Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cheap Bars and Clubs in Paris

So recently a few friends of mine have been passing through Paris, and as I am now hibernating in Zurich I have decided to provide a few helpful tips for people who want to go there on the cheap.

Since I don't feel like writing a long email every time some ones looking for tips I would far prefer to just send them a link and be done with it. No offence, just this allows me to build and improve the list rather than trying to remember in each email (as well as shameless self promotion of my blog of course).

These tips are based on my experience of Paris and as I'm sure you will notice there is an underlying preference for the Chatlet area as well as an anglophone trend. Why you ask, well apart from central location, good atmosphere and cheap beers, I used work in the area and still know people working at the majority of these bars. Hi folks if you're reading.

This is my no nonsense guide:

Cheap Bars,

Piment Cafe
Okay so this is a great little French bar. Now when I say great I mean the prices. Seriously €3 for a pint all the time cheap (not just happy hour) so definitely worth a visit, especially since the place is tucked away up a street it tends to only attract a crowd "in the know". Couple of things though; It's quite small think "drop of water in the Olympic sized swimming pool that is Paris" small, also its on a residential street so there is no smoking area and you have to be very quite outside or the bouncer gets annoyed. The pints always seem to have a lot of head and give quite bad hangovers. I really enjoy it though as the atmosphere is very French and smaller bars tend to have an always busy feeling. There is only 1 unisex toilet though so make sure you get in the queue before its really urgent. It's also nice and central and well within walking distance of more busy club areas for when you get kicked out at 2.

La Cordonnerie
Okay so it has been years since I was here (2008), but this quirky little French bar used to be one of my favourites. Not only are the pints at happy hour less than €3 but they used to do a free Moroccan cous cous night on a Thursday and Saturday, yes free food! So it was awesome, even if you did have to sometimes wait for ages for the food. They also do a cheap Mojito and the drinks are still really cheap outside of happy hour. It's mainly a young French crowd and when the bar is really busy they use this little underground cave (cellar) for the over flow which had an eclectic mix of random furniture and a damp smell, but a great atmosphere as it was usually packed. Also it was only accessible via the bathroom. Madness. Of course its been years since I've been but according to the website its still happening. Definitely worth checking out as it's a real authentic Paris place and cheap. Closing time is at 2 but its within easy walking distance of the more lively late night areas of Chatlet, just keep walking down the Rue St Denis.

Okay so I'm not a big fan of these bars but I have been to them a lot, mainly to the Chatlet one during my year out back in 2008. This chain of bars market themselves as an "untraditional Irish bar" which is a very good description as there is nothing Irish about these bars, not even Irish staff or sports even the website is only available in French. They are usually dirty and grungy, but they have some very cheap drinks with free entry a late night openings till 5 with a DJ down stairs. Pints are €3 and Mojito €4 during happy hour(15h-21h), worth mentioning is that its Happy Hour all night on a Thursday, but they usually run out of mojitos quite early and you will get plastic glasses.
They tend to attract a younger more relaxed student crowd which can be a nice change from the pretentious business people you sometime meet in more upmarket bars. The one at Chatlet can sometimes attract a rough crowd apparently, but I've never had any problems.

A great little bar located up near the Pantheon, the bar is marketed as "your home away from home" and indeed it is. The bar is not massive but has a good atmosphere as a result of this, the best thing however are the great staff (all native English speaking) who work there. I'm probably slightly biased as they are all now my friends but it is that chatty laid back atmosphere that makes the place such a success. It's not often that I will go to a bar in the afternoon, but here I have on many occasions. Also they run many different themed nights and cater for EVERY sports, in fact the bar owner is even a American football fan. Fancy dress nights are also quite common and most customers will come in costume as there is usually a free shot for a half decent costume. The drinks are also reasonably priced and there is a very extensive range of rums and whiskeys as well as a large cocktail list. The drinks are obviously cheaper during happy hour, but there is usually some kind of special promotion on the cocktail and beer of the week, so make sure to ask.

The Thistle
Again a great little anglophone bar. tucked away at the top end of rue St. Denis, is a favourite old haunt of mine. Again friendly anglophone staff and small but lively atmosphere. They also run the usual happy hour promos but they also do a bucket of 5 Budvar bottles for €15, which lets be fair is awesome. Sports are also catered for as well as a popular Quiz night. The bar is pretty new and the toilets are nice and clean.It's a really good place to go at the beginning of the night as the main Chatlet area with late night clubs ect is only a 5 minute walk down the street. 

O'Sullivans BTM
Okay another Irish bar; these are also a very popular chain in Paris and you're very likely to bump into a least one on your visit. They are however still more Irish than a lot of the other "Irish" bars in Paris. They usually have about 50 percent Anglophone staff, but everyone will be able to speak English(excluding security so don't try and give them that "I'm Irish" thing if you're at the door). They serve Guinness, play all the sports and their website is available in English, the pints are okay priced and they have happy hour and bar food; blah blah standard stuff. So why would I recommend these bars? Well to be more specific I'm just recommending the By The Mill (BTM aka right next door to the Moulin Rouge) one, for the very simple reason that it is open really late 7 nights a week, which is really handy if you are there mid-week. Also the bar is really big, and at the weekends there is a massive club part out the back they open up. There is an entry fee at the busy nights, but lets be fair it's not that expensive(tenner I think) for Paris and the drinks are cheap for a club experience. Also the club crowd does tend to be a good mix of French and tourist. Being next to National landmark is also pretty handy when you are trying to tell the taxi driver where to go.

Mc Brides
Last Irish bar I promise, I used to work here and it has the same birthday as me so I suppose that is the main reason I'm giving it a shout out. The staff are all friendly anglophones and there is usually a good mix of locals and tourists. It does all the standard things that other Irish bars do; sports, bar food, late night ect and good live music. The Quiz night on a Monday is quite good though and not usually too full so there is a pretty good chance you might win something. It can be a bit quite at weekends but the drinks are not mad expensive and you can always go somewhere else as you're in the heart of town. Also it's in my favourite lively area Chatlet and there is a pool table downstairs.

Baser Sale
I used to go here a lot as this bar stays open until everyone leaves(apparently 11am on weekends) and the all French staff were pretty cool but this bar comes with some warnings; The bar is small and the price of drinks is very high, I'm talking like maybe €8 for a small beer but if you actually manage to last until the end of the night (probably around 6) and still want more drink this is it, but be careful; you end up spending a lot of money and the very late night crowd of stragglers tend to be pretty rough, drunk and leery. DON'T BE A GIRL ON YOUR OWN.
But if you want to experience the real late night/early morning bar culture, well this is it. I used to go sometimes after I would finish work at 6am on a weekend, where I would meet my friends from the other late night bars in the area and generally wind down while having a laugh with them and the guys behind the bar.
After all that why am I recommending the place?
Well something it took me a long time to discover was that the Baser Sale means "Salty kiss" or "Salty Fuck" and it is actually a very well reputed jazz bar in Paris and they have a nice intimate venue upstairs. They run a full programme of jazz 7 nights a week and while I'm not knowledgeable to know enough about famous jazz musicians I used to really enjoy the free Jam Sessions on a Sunday and Monday night, which in my non jazz expert opinion were awesome. A great and cheaper way to wind down a weekend.

Cafe Oz Chatlet
Another Anglophone bar, this time Australian, they do popular and ozzy sports, have a great selection of imported ozzy beers if you like em and all the staff are anglophone and speak English (again not security). This bar is a great place to finish your night in Paris as it's central and there are lots of other cool little bars in the area to go to before hand. However when you in the mood for dancing, getting more drunk and maybe hooking up you should go here. It's packed midweek and weekends with everyone dancing on the tables, it's not a proper "night club" but more of a disco bar and there are live DJs Thursday - Saturday. The prices for a clubbing experience are very reasonable though and a normal cocktail is a tenner and pints are around 7€. They also have a special cocktail and bottled beer of the week though which are €5 and cheap shots for €3; this is very cheap considering the atmosphere, so make sure to ask the staff about them. It can get busy though and if you want to get served faster make sure to tip the staff or buy them a shot when you order. They do operate a door policy at the weekends though, so try not to arrive wasted, in large groups, or with more guys than girls. There is a 10€ entry for guys on Fridays and for everyone on a Saturday, but don't worry you get a drink with your entry ticket,  I'd go for the VRB or cocktail(mojito not allowed) as its probably the best value. Also if you feel like splashing out for a round try ordering 5 or more jager bombs as they will set up a "jager train" and set the whole bar on fire. Very impressive.

Fleche D'or
Okay so had enough of all these anglophone Chatlet bars? Want to go somewhere more "French"? well then you should try the Fleche D'or. It's a very cool venue/club (not pub) that has a lot of live music as well as late night openings. To be honest I have not been there that often as it is a little out of the way in the 20th arrondisment, but it is reasonably enough priced and good French crowd with very late openings. I'm not sure if there is an entry fee(I heard not), but try and go for some live music and it should be worth it. Also some random general knowledge: it used to be an old train station for the Paris circle line which used to run around the edge of the city.

Le Rendez-vous des Amis
Translating as "the meeting of friends" this bar is one of the cool little cheap bars in the Montmatre area and if you are brave enough to mount the large flight of stairs that lead up to the bar you will deserve the drink that awaits you. Located on a corner the style is relaxed and the d├ęcor is an interesting mix of various furniture and polaroid style portraits of people, who we assume are "des Amis". The prices here are fantastic considering the area and a jug of beer during happy hour is around €10 and there are platters of cheese/hams/both available at a very reasonable price if you're feeling peckish. The staff are friendly but busy and the place is more of a local spot than a tourist bar, so try and order in French. If you are getting very hungry then try checking out the awesome raclette at the restaurant next door, the Taverne de Montmartre.

La Bellevilloise
Okay so confession: I have never successfully had a night out here. I tried once but there was a special event or something. However if your into trendy bars and clubs that real Parisian people go to check this out as it comes highly recommended from a couple of my friends. Apparently it has lots of cool different rooms, good music and an amazing view over Paris, it's a bit out of the way but reasonably walk able to the Oberkampf area. Unfortunately I was always working weekends when they were going though.

Nouveau Casino and Le Charbon
Again another set of great French places, prices are a little higher than anglofone bars as these bars are very popular and cool with Locals but they do have a happy hour if you are there early enough.
These two places are kind of the same and very separate. Le Charbon (the charcoal) is the large bar at the front which is very cool and has late night openings and DJ ect. The Nouveau Casino is actually a music venue located at the back of the bar and will have paying concerts most days during the week. Of course you will need to check out who is playing and buy your tickets in advance if they are popular, but the venue is a medium size for a gig and still nicely intimate (designed by Peripherique Architects). I saw Digitilism there and it was awesome. These bars are located in a very cool part of Paris though called the Oberkampf area and there are lots of little cool bars located in the area if you are interested in getting there early and going for a wander.

General Tips for Drinking in Paris or Anywhere
AKA my rant about working as a bartender in Paris.

Some tips for fellow Irish (read Any) people from someone who has worked in Anglophone bars abroad;
Don't be a dick when you go into a bar, just because you are Irish in an Irish bar (or any bar for a matter of fact) it doesn't give you a special right.

Also don't drink too fast and watch the shots, compared to Irish opening hours Paris is an all night affair, try and take a few tips from the Spanish and go out later or just take it easy if your out early and don't forget to eat a really good meal. While you may think you are a hard drinker that is only by Irish opening time standards: aka 2am.Water is free in Paris and every bar, club and venue are legally obliged to give you tap water it if you ask (l'eau gratuit, pronounced "lou grat-tweet"): if you're getting too drunk take a water break your head will thank you in the morning.

While getting out early might mean you take advantage of the happy hours(cause Ireland doesn't have it any more) and get in for free, it will also mean you don't last the night, and will probably get all your stuff stolen while you are in an unconscious heap outside the bar. If you or your friends are beyond reasonably drunk, do us all a favour and go home. On a practical note write down the address of where your staying on a card in your wallet so you don't spend ages trying to explain where you're going to the Taxi driver.

First metros are at 5am, if you can last the night, I'll give you a high five and I'll even tell you where to go for nice French food/breakfast. If you don't last the night there are plenty of taxis and the staggered late night closing times mean they are more available than in Dublin and cheaper too.

Try not to go out alone if you are a girl as the French can sometimes be a little to full on and the Chatlet area can be a unsafe. Remember if you are alone and drunk anywhere in Paris it is not safe and get a taxi home.

Otherwise if you actually know me, then get in touch and I might be able to sort you out with some contact info for people you know(albeit less than me) there. Don't have my contact info? well then I guess you don't know me.

Enjoy your trip to Paris


  1. Hey there,

    Some good tips there. Heading to Paris at the start of December. Unlikely as this may be, but do you have any good tips for bars that sell good, but cheap beers near the Arc de Triomphe?

  2. Hey my good tip is get out of that area if you want to have any fun. the 8th arrondisment is notoriously expensive, boring and a tourist trap. While your hotel might be there take advantage of good public transport and cheap taxis and explore the city by going to some of the places I mention. By the way the odds of you getting a good and cheap beer are pretty low. As a rule they the cheap pints are not good and give wicked hang overs, The Hideout and Piment cafe are frequent culprits of this.

    Seriously think of going to the Oberkampf, Chatlet and Maris areas for some fun.

  3. I was thinking of those areas like Oberkampf allright. Will check out some of those areas. Many thanks for your tips again.



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