In Review: La Java Bar and Club

See a Slice of Edith Piaf's Paris

La Java club as seen in its 1925 guise. The ambiance is now decidedly modern.
Collection J. Christophe / Courtesy of La Java

It may be a while since iconic French songstress Edith Piaf filled this venue with her shiver-inducing voice, but the La Java club experience provides a throwback to this period in French music history, coupled with a contemporary mix of international sounds. A nightclub and concert venue, La Java's full events program includes up-and-coming international artists and stand-up comedians. In addition to "La Piaf", other world-famous performers who have graced the hall with their presence include jazz musician Django Reinhardt.

Located on Belleville's hectic rue du Faubourg du Temple, La Java is as unpretentious as it is diverse. Glamorous it ain't, though, so lose the Parisian pout and dress for dancing to unfamiliar but surprisingly catchy sounds from around the globe. It's also not for those who like to hit the hay early-- open after dinner and gaining momentum as the night grows deeper, this is a spot adored by night owls looking for something on the vintage side.

The Lowdown: Our Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Uninhibited, fun crowd
  • Original music mix
  • Cheap cover and friendly staff

Cons:

  • Plastic glasses
  • Odd cocktails
  • Somber decor

Practical Info and Getting There:

  • Address: 105 rue du Faubourg du Temple, 11th arrondissement 
  • Tel.: +33 (0)1 42022052
  • Visit the website
  • Metro: Belleville or Goncourt
  • Hours: 9:00 p.m.–6:00 a.m.
  • Cover charge: Varies, but generally ranges from 6 to 10 Euros 
  • Drinks: There's a full bar
  • Dress code: Anything goes
  • Crowd: Bohemian/quirky/punk
  • Music: Eclectic; International

First Impressions

The decor here  is far from plush (the bunker-like quality filled me with a rush of nostalgia for my student days) and the crowd was sparse when we arrived at midnight. A full drinks menu is available, including cocktails served in plastic glasses. Unfortunately, in this instance, the plastic was an indication of the quality.

I followed up a mediocre mojito with a caipirihnia, which tasted suspiciously like detergent. Fortunately, bottled beers are also available, and I would highly recommend sticking to these if you want to retain some feeling in your stomach.

The Dancefloor

La Java is one of those rare dance clubs in Paris where a DJ can mix ska, punk, and classic ballads, without ever emptying the dance floor. The crowd at La Java seem content to dance to whatever the DJ dishes up, and the characteristic self-conscious shuffle of "trendier" nightclubs is absent here.

The club nights here are themed-- there were North-African and Greek nights the previous weeks-- and we stumbled on an all-French evening, much to the approval of my English and Australian companions, flown in for the weekend and keen for a semi-authentic experience. All tracks from start to finish were en francais, as if the Académie Francaise (a group of scholars who guard over the supposed integrity of the French language) had offered an incentive, and the DJ mixed ska, reggae, and rock with ease and success. It was a surprise to learn that ska music is alive and well in Paris, and received the most enthusiastic reaction on the dance floor.

One or two Piaf tracks were even thrown in when the dancing got a little intense.

The Crowd

The dancers arrive early, but those in search of a late-night drink won’t surface till 2 a.m., from the likes of Belleville’s trendy Café Chéri/e or L'Ile enchantée. Punks, goths and rockers mingle effortlessly and make an interesting mix for onlookers. Our companions for the night included Norwegian philosophers, paving the way for true existentialist debate Parisian-style. As ever in Paris, females should be on their guard, and be warned that the unisex bathroom offers no escape from unwanted admirers, but La Java is more about harmless flirtation than annoying persistence.

A Few Last Thoughts 

La Java is also a salsa venue, although less celebrated than, for example, La Balajo in Bastille (which was, incidentally, another major Piaf haunt).

If you're thinking of making a night of it at La Java, it's wise to phone or check the website ahead to confirm the music theme, and in case of potential live acts (we missed two rock bands before midnight).

While La Java undoubtedly has one or two rough edges to it, overlook these and you’ll be treated to an original clubbing experience-- one that made me nostalgic for a Piaf-era Paris, and relieved that a music scene exists beyond the English-speaking world.