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Café du Cinéma Studio 28
© John Brunton

Paris's 10 best cinema bars

Time Out's guide to where to go when the movies give you the munchies

By Alex Dudok de Wit

If Paris is something of a mecca for watching films, it also remains one of the great cities in which to debate them. Here, the moviegoing experience doesn’t end with the closing credits but in the neighbouring bar, several hours and as many bottles of wine later. Cinemas often rise to the occasion by providing an in-house bar or café; what’s more, thanks to the city’s wealth of eccentric independent venues, many of these retain a unique character. They run the gamut from kitsch film themes to sleek designer interiors, beer-inspired snacks to elaborate salads, rickety bar stools to downy sofas. Yet they all share one thing: a clientele of passionate film buffs who you can expect to be debating auteur theory or the relative merits of Woody Allen at all times of day and/or night. And who knows? You may even bump into Catherine Deneuve (see Le Salon du Panthéon).

Around half of Paris's independent picture houses, and a fair few chain branches, offer some kind of space in which to grab a bite or a drink. We've done the rounds, and sorted out the beauties from the beasts. Below, we present our 10 favourites, as well as a map to help you get your bearings. Think we’ve missed out on some good ones? Let us know in the comments box at the bottom of the page. 

1. Le Reflet

Bars and pubs Quartier latin

This hidden gem of a restaurant takes its name from the cinema opposite, and it’s where the film buffs descend after screenings to discuss whatever arthouse flick they’ve just seen. Their heated debates, mingled with the classic rock constantly playing on the stereo, evoke the charged student culture of the late sixties (though it may deter those looking for a quiet drink)...

2. Le Salon de thé de La Pagode

Restaurants Cafés Ecole Militaire

This cinema's delightful oriental garden becomes the venue for a romantic salon de thé, one of the hidden treasures of the city. The garden is absolutely enchanting, with towering bamboo and a jungle of tropical plants, tiny paths weaving between giant statues of tigers and dragons, the exterior of the pagoda decorated with swirling ceramics and intricate stained glass windows...


3. Le Salon du Panthéon

Restaurants Quartier latin

When Maila Doukore took over the legendary Cinéma du Panthéon in the heart of the Left Bank, she decided not just to renovate the place but to add on a whole extra floor – a huge open-plan loft with an intimate outdoor terrace. The idea was to create a lounge bar and restaurant, but also a meeting place for lovers of what the French term Le Septième Art. And who better to ask to decorate the place...

4. Le Louxor

Cinemas Independent SoPi (South Pigalle)

Opened in 1921 and once a temple of silent cinema, the Egyptian art deco Louxor fell on hard times after WW2 and became a drug den, ’80s club and gay disco before being left abandoned for 25 years. It re-opened triumphantly as a cinema in April 2013, with a new brief to promote cultural, artistic and educational projects.The venue's hedonistic past may be behind it, but its nightlife hasn't died outright...


5. Bistrot des Cinéastes

Restaurants Bistros Batignolles

Enter the Cinéma des Cinéastes, stalwart of the Parisian arthouse scene, and take the grimy staircase that leads up from the main hall. You'll end up in the improbably plush upstairs restaurant, which manages to marry a sleek wine bar aesthetic to a cute film theme. Sections of the menu are named after films: desserts, for example, are listed under the heading ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. The diffused lighting and bare walls...

6. Espace Saint-Michel

Cinemas Independent Quartier latin

This grand old institution at the bottom of the Boulevard Saint-Michel bears the distinction of being the only cinema in Paris to have suffered an arson attack (at the hands of an extremist Catholic group who took issue with a screening of Scorsese’s 'The Last Temptation of Christ'). You’d never guess it today. Refurbished and restored to its former glory, the century-old cinema is once again the place to go for little-seen arthouse films...


7. L'Entrepôt

Cinemas Independent Plaisance

Off the beaten tourist track, this multidisciplinary arts centre and cinema is known for its leftfield documentaries, shorts, gay repertoire and productions from developing nations. The restaurant alone is worth the detour, and indeed most of the clientele seem to skip the avant-garde art and head straight for the shady garden. The menu offers a satisfying range of yuppie salads and classic meat dishes, all reasonably priced...

8. Restaurant du Lucernaire

Restaurants Bistros Rennes-Sèvres

Housed in a versatile cultural centre that comprises three theatres and three cinemas, this restaurant-cum-bar is a trendier affair than the bog-standard neighbourhood cafés that surround it. You have a choice between two rooms: a grand old interior space that brings to mind the classic Montparnasse brasseries, and a more casual bar (evening only) that includes outdoor tables. Once seated, you’re presented with a menu...


9. Café du Cinéma Studio 28

Restaurants Abbesses

The Abbesses neighbourhood in Montmartre is one of the hippest parts of Paris, teeming with crowds of people and filled with bars. But wander up the quite side street that leads to the iconic Windmill de la Galette and you arrive at one of the city’s most famous art house cinemas, Studio 28. Walk past the ticket office and a long corridor brings you out into a hidden jewel, a magical covered interior courtyard that opens up every afternoon as a bar...

10. Mk2 Quai de Loire & Quai de Seine

Cinemas Jaurès

Inside the unusual Quai de Loire branch of the Mk2 empire, the screens sit alongside an unexpected American deli (your search for an overpriced box of Lucky Charms is over) and a cheap ‘n’ cheerful diner-cum-coffee shop. Unless you’re a big fan of sub-standard hot dogs (€5) and absurdly elaborate caffeine-based milkshakes (€4-5), don’t come here for the menu, but rather for the wonderful outdoor terrace by the water...


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