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Centre Pompidou
Photograph: Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou: An insider's guide

This is the insider's guide to the Centre Pompidou, an icon of Parisian magnificence. Art, clubs, food and more await

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You know a building is special when it garners special attention in a place like Paris. The Centre Pompidou is one such stunner, an iconic piece of architecture in a city full of these things. The Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou (to give it its official title) is a multi-purpose complex in Beaubourg, home to masses of modern art covering everything from Fauvism to Dadaism via Surrealism and the rest.

Admiring all that creativity is hungry business, and we have picked out some of the best restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs for sustenance and excitement when out and about here. This is your guide to Centre Pompidou, a truly Parisian classic.

Around the Centre Pompidou...

Restaurant: Le Hangar
  • Restaurants
  • Le Marais

It's worth finding this bistro by the Centre Pompidou, and a stone's throw from what was once the doll museum, 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.

  • Music
  • Jazz
  • Les Halles

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 performers and a savvy crowd. Friday and Saturday night jams are free (although you have to buy a drink). Food is served here too, should you decide to make a night of it.

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  • Restaurants
  • Diners
  • 4e arrondissement

When the Pompidou Centre closes at 9pm, those in the know head to the top floor via the transparent escalators to Georges, the panoramic French-fusion restaurant. From this privileged perch, you can watch the sunset over the capital’s steely rooftops and contemplate the art just admired, cocktail in hand. You will be fighting for table room with trendy after-work crowds, and the ice-cool service can be slower than a snail, but it is a small price to pay for such an unbeatable vantage over the 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 - that is the only way to secure a table.

Gay & Lesbian: Raidd Bar
  • Bars and pubs
  • Le Marais

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 from a modelling agency, the major draw is 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.

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Bakery: Legay Choc
  • Restaurants
  • Le Marais

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 long queues. For that special occasion, try their penis-shaped loaf!

Bar: La Fusée
  • Restaurants
  • Diners
  • 3e arrondissement

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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  • Shopping
  • Vintage shops
  • Le Marais

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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