Definitely dress to impress and be prepared to fork out for entry at the big clubs on the Champs-Elysées – staples such as Le Queen, Le Duplex and Le Pavillon Champs-Elysées are full of wealthy young Parisians (often a little older than in student haunts, given the prices). Entry usually includes at least one drink, however, and the huge dancefloors are nearly always packed. For something a bit more unusual, head to Showcase under the Pont Alexandre III, where international DJs play in industrial darkness right by the banks of the Seine.
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Most of the Latin Quarter remains prime stomping ground for students, but is welcoming to any tourists and natives wanting a cheerily raucous night out. Rue de la Huchette is still a hive of activity, with tribes of all ages and backgrounds wandering its cobbles at night. Jazz club Caveau de la Huchette is a Parisian institution – go and join (or at least watch) clientele between the ages of 18 and 80 jiving in a basement with a revolutionary past.
Odéon and Mabillon attract a young, studenty crowd to the numerous bars, clubs and pubs, with partying going on late into the night. Check out Chez Georges, a tiny basement where dancing on tables becomes obligatory as the floor space diminishes over the course of the evening.
St-Germain-des-Prés itself has become one of the few Left Bank neighborhoods to attract the Gucci-clad stiletto wearers after dark – it might be a cliché, but a cocktail or two in Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots will be an experience to remember.
A quick walk north-east off Rue de Rivoli will soon bring you to the Marais, still happily gay and busy nearly every night of the week. Open Café is always worth a visit for its lengthy happy hour and relaxed atmosphere. While it does stay busy all night, those wanting to show off their moves would be well advised to head to a nearby club such as Cud, housed in a medieval basement.
The area is certainly not off-limits to straight nighthawks either, but the focus tends to be on bars rather than clubs. The mojitos in Les Etages are always worth trying, and the heated terrace at Le Troisieme Chinon stays open later than most if you want to finish your evening with a spot of late-night people-watching.
The titillating and sleazy Pigalle has been somewhat gentrified by the encroachment of artsy intellectuals (and busloads of tourists) from Montmartre. Nowadays, the in-crowd often talk of South Pigalle or SoPi as one of the best nights out in town. For those on a budget, La Fourmi or Les Caves Populaires are great places to start an evening with a carafe or two of the decently priced house wines. If you feel like something a bit classier which still has an edge, try the retro chrome decor and excellent cocktails at Le Mansart. Later in the evening check out Le Divan du Monde or Bus Palladium for live music - or descend into the glitzy darkness Chez Moune, former lesbian cabaret turned lively nightclub.
Wandering down the hill to Grands Boulevards, you soon discover that the once boring area around Métro Bonne Nouvelle is now populated by some of the city’s best clubs and stylish new restaurants. There’s also an abundance of Irish and Australian bars for those craving an Anglophone fix, a happy hour pint or a bit of dancing on tables. While surprising numbers of French can actually be found in such places, many of the younger Parisians prefer the techno and electro scene at Social Club and Rex.
The Bastille, once the only decent place to get a drink east of the Marais, has been upstaged by the edgy bars and clubs in the converted ateliers of Belleville, Oberkampf, and Ménilmontant. The cobbled street of Rue de Lappe remains popular, however, especially with international students attracted by Happy Hour deals at Le 66 and Havanita. Crowds then hit Le Balajo to go dancing (the Lady Pass entitles girls to free entry before 2am and free Kir Royale for groups of 5+), but remember that dance music is only on at weekends – the rest of the time you might encounter salsa, rock and roll or even a tea dance! In fact, salsa lovers are well-catered for in the area, with the immense grandeur of Barrio Latino channeling Cuban vibes throughout the night.
Heading north and up Rue Oberkampf to Ménilmontant, the crowds get increasingly trendy and Parisian. Hip bars such as Lou Pascalou are ten-a-penny and often feature music and art as well as reasonably priced drinks. Belleville is close by and continues the string of arty hangouts, as well as places like Aux Folies – a little rough around the edges, but plenty of charm and buzzing at night.
The nearby Canal St-Martin is lined with both trees and bohemian-bourgeois bars. Notable highlights include Le Point Ephémère and Le Comptoir Général, where hipsters recline on vintage chairs and sip African-inspired cocktails. Find one of the more scenic dance spots at Rosa Bonheur, a cozy lodge with a view over the gorgeous Buttes Chaumont park during the day and a busy but friendly club on weekend evenings.