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The best al fresco bars in Paris

See Paris come alive from the very best summer stages

Le Bistrot des Dames

Critics' choice

Those in the know are wise to the promise of Le Bistrot des Dames wine bar and restaurant, found underneath a youth hostel. If the interior is welcoming, with its pretty old style bar and retro décor brightened up with old advertisements, this bistro is best known for its little paradise of a garden. Though sadly only open on evenings and weekends, it’s the ideal place to bring your friends on a sunny Sunday morning and affirm that life in Paris isn’t just about tarmac and pollution.The enormous wine list will present you with plenty of difficult choices, though you can always ask for recommendations. For a snack, you can have a lovely salad (around €15). If you want to go the whole hog, the starters (delicious duck carpaccio, artichokes and buffalo mozzarella) and the main dishes are all highly recommended. There’s a big choice of fish (medallions of tuna with a balsamic sauce is worth a go), and excellent desserts to finish up with (pear sorbet with cognac, crème brûlée with ginger). The staff are often overstretched, but very friendly. Full marks.

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Batignolles

Ô Paris

Critics' choice

One evening on the terrace of this bar and you too will be singing ‘Ô Paris, c'est beau Paris!’. Formerly La Mer à Boire, its view takes in the whole city. In one glance you can drink it all in, from the Eiffel Tower to far beyond. High above the whirlpool of humanity below, the terrace of Ô Paris nestles on a little square of land, paved and planted with trees, where you can enjoy some sunshine and calm away from the hum of the city. Largely populated by senior citizens leafing through the papers and local kids running around between the tables, this is a homey and welcoming spot. On cold days or rainy afternoons, the big warm interior is a welcome refuge, complete with books, comics and coffee (€2) served with traditional cassonade brown sugar and macadamia nut syrup. Those in the know come here to eat simply and well: hot sandwiches, cheese or charcuterie boards and delicious classic French dishes (salmon tartare, duck breast). It’s a shame that the prices have gone up under the new management, but the food is good enough to make the hike worthwhile.

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Belleville

Café A

Critics' choice

Located in the 18th-century former convent of Les Récollets, Café A is unique, nestling as it does into one of the corners of this beautiful building of huge white stones. It’s an artistic landmark beloved by Parisian initiates – to reach it, you’ll need to navigate your way through an iron gate and across a cloistered courtyard. Open until 10pm in winter and until midnight in summer, the huge space is decorated with works by young Parisian artists, in a series of exhibitions that’s refreshed every so often over the course of the summer. But the real draw of this bar is its secret garden, protected from the street by a surrounding wall – a vast, poetic courtyard planted with old trees.An array of chaises longues are set out like an invitation to relax, peacefully reading a book during the day or with a glass in hand in the evening. On the menu are good quality (but not cheap) organic and biodynamic wines, as well as bruschetta, salads, charcuterie and cheese plates and a main dish of the day – order at the bar if you don’t want to die of hunger, as service is slow and quickly gets overloaded. Be aware that it closes at 10, so come in the day for the best of the garden, or before 7pm to be sure of finding a seat outside.The café also puts on a cool programme of entertainment: small concerts on weekends, but also cine-concerts, live sets from underground music station Radio Nova, artistic performances and DJ sets get the courtyard moving. The weekend programme can be found on their Facebook page. No reservations.

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Canal Saint Martin

La Palette

La Palette is the café-bar of choice for the beau-est of the Beaux-Arts students who study at the venerable institution around the corner. Don’t be surprised if you stumble across young couples stealing kisses in the wonderfully preserved art deco back room, perhaps overcome by the art on the walls and the sprit of decadence. And perhaps trying to distract themselves from the prices: a glass of Chablis here sets you back €6, a demi €4.50. But you’re paying for the vintage of the place as much as the drinks; these premises were once frequented by Jim Morrison, Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. Grab a spot on the leafy terrace if you can – there's formidable competition for seats.

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St Germain des Prés

La Sardine

Critics' choice

Never was a bar more aptly named: this quaint café-resto, tucked away on place Sainte-Marthe, gets extremely packed. Expect to get fairly intimate with your fellow patrons here, rubbing arms with your neighbours and unavoidably eavesdropping on their conversations. La Sardine’s popularity has something to do with its location on Place Sainte-Marthe, Belleville’s answer to a village square, with a relaxing, tree-shaded terrace and hardly any passing traffic. It’s also got a decent wine list, with a choice of several organic varieties (glasses from 4€), best accompanied by tapas (Serrano ham, creamy caviar of aubergine and blow-your-head-off chorizo). Live bands are occasionally booked throughout the year, but the café comes into its own in summer, when, on a balmy night, you can sit out on the terrace until the wee hours.

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10th arrondissement

Le Saut du Loup

Museums are usually daytime destinations, places of discovery that welcome their guests then politely expel them well before dusk. However the Saut du Loup, set inside the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, has made a concerted effort to reel in the Parigots after hours with a dapper restaurant, terrace views to die for over the Tuileries gardens, and a bar that’ll knock you up a cocktail or two before bedtime. You can always tell a good joint from the quality of its mojitos, and Le Saut du Loup’s version of the drink passes the test: not too sweet and not too sour; you get an initial slap from the rum and lime, before the fresh mint and sugar settle things down. Lush.

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1st arrondissement

Petit Bain

Not so much a terrace here as an upper deck, this arts centre has been afloat at the foot of the National Library (BNF) since 2010 when it joined the flotilla of cool riverboat venues moored in the 13th. And it’s been giving the Batofar (Paris’s stalwart floating nightclub) a run for its money, with an excellent line-up of concerts and art exhibitions. The coveted terrace doubles as a bar, restaurant and octopus gardener’s paradise, decked out with myriad aquatic plants. The venue regularly hosts live music in a range of genres, from minimalist Norweigan pop and indie folk to rock and jazz. It's eclectic enough to match Le Petit Bain’s architecture: designed by the Encore Heureux collective, it looks like a fluorescent green barge topped by a cubist wooden tree house.

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13th arrondissement

Le Georges

When the Pompidou Centre closes at 9pm, those in the know head to the top floor via the transparent escalators to Georges, the museum’s panoramic French-fusion restaurant. From this privileged perch, you can watch the sun set over the capital’s steely rooftops and contemplate the art you’ve just admired, cocktail in hand. You’ll be fighting for table room with trendy after-work crowds, and the ice-cool service can be slower than an escargot, but it’s a small price to pay for such an unbeatable vantage over the whole sparkling city. The view isn’t the only draw either: architects Dominique Jacob and Brendan McFarlane's quirky industrial-chic interior wouldn’t look amiss in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Make sure you reserve in advance - it's the only way to secure a table.

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4th arrondissement

Péniche Antipode

Critics' choice

In 2002, the Abricadabra theatre company transformed this boat moored on the Canal de l’Ourcq into a floating café, with shows for youngsters during the day and plays and concerts for adults in the evenings. In this enchanting Peniche (houseboat), kids 3-8 years old are entertained and educated by screenings, mimes, songs, comedies, shadow puppets and more – and the actors’ antics contain many a nod and a wink for the adults’ amusement. In the evenings, the Peniche alternates gypsy jazz, rock, reggae, blues or funk concerts with improv or theatre sketch nights, and from time to time DJs will spin roots, dub, electro or breakbeat. The bar is well supplied, but you won’t find coca-cola – the products are all artisanal and fair trade.

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19th arrondissement

Rosa Bonheur

Bucolic delights reign at Rosa Bonheur, a bar set in a former guinguette in the heart of the Buttes Chaumont park. Its name loosely translates as ‘pink happiness’ but refers in particular to 19th-century French painter and sculptor ‘Rosa Bonheur’, famous for her depictions of animals and her role in the early feminist movement (alongside George Sand and Sarah Bernhardt). The bar is managed by Michelle Cassaro, aka Mimi, who used to run lesbian club Pulp – and the bar is a popular hangout with the lesbian crowd, especially on Sunday evenings. But the Bonheur is nothing if not relaxed in every sense, and for Parisians of all persuasions its terrace is the place to see and be seen in the summer – an idyllic spot in the park for wine and tapas with just the birds, bees and bobos for company.

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19th arrondissement

Comments

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bob marley
bob marley

im bob marlyey and is good wbsite :) but i wanna know did god create it?