Paris Resource Guide > Nightlife

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Monday
Dec102012

Paris Nightlife - An Introduction

Think you're ready to hit the city? Don't go anywhere without checking out our Nightlife hints, tips and reviews. Let's start with the basics...

Important Note

The minimum legal drinking age in France for beer and wine is 16 years of age, going up to 18 for stronger drinks and spirits. There are no “open container” laws (which is why it’s perfectly okay to open a bottle of wine at the park), but walking around on the streets with a can of beer isn’t exactly the done thing, and police can confiscate your booze if they think you’re being too rowdy.

This nightlife section includes bars and lounges (places to go for a drink, may also be a club or a restaurant), dancing venues (all dance types from disco and techno to swing and salsa) and soirées (or special events that take place periodically). There are five very loose categories to help you pick a bar that fits your mood or lifestyle:

Chic & Glam

Stunning décor, absurdly expensive cocktails, exclusive door policies and an international jet-set of supermodels, rock stars and Saudi princes keeps these establishments in the society pages until the next flavor of the month comes along. Dress your best and give it a go (and have a back-up plan just in case). Most charge €20 for cover, although this usually includes at least one drink.

Elegant & Classic

The French have the Americans to thank for the birth of the cocktail bar, but you’ve got to admit the Parisians have done a fabulous job turning them into elegant and welcoming havens for barflies from around the world. Many of these bars are found in palace hotels or chic neighborhoods. “Casual Friday” to semi-formal attire is appropriate if you want to blend in. And don’t forget the plastic – posh pampering doesn’t come cheap.

Anglo Haunts

Being a cosmopolitan city with a large foreign student population, Paris has a healthy selection of “expat” pubs with English, Scottish, American, Australian, or Irish themes. Most people don’t visit Paris to hang out in an English-speaking bar where Guinness, Budweiser, televised Cricket matches and pub quizzes are main staples. But they can be a relief for travelers too jet-lagged to attempt ordering anything en français, and they’re quite popular with French people looking to practice their English with charming foreigners. International students tend to congregate in these bars, but everyone is welcomed without fuss.

Cool & Casual

For those seeking a watering hole with character, not hype. These bars range from alternative rock bars to lively multicultural haunts, but have in common a mixed, often eclectic clientele of all ages, reasonable prices, no bouncers and certainly no attitude. Many are locals bars, the French equivalent of “Cheers”.

Hip & Trendy

This is where stylish locals try hard to look like they’re not trying to look cool. Think limited edition sneakers under custom-frayed jeans, the latest combination cell phone/camera/MP3 player on a necklace, and artfully mussed-up hair and you get the idea. Scruffy venues like industrial lofts and art squats are popular, but many of the intimate hole-in-the-wall Marais bars also fit into this category. Some serious DJ talent keeps it all real.

Note: Cafés and wine bars are mostly listed in the Dining Reviews section.