As the world's single most-visited city, Paris can give the impression that it reserves few secrets or unexplored niches — including where nightlife is concerned. Yet, as Parisians themselves know well, the myth of the city as a transparent "living museum" couldn't be further from the truth. This is a metropolis that's forever changing and evolving, and new places are opening all the time — ones that aren't yet on most tourists' radars. This is as true of bars and clubs in the capital as it is of anything else.
For the intrepid urban traveler, these secret bars and watering holes in Paris offer an intriguing entry point into a side of the city that's little-known to many tourists. From speakeasy-style bars to private clubs and quaintly chic watering holes, these eight spots are all but guaranteed to make you feel like you've made the city your own. They also ooze with ambience and old-world cool, and most are open until the wee hours of the morning: perfect for dedicated night owls.
Regularly touted as the coolest new speakeasy-style joint in the city, this tiny bar near the bustling Bastille district is located behind a pizzeria called DaVito that serves perfectly good pies. But for many, the 1920s prohibition-era place situated at the back is the real draw card. Boasting an extensive menu of high-quality whiskies as well as many creative house cocktails, this is a place that the discerning drinker will certainly appreciate. The deep-leather chairs, gramophone playing soft vintage jazz, and romantic low lighting will appeal to those who think daylight's simply overrated. To call this place "throwback" in its style is an understatement.
If this "clandestino" bar doesn't make you want to spontaneously break out singing the eponymous Manu Chao hit, we don't know what will. A Latin-themed watering hole in the relatively quiet, but central, 3rd arrondissement, La Mezcaleria abounds with colorful Mexican-style decor, from grinning skulls and cacti to bright tapestries and furniture with Aztec prints. The cheerful bar boasts both warmth and style, and serves up drinks and cocktails with distinctive Latin American and tropical twists, from classic Pina Coladas and caipihrinas to more inventive libations, such as the Hot Mexican, an appropriately spicy cocktail shaken with mezcal, tarragon, Suze liqueur, and Spanish bitters and fresh lemon juice.
The Library Bar at The Saint-James
This little-known gem of a bar in western Paris is decidedly unhip — but its old-world glamour and intellectual heft makes it a spot that the hipster set may likely soon flock to. Before they do, go enjoy the distinctive, mildly nerdy vibe here: Some 12,000 handsome books grace the dark-wood shelves at this "library bar", part of the prestigious St James palace hotel in Paris' well-heeled 16th arrondissement.
The house cocktails, artfully concocted by barman Judicaël Noël, are among the most creative in the capital, and the chic-intello ambiance here is sure to quell your desire to steal away somewhere remote and semi-exclusive, far from the madding crowd. This is one of the few places left in Paris that can still claim to retain some mystery. It's also one of the best hotel bars in Paris.
Easily recognized from the street by its — you guessed it — bright red door, this up-and-coming cocktail bar situated between the fashionable Marais and Bastille districts has a New York vibe that many have noted. Inside, you'll find exposed brickwork, soft candlelight, deep velvet stools, and Baroque wallpaper to set the scene for the evening. Smartly dressed mixologists put together drinks that show genuine savoir-faire and attention to the little details, and the place prides itself on using only high-quality spirits. While the 1920s speakeasy ambience is less present here than at some of the other bars featured in our list, you still have to make an effort to get in: that red door isn't actually the entrance, so you'll have to nose out the right one.
When David Lynch opened his private club, named after the eponymous, deliciously creepy joint from his film "Mulholland Drive" in Paris back in 2011, his "Twin Peaks" reboot had yet to be released. Now that "The Return"/Season 3 of the cult tv series has been streaming in living rooms around the globe, the Silencio Club has even more appeal for the way it plunges you right into Lynch's dark, sumptuous universe. The director even had an active hand in designing the decor — and it shows.
From the heavy read curtains framing the stage, to a large onsite cinema and cavernous, romantic, vaguely creepy niches that you can explore throughout the club, an evening here is definitely an unusual and noteworthy way to experience Parisian nightlife. Get lost in the dreamy, dimly lit world of one of the world's most celebrated auteur directors — but do be aware that it's a private club, and only open to the general public after midnight. Non-night owls will sadly have to abstain.
For anyone who remembers Stephen Frears' film "My Beautiful Laundrette", this quirky "secret door" bar will please your cinematic sensibilities. Getting there is, of course, more than half the fun. What appears to be a rather banal, grey Parisian building situated near the bustling Place de la République harbors a secret above the laundromat: a rickety spiral staircase takes you to a cozy, brightly decorated bar on the level above. The pop-art kitsch aesthetic makes the place all the more fun: oversized boxes of laundry soap, furniture in striking sherbet hues, and barstools covered with quotes all add to the ambiance. Cocktails are beautifully presented and emphasize fresh fruit and herbal flavors, such as the Drunk in Love, featuring fresh strawberry puree and coriander.
This one isn't a speakeasy, but a quirky "urban farm" at Paris' northern limits that houses a bright, cheerful cafe-bar-restaurant filled with books, plants and repurposed furniture. Ecological sustainability is at the heart of the concept, from the recycled decor to the locally sourced ingredients used in the kitchen and the mini-farm and aromatic herb garden that grace the premises. It's only a short few blocks from Paris' giant old flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt, so the reuse-recycle theme is certainly appropriate.
Airy, cheerful, and unpretentious, this place is one of the best-kept secrets of the neighborhood, which can be a bit overwhelmingly gritty and lacking in greenery at times. During the day, enjoy coffee or a light bite while working on your laptop; at night, the place becomes a laid-back bar. The outside seating area, green and calm, is a welcome reprieve from the nearby urban grind.
Situated near the hip Canal St-Martin, this enormous space was repurposed from an 18th-century convent into one of the capital's nicest places for lunch, dinner or a drink — especially in the warmer months. The spacious premises include a large outdoor garden and terrace strung with warm lights, and it understandably gets very crowded here on late summer evenings. Once again, this is no speakeasy, but it makes our list due to its clandestine location: you have to find your way through an impressive iron gate and then through the convent's old cloisters to reach the bar. Temporary exhibits in the cheerful courtyard display local artists' work, and enjoying a cocktail on one of the chaises longues is a guaranteed way to unwind — and forget where you are.