France Bars & Nightlife
Bars & Nightlife city
1 Bis Passage St. Sébastien, 11th
This one-room wine bar requires a walk down a very long (and at night, scarily dark) passage, but the music, lively crowd, and simple but solid menu of French small plates justify the gauntlet. While Aux Deux Amis down the street may tempt with a similar wine bar concept, it gets way too packed: Au Passage, which also feels a bit more grown-up, easily wins out.
Au Petit Fer à Cheval
30 Rue Vieille du Temple, 4th
Still sporting its original décor from 1903, the horseshoe-shaped bar beckons for a coffee, a kir (white wine and crème de cassis), or a quick meal. While there's a full restaurant in the back, it lacks the prime people-watching you'll get up front.
15 Place Vendôme, 1st
This moody, leather-accented bar is famous for being an old haunt of so many Paris creatives—in addition to Hemingway himself, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and Gary Cooper were all regulars. Legend has it that Marcel Proust ordered a cold beer from here on his deathbed. Today, the watering hole maintains its reputation with a world-class bar program by Colin Peter Field, who's a celebrity in his own right at this point. You're in great hands with Fields no matter your order, but do keep in mind that all the drinks err on the stiff side (just as Hemingway would have wanted it).
52 Rue de Saintonge, 3rd
This is Paris's version of La Esquina, complete with a doorman to hold back the crowds. Up front, you'll find a teeny-tiny tacqueria, with fresh tortillas and a roster of toppings, whipped up under the watchful eye of the Mexico City–born chef. There's a hidden door in the back that opens into a cozy bar, which offers some of the more inventive (and delicious) tequila cocktails in the city.
34 Rue Duperré, 9th
A wildly ornate bas-relief ceiling—moodily lit by Versailles-worthy chandeliers—is actually not the first indication that this isn't your average bar (that would be the gigantic birdcage at the entrance). Occupying the former mansion of composer Georges Bizet (hence the name, Carmen), this Pigalle club gets particularly busy around fashion week, when any number of designers host their after-parties here. While DJs play until 4 a.m. on weekends, the space hosts more-civilized affairs, too: For example, the literary magazine A Tale of Three Cities uses it to hold a monthly book club.
10 Rue Frochot, 9th
The name and the pinup poster in the entryway hint at this Pigalle bar’s seedier past as a brothel, but take a closer look and you’ll find yourself in a full-fledged tiki bar, overflowing with pseudo-Polynesian flair. If the excellent rum-based drinks and retro vibe aren’t really your thing, then the other, perfectly balanced proprietary cocktails and extensive beer collection should keep you happy.
Experimental Cocktail Club
37 Rue Saint-Sauveur, 2nd
In true speakeasy fashion, this very-adored spot is behind an unmarked door, on a dimly lit, pedestrian-only alley. But beyond the appeal of being impossible-to-find, Parisians really come because they love the artful cocktails. It gets crowded after 11 and is generally packed on weekends; there are now outposts in New York City and London as well.
Frenchie Bar à Vins
6 Rue du Nil, 2nd
This first-come-first-serve wine bar is a tough seat for good reason: The small plates are crafted from superb ingredients, and the wine list is reasonably priced. Closed on weekends, you can usually snag a spot in the first wave by going early in the week, and arriving 20 minutes before the 7pm opening.
239-241 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1st
With a now-iconic interior that's dripping in red velvet, Hôtel Costes is one of those spots that has perfected its aesthetic—which, of course, extends to the music. It can get dark and smoky inside, so head out to the enclosed terrace (you can still hear whatever the DJ is spinning inside), which is equally great for either an afternoon glass of wine or an after-dinner cocktail. Plus, the people-watching is always fabulous.
Hoxton Hotel Bar
30-32 rue du Sentier, 2ème
Rivié, one of the two bars in the Hoxton, has a wonderful brasserie, a lovely outdoor garden, and scattered here and there, relaxing little nooks with armchairs and nice lighting. But never mind-skip all that. Head straight for the bar. The bar bar. Settle into the velvet barstool, order a glass of Billecart-Salmon (a rosé champagne) or, depending on your day, a dirty martini. The staff is friendly, the vibe is chill, and as evening slips into night, remember only two very important words: truffle fries.
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