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 seating 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 Fields, 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 they all 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 onto 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—actually is 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-based club gets particularly busy around Fashion Week, when any number of designers host their after-parties here. While DJs play until 4am 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 bookclub.
10 Rue Frochot, 9th
The name and the pin-up 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 cornered its own aesthetic—which, of course, extends to the music. It can get dark and smoky inside, so head out to the enclosed terrace, which is equally great for either an afternoon glass of wine or an after-dinner cocktail. Plus, the people-watching is always fabulous.
37 Rue du Sentier, 2nd
There's a bit of an identity crisis at this much-loved spot, but it totally works. For one, the décor is American Gothic meets industrial (galvanized tubing stretches across the ceiling, the bar is backed by antique crates, and old-fashioned prints of tools dot the walls). And for two, the menu morphs dramatically throughout the day. Breakfast tends to be American (pancakes, eggs, and hash), lunch is Japanese bento boxes, and then it morphs into a full-on bar, with excellent (and complex) cocktails at night.
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