Secret bars in Paris

Time Out's guide to the best bars you've never heard of
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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.

Got a favourite secret bar you want to share? Let us know in the comments box below.

To discover more offbeat gems, including restaurants, galleries and parks, visit our Secret Paris page.

Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Le Lavomatic

icon-location-pin République

This bar is tucked away on the top floor of what looks like a relatively lifeless apartment block on Rue Boulanger, near République. But this is all part of the game for Le Lavomatic’s owners, who have also snapped up the ground floor and are opening a fully functioning launderette here in September 2015. Because of all this, and because you can only reach the bar by climbing up a dainty spiral staircase, the whole place has the air of an illicit speakeasy joint...

Time Out says
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Lulu White

icon-location-pin Saint-Georges

This sumptuous Art Deco bar, specialising in absinthe-laced cocktails, takes its name from the New Orleans brothel madam and procuress Lulu White. Nestled on Rue Frochot with a discreet windowless façade, Lulu White’s only marker is a small brass engraving of its namesake, taken from a 1920s mug shot. Caught between two very different worlds (the sex shops of the Boulevard de Clichy and South Pigalle’s cluster of gourmet grocers and restaurants), Lulu White belongs to neither...

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Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Le Très Particulier

icon-location-pin Montmartre

Tucked away behind the Montmartre hill, with rooms priced at €400 a night, the luxurious Particulier Montmartre hotel bar is a favourite with in-the-know Parisians. Visitors have to jump through quite a few hoops just for a drink at the bar, proceeding down a private-access street and through a series of intercoms and buzzers before finally reaching the hotel garden. Designed by Louis Benech (who also renovated the Tuileries), this lush enclave feels more like a forest thicket than a garden, with its towering trees, wild ferns and patches of creeping ivy...

Time Out says
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Experimental Cocktail Club

icon-location-pin Réaumur

Behind a non-descript door on rue Saint-Sauveur in near Etienne-Marcel, Experimental Cocktail Club will escape you if you don't know where to find it. Paris has been slow to host the type of venues that are so fashionable in New York – ‘mixology’ bars that re-invent cocktails with strange spirits, fresh fruit juices and subtle spices – but now we have, for example, the Tommy’s Margarita Especial, an insane 100% agave tequila Arette mix with lime juice and organic agave honey, infused with Bourbon vanilla and cloves....

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Au Chat Noir

icon-location-pin Folie-Méricourt

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...

Bars and pubs, Café bars

Marlusse et Lapin

icon-location-pin Abbesses

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...

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Bars and pubs, Late-night bars

Le Zorba

icon-location-pin 10e arrondissement

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...

Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Moonshiner

icon-location-pin Roquette

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...

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Bars and pubs, Café bars

Bouillon Belge

icon-location-pin 20e arrondissement

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...

Bars and pubs

Les Cascades

icon-location-pin Belleville

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.

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