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Centre Pompidou: An insider's guide

Do as the Parisians do around the multi-coloured, exo-skeletal Pompidou Centre...

Centre Pompidou

The Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed Centre Pompidou (also known as 'Beaubourg') is one of the most iconic and colourful pieces of architecture in Paris. Inside you'll find the largest collection of modern art in Europe - some 50,000 works of art by 5,000 artists, representing Primitivism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, American Color-Field painting and Abstract Expressionism, of which only a fraction - about 600 works - can be seen for real at any one time.
Avoid the queues by coming after 6pm (the museum is open until 9pm - sometimes later during temporary exhibitions); or you'll just have to grin and bear it.

We have, however, complied this list of the best eateries, bars, shops and attractions around the Pompidou Centre. Follow it and you should be rubbing shoulders with a resolutely Parisian clientele.

For more information on the Pompidou Centre, click here.

Around the Centre Pompidou...

Museum: Musée de la Poupée

Down a narrow alley in the Beaubourg area, this small, private museum and doll hospital enchants little girls and boys (and their parents) with its collection of some 500 dolls, mostly of French origin, and their accompanying accessories and pets, which are arranged in thematic tableaux. A few teddies and quacking ducks are thrown in for good measure, and storytelling sessions and workshops (along the lines of making doll's clothes or miniature food for dolls' houses) are held at 2pm on Wednesdays (in French, reserve in advance; €8-€13). There's even a clinique pour poupées if your doll is falling apart at the seams.

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Les Halles

Restaurant: Le Hangar

It's worth making the effort to find this bistro by the Centre Pompidou, and a stone's throw from the doll museum (Musée de la Poupée), with its terrace tucked away in a hidden alley and excellent cooking. A bowl of tapenade and toast is supplied to keep you going while choosing from the comprehensive carte. It yields, for starters, tasty and grease-free rillettes de lapereau (rabbit) alongside perfectly balanced pumpkin and chestnut soup. Main courses include pan-fried foie gras on a smooth potato purée made with olive oil. The chocolate tart dessert is to die for.

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The Marais

Café: L'Estaminet

When hunger strikes in Beaubourg head north to L'Estaminet, a charming neighbourhood café tucked away in the Marché des Enfants-Rouges market, the oldest market in the city. The café has a warm interior, with a grandfather clock in the corner and guests eating €13 plats du jour (think burgers, succulent salmon steaks and hearty salads) off Limoges porcelain. Wines from around €4 a glass.

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The Marais

Bar: 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 a snail, 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

Bar: La Fusée

Good bars are hard to find in this corner of Beaubourg, but Le Fusée attracts plenty of young people with its warm atmosphere, charming little terrace and reasonable prices for the area. Its hangings of coloured garlands go well with the ambiance, which includes live concerts of gypsy jazz, swing and chanson Française on Sundays. Inside, this ancient literary café has kept a quirky décor of kitsch old posters. You feel like you’re in a market café with the constant flow of people between the tables, the waitresses shouting orders while performing acrobatics to deliver the drinks. Bundles of sausages hang above the bar, cut into generous slices to order and best matched with a pitcher or a bottle of red chosen from the enormous list. Against the background of cult music (Beatles Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash), you’ll naturally fall into conversation with your neighbours at the next table.

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3rd arrondissement

Gay & Lesbian: Raidd Bar

Between the Pompidou Centre and Hôtel de Ville, Le Raidd is a Marais LGBT venue to be reckoned with. Famous for its bare-chested barmen straight of a modelling agency the major draw is surely the soap-sud-covered, brief-sporting, body-building go-go dancers that flaunt their wares under the front window’s built-in showers (summer only). Running every 30 minutes, the show naturally creates quite a buzz among the gays – but also among legions of screaming girls in need of a fix of rock-hard six packs and pillowy pectorals. It gets pretty wild, sometimes bordering on a riot. Drag queens and gays naturally frequent the venue – the red velvet rooms downstairs are cosier and more relaxed, ideal for making new acquaintances. With free entry, a warm welcome and reasonably-priced drinks for everyone, this humming club is always busy, and closes late all week. Tuesday night is nostalgia night (70s, 80s, 90s), Wednesdays are Latino, and weekends electro, giving everyone plenty of opportunities to dress up while wearing as little as possible.

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The Marais

Jazz Club: Au Duc des Lombards

Set on the corner of Paris's 'jazz alley', rue des Lombards, and just a few minutes from the Centre Pompidou, this venerable jazz spot goes from strength to strength, attracting a high class of performer and a savvy crowd. Friday and Saturday night jams are free (although you have to buy a drink). You should also check out the 'bon plans' section of the website, which offers reduced-price tickets for certain concerts. Food is served here too, should you decide to make a night of it.

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Châtelet

Bakery: Legay Choc

Run by two brothers (one gay, one straight) whose surname just happens to be Legay, this Marais boulangerie and pâtisserie is very popular. The pastries are delightful, and the lunch-hour sandwiches are generous, so expect lengthy queues. A satellite store, serving only sandwiches, is at 17 rue des Archives (01.48.87.24.61). For that special occasion, try their penis-shaped loaf!

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The Marais

Shop: Free 'P' Star

Late-night shopping is fun at this Aladdin's cave of retro glitz, set in the heart of the Marais, just a few minutes walk from Beaubourg. Among the accessories, jackets, fur hats, 70s shirts and 80s dresses you'll find ex-army wear and glad rags that have provided fancy dress for many a Paris party. Don't miss the basement area, accessed via a near invisible spiral staircase. The place looks like a bomb has hit it, but this is where you usually find the best bargains - especially if you're looking for men's coats and jackets.

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The Marais

Shop: I Love My Blender

Christophe Persouyre left a career in advertising to share his passion for English and American literature: all the books he stocks were originally penned in English, and here you can find their mother-tongue and translated versions.

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The Marais

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