Favorites
- Random Bar in Batignolles: I apologize for providing yet another nameless bar, but this has to be one of my top 5 bars in Paris. Off of Avenue de Clichy, the small but vibrant neighborhood of Batignolles is a true hipster hangout and a great place for casual, cheap drinks. If you can find Le Bouchon des Batignolles (26 Rue des Dames, metro: Place de Clichy), you can find this bar. It is reddish on the outside, and the next block down, on the corner. The inside is a hodgepodge of mosaic, random art, and an even more random group of people. It is a favorite of locals and expats alike, and serves up pretty cheap drinks in a very casual, fun atmosphere. Friendly, neighborhood service. And there’s a mannequin head in the window, just so you know. No cover charge.
- The Hideout: with many locations throughout Paris – though our favorite was near Chatelet – this English bar offers Thursday pint nights, and a great atmosphere for dancing or just hanging out and drinking some beer. No cover charge.
- Queen (102 Champs-Elysees, 75008; Metro Charles de Gaulle-Etoile or Franklin D. Roosevelt; http://queen.fr): A true nightclub on the Champs-Elysees, overpriced and a place to go if money is no object. I went there having already paid 33 Euro for a ticket to see Armin van Buuren, so I got right in and didn’t have to pay a cover, but I could not afford even one drink (cocktails go for 20 Euro, soda and water for 10). The show was great, other than almost being trampled to death by the over-eager fans, but I can imagine that on any other night it would be great for dancing. Definitely a cover, probably 20.
- Gibus (18 Rue Fbg du Temple, Metro Republique or Goncourt; http://www.gibus.fr): Supposedly one of the best clubs in Paris. I never went, but my roommate frequented it and raved. There is a 15 Euro cover, but they sponsor theme nights (she attended a black-light night) and have a great dance vibe.
- Mix (Rue de l’Arrivee, 75015; Metro Montparnasse; http://www.mixclub.fr): One of the only true nightclubs I went to regularly, Mix is located right at the Montparnasse metro stop (lines 4, 13, and 12), and sponsors an Erasmus student night (all students, not just Erasmus ones, are admitted) every Thursday until 12. You can get in for free until then, and the drinks are not cheap (average 10 Euro a cocktail), but the dancing is fun and it’s a great place to bond with fellow students and exchange students. Plan to stand in line for about 20-30 minutes to get in, so plan accordingly. Definitely a club atmosphere, dress accordingly. 15 Euro cover after 12.
- Bring a metro map in someone’s pocket. There is nothing worse than having one to many G&T’s, and not knowing how to get home. And save enough money for a cab, just in case.
- Speaking of transportation: the metro closes between 12:30 and 1 am during the week, and 2 am Friday night and Saturday night. Cabs are to be found at the signs that say “taxis”, they don’t really respond to flagging down, like in New York City or Boston. Taxi stands are usually right near metro or night-bus stands. The Noctilien (night bus) runs in the wee hours (midnight-ish until the metro opens), and though it’s hard to navigate, the bus drivers are more than willing to help you out. Fellow riders will also help if asked, and the bus’ journey can be found on the Noctilien stand. Know the general direction you need to go, that way you can at least hop on a bus going in the right direction. Saint Lazare and Chatelet are good places to look for one, as they are hubs for both the metro and Noctilien and will most likely have one nearby that’s going your way.
- Bars usually close around 2 or 3 (generally 2), while nightclubs will stay open until the metro opens at 5:30.
- Be. Careful. Guys can get creepy. Don’t be afraid to say no, and to tell them off. It’s quite common. I would never recommend a girl walking home, or even to a metro/cab stand/noctilien stand alone. Ever.