What's your poison? Be it Trivial Pursuit or pétanque, no city bar list is complete without a roundup of places to have a gentle game or two over a drink. Of course, things can get a little whackier than Scrabble – check out our selection to get involved in everything from brain-bending French dictation to Star Wars-themed sushi.
The best Paris bars with board games
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. Le Charlus is fast becoming the worst-kept secret in Paris: we almost don’t want to tell you about it, as an increasingly unmanageable crowd crams itself into this little café with irresistible charm, its sign barely visible as you traverse the Rue Albert Thomas near to République. Once inside, you discover a well-presented space with coloured lights on the ceiling, stone walls and red curtains that open on to a pub stage. Here, talented actors take turns every Thursday night to improvise under the watchful eye of improv guru Farid Rezgu. Insane direction is provided by the public, who throw the performers challenges such as developing a musical comedy on the theme of ‘the laser-armed octopus’. The actors have to perform hilarious feats of imagination to keep up, reducing the audience to tears of laughter as much as any sober appreciation of acting talent.Opened by a former literature student, Le Charlus is a clear reference to the famous protagonist of Proust’s ‘La Recherce du Temps Perdu’ – a sophisticated allusion not out of place at the venue’s dictées [dictation exercises playing on the intricacies of French structure, like a spelling bee for adult grammarians] every Tuesday evening. What other bar offers, among the charcuterie boards and reasonably-priced glasses of red wine, a choice between watching actors improvising around ‘the hairdryer of death’, or struggling with the conjugation of past participles with ‘avoir’? Entry is free – what more could you ask?
The 'Apparently' feels more like a communal living room than a café. The low lighting, cosy nooks and board games (Trivial Pursuit and Taboo, both in French) make for an excellent place to while away an afternoon. Staff even organise the occasional fortune-telling evening. The location is perfect for shoppers too, being just off the rue Vieille-du-Temple. Lunches consist of simple DIY platters of meats, cheeses and salads, but at €15 for the basic version they're a bit rudimentary for the price. Eating is obligatory during busy periods, when it's definitely advisable to book.
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. If chilling on a deckchair on the banks of a canal or playing pétanque gets you going, head to Bar Ourcq of an evening, where a flip-flop wearing, shorts-sporting clientele is welcomed with open arms. On summer days, crowds gather for open-air guitar jamming sessions or to picnic on the banks of the canal, refuelling at Bar Ourcq with plastic goblets of cold beer or bottles of wine. Things get pretty boozy as the day wears on, leading many a pétanque player to squint uncertainly at their target, and every throw draws ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience of fellow drinkers.It’s much less busy here than on the Canal Saint-Martin, with no passing cars to pollute the tranquil atmosphere. What’s more, you can eat and drink for next to nothing, with drinks from €2.5 and savoury snacks from €1.5. Apart from the busy summer terrace, the winter months offer many cosy corners in a cosy, pouf-strewn bar area where those in the know come to spend afternoons indulging in books, board games and free Wi-Fi. In sunnier months, DJs play electro from 5pm, the perfect soundtrack to celebratory after-work drinks in front of the sunset – and they spin on until midnight during the week, 2am at the weekends.
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. Few of the bars around the Halles market provoke a desperate desire to stop and have a drink. They tend to be cold, unwelcoming dives squeezed between two kebab shops and full of the forum’s shoppers, practically encouraging the passer-by to hurry on past. But that’s not counting Le Vieux Léon, a charming little neighbourhood bar that fills your outstretched arms with well-priced pints, charcuterie boards and free concerts. Even better, it also hosts a weekly quiz with a bottle of champagne offered to the most knowledgeable music lover – though beware, the winner has to organise the next week’s quiz, complete with esoteric bonus questions. In winter, the bloody battles over the original author of a song or film keeps the place warm, while in summer the terrace offers a restorative sunny corner.
The cult of the geek in Paris received a well-oiled boost with the opening of the ‘Dernier bar avant la fin du monde’ (presumably a reference to Douglas Adams’ ‘Restaurant at the End of the Universe’ from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’). Medieval and steampunk dominate the décor, with plenty of other bonkers sci-fi touches: as you walk in, a replica of the Millennium Falcon overlooks a timer counting down the minutes to the apocalypse predicted by the Mayans next to a window full of Star Wars memorabilia, World of Warcraft collectables and retro video games.Inside, a big friendly bar is as much about alternative and popular culture as it is about drinking. A library, board games and science fiction books rub shoulders with the holy grail from ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ and other philtres, potions and skeletons. Downstairs, those with an interest in the undead can hang out in a windowless cellar. Naturally, the menu continues the theme: The Japanese-inspired selection offers a choice between ‘yodagiri’ and ‘kirbygiri’, three pieces of ‘onigiri’ (€5), and the ‘ponyo’ (salmon chirashizushi, €14). The prevailing atmosphere of heroic collaboration also keeps prices low, with a pint of Kronenbourg at €5 and a half at €3.
L’Oya is an atypical bar in a quartier already stuffed with them – the 13th arrondissement near the Gobelins Metro. Not so much a bar as a creative café, people love to come here around teatime to play one of the 500 board games that the owners have collected from all over the world. For €5, you can have drink and play the game of your choice for as long as you like, simply adding €3 for each new game. The owners love explaining the rules, and will happily spend hours disputing paragraph 3 of article 4 in the rulebook of some obscure pastime. The games are also available to buy, some affordable, some with prices befitting their rarity and beauty. Definitely one to visit.
Far enough (five minutes) from rue Oberkampf to feel off the beaten track, the Gutter is not out-and-out libertine, but you're on the right lines. Certainly, a come-what-may approach to music, drinking and eye contact abounds in the crowded venue. Decor, assuming you can see it, consists of a few LP covers and the kind of colour scheme often put to good use in adventure playgrounds. Reasonably priced lunches (food is a French and North African mix), the occasional live band, chess and card games complete the picture.
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. Ever get nostalgic for 70s youth hostel decor? Look no further – the trappings of table football, board games and musty old books have all been slavishly recreated at the Pères Populaires. One of the cheapest bars in the city, it’s also a local canteen, complete with sticky table-tops and the tenacious smell of stale beer that bears witness to many a debauched evening. The décor is an incoherent mixture of second-hand furniture with some good pieces, and of bent wood hat stands with peeling wallpaper. One perches uncomfortably on chairs or on a knackered old sofa, knocking back jugs of beer or rum mixers and mopping it all up with a cheap charcuterie board (€5 to €8). During the day the place is tranquil and full of light, thanks to a huge picture window – and the area’s students flock to its free Wi-Fi. Always full in the evenings, it gets busiest when the gigs start at 8pm, mostly local groups playing jazz or cheesy hits. A decidedly blue collar French venue, but none the worse for that.
There’s a definite music theme in La Folie en Tête: instruments from around the world line the walls and the background sound flits between jazz, world music and rock, plus the occasional live performance. Early evening regulars come by for a tipple and a quick board game; but from happy hour onwards (6pm-8pm), the volume pumps up and folks pile in for the flavoured rums and house punch (laced with coconut, ginger and orange flower). You don’t have to dress to impress here (the fauna is grungy), but do dress in layers: La Folie en Tête is small and gets hot and stuffy, especially on Saturday nights, so you’ll be stripping off your jumper and jacket well before the clock strikes midnight.
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. A café and art space in Ménilmontant, Lou Pascalou has been also been enthusiastically appropriated as a neighbourhood canteen thanks to its endlessly inventive nature. There’s nothing trendy here, but rather a sweetly boho chic hangout and its youthful local clientele. The drinks are at rock bottom prices (€2.50), as is the food (shepherd’s pie from €6.50) and there’s an enormously varied range of entertainment. On the first Wednesday of the month you’ll find screenings of short films, on the third a theatrical improv competition organised by the Parisian League of Improvisation, and every Sunday there are gypsy jazz concerts, Brazilian music, French singers, flamenco, rock, brass bands and more. You can always look forward to a celebratory atmosphere in this charming bar, which also hosts temporary exhibitions every month, invites you to participate in citizen’s debates, and places board games at your disposal. On weekends the bar is rammed, so don’t arrive too late if you want to be able to find a seat.