Secret bars in Paris
Time Out's guide to the best bars you've never heard of
La Cave du Chat Noir
In a city saturated with tourists, it's all too easy to forget that there's more to Parisian nightlife than glitzy clubs and overpriced brasseries milking some obscure connection to Hemingway for all its worth. The premium on space in the city has pushed the alternative scene far away, whether to the whispered-of warehouse raves out in the sticks or to the literally underground parties in the catacombs. While you try in vain to get yourself invited to either, we've compiled a list of our six favourite inner-city venues that, despite their popularity with locals and long-time residents, tend to get overlooked by the mainstream crowd. Come here to eat, drink, dance, rap, be rapped at, unwind to smooth jazz, then start all over again come the early hours.
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Secret bars in Paris
A slice of Anglo-American literary culture in the heart of Parmentier, Au Chat Noir (not to be confused with the Montmartre cabaret of almost the same name) is known by all the budding poets of the area, but few outsiders. The reason: its thriving, if ill-publicised, spoken-word nights. Head into the basement on a Monday evening (from 8.30pm) and you’ll find an eclectic bunch of beatniks, actors and would-be rappers taking it in turns to perform some kind of spoken text to the audience – and never for over five minutes at a time. If most participants speak in English, then this only reflects the relative popularity of this kind of event in the UK and US...
- 76 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11e
A stone’s throw from the sex shops of Pigalle and the tourist bars of Montmartre, Marlusse et Lapin seems like a delightful alien. It’s named for the surnames of the couple that run this tiny, completely bonkers bar on the Rue Germain Pilon – they’re always laughing with the elderly Montmartre types who come here to chew the fat with the area’s boho chic habitués. Here, after-hours drinking is a riot, drenched in absinthe and crazy shots that will bring you back again and again to chat with the locals – and not least because of the great prices. Still, avoid the busiest hours if you want to get a table, as they're pretty hard to come by. The bar is microscopic, but in the room behind...
- 14 rue Germain Pilon, 18e
A little Parisian bistro in the middle of Belleville that opens very, very early. From 5am, it attracts revellers seeking to squeeze in just one more drink, and local merchants on the way to open their shops. As the day wears on, neighbourhood pensioners gather to discuss the latest gossip, elbow to elbow with youthful drinkers who value the place’s local colour – Le Zorba’s down to earth sense of humour survives through good quality alcohol sold at rock bottom prices. The atmosphere might be a little dubious – whiffs of stale alcohol and battered Formica table tops – but is always cheerful, thanks to a team of irrepressibly good-humoured barmen and the slightly eccentric regulars...
- 137 rue du Faubourg du Temple, 10e
Strangely, few Parisian bars have had the same idea as Moonshiner. The concept is simple and has been popular for a long time in London, New York and Berlin: the secret. Behind a telephone box, underneath a kebab shop or on the other side of Smeg fridge, these ‘speakeasy’ bars are inspired by the clandestine drinking spots of prohibition-era America, tucked away in odd places that the passing drinker would never discover if he didn’t already know it was there. The more hidden the bar, the better. And so, to get to Mooshiner, you first have to make your way through the restaurant Pizza Da Vito, then push your way through the metal door of the walk-in fridge...
- 5, rue Sedaine, 75011
Opened in 2011, this pub sells only the divine Belgian beverage. Drinkers here will struggle to choose between around a hundred bottled beers, or can opt for one of the ten beers on tap. Fruity, dry, light, strong, blond, amber, brown… all tastes are catered for in the international selection, though naturally Belgian breweries get above-average representation. The young staff are full of enthusiasm for their wares, helping it along with low prices (all draught beers at maximum €3.50), quiz nights and tastings. You might think that the bar would be full to bursting with all the casks...
- 6 rue Planchat, 20e
Nestling atop the Belleville butte on the charming Place Henri Krasucki, Les Cascades merits that most overused of guidebook terms: ‘hidden gem’. It’s very much a community café – not only in its clientele of locals, but also in the range of sociable events that it hosts (citizens’ debates, film screenings, writing workshops). Gigs and exhibitions, often representing local artists, are also on the programme. You won’t have to break the bank to participate: food and drink are on the cheap side, with delicious salads for €6-8 and sandwiches for half that. One of the most laid-back and outright enjoyable eateries we’ve visited in a while.
- 82 rue des Cascades, 20e