There's something about a classic hotel bar that oozes old-world glamour — and that's especially true in the French capital. Sure, when you're a student or in your twenties, the allure of newer, hipper spots for a night out is generally stronger than the pull of more historic establishments. But for travelers (young or old) who've come to value the tried and true, enjoying a drink or two at one of Paris' esteemed addresses can feel like a portal back in time, transporting you to a bygone Parisian era. These hotel bars are full of history, sumptuous design details, ambience or charm — and in many cases all of the above. Settle in to a stool or a plush velvet armchair, nurse your drink slowly and bask in the history and inimitable style of these places.
01 of 09
Routinely cited in both English and French guides as the most legendary of hotel watering holes in the capital, the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz emanates so much style that it would make Mad Men's Don Draper feel a bit uncool. The bar, which recently reopened after a $400 million renovation of the hotel, is also brimming with history. Named after Ernest Hemingway, who haunted the place and is reputed to have driven the German Gestapo out of the Ritz at the end of World War II by guzzling over 50 dry martinis in a single sitting, the bar is as muscly and masculine as the writer's prose aspired to be. Wood, deep green leather and old-fashioned lamps abound; the place is decorated with portraits of famous patrons including Ernest and his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bar was eventually featured in the former's 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises.
As you might expect, drinks here aren't cheap: the truth is that Hemingway himself wouldn't have been able to afford the prices of... today. As for what to order, you can go for the dry martini if you want to emulate the American writer; or try the Serendipity, the bar's most popular drink, concocted by head barman Colin Peter Field in 1994. It's a cocktail that blends champagne, sugar, apple juice, calvados and fresh mint leaves.
- Address: 15 Place Vendome, 1st arrondissement
- Metro: Pyramides, Quatre-Septembre or Tuileries
- Tel: +33 (0) 143 16 33 74
- Open: from 6:00 pm to 2:00 am
02 of 09
Far less famous than the Hemingway Bar but arguably just as worth a visit, the Hotel du Nord bar whirls visitors back to the silent-screen era, then adds a good dusting of fresh modernity. French filmmaker Marcel Carne made the place a site of local legend with his eponymous film of 1938 — and in the Parisian imagination, this is a spot that's bursting with cinematic romance.
While there's technically no longer a hotel onsite here, the zinc bar, walls lined with film and art memorabilia, and heavy velvet curtains around the door are decidedly old-world hotel. At the same time, the bar-restaurant situated right on the Canal St-Martin is at the epicenter of one of the city's most vibrant nightlife districts, and is beloved by boho professionals and even young revelers looking for the elegance of old Paris.
- Address: 47 Rue Albert Thomas, Place Vendome, 10th arrondissement
- Metro: République or Louis Blanc
- Tel: +33 (0) 142 01 66 00
- Reservations: not required, but recommended... on weekends for dinner
03 of 09
If most travelers can't afford a full gastronomic meal at one of Paris' acclaimed three-star Michelin restaurants, a drink at the adjoining hotel bar can be a good, affordable compromise. The restaurant at Hotel Le Meurice is the stuff of culinary acclaim — and its bar is well worth a pre-dinner drink, wherever you end up afterwards. Deep, comfy leather armchairs, dusky wood paneling, and frescoes dating to the turn of the 20th century all contribute to a British private club vibe here.
Sit back and enjoy a drink — if you're lucky, you might catch a pianist playing old standards in the corner. Drinks here will set you back a pretty Euro — but may be worth the lavish setting if you're after one. The head barman, William Oliveri, is responsible for the menu of drinks and cocktails, which features both staples and creative spins. One of the most coveted drinks at the 228, especially during the warmer months of the year? The Juanito: it's a classic mojito (fresh mint,... rum, lime juice, soda water and sugar), artfully complemented with crushed raspberries.
- Address: 228 rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement
- Metro: Tuileries or Concorde
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 58 10 10
04 of 09
Book lovers will be particularly drawn to this prestigious site: a classic bar where you can nurse your drink surrounded by some 12,000 handsome old tomes and rare editions. This little-known "library bar" at the Saint-James Paris palace hotel in the chic west part of the city is a gem that few tourists ever see, but it's well worth the slight detour. In the spring and summer, the outdoor terrace and lush garden is also lovely.
The head barman Judicaël Noël mixes signature house cocktails that are likely to please even those with fussy tastes. Ask for the Southern bird, a drink composed of botanist's gin, bitter lavender, "Fathers Chartreux elixir", and maple syrup. Noël is especially acclaimed for his subtle use of botanicals in his drinks — in fact, he refers to himself as an "herbalist" owing to his love for botanical and vegetable essences and ingredients.
Continue to 5 of 9 below.
- Address: 43 Avenue Bugeaud, 16th arrondissement
- Metro: Victor Hugo
- Tel: +33 (0) 1 44 05 81... 81
- Open: Monday to Saturday, 6:00 pm to 1:00 am. Reservations are not accepted.
05 of 09
While the cocktail bar at the ultrachic Plaza Athenée hotel is a relative newcomer, it's already become synonymous with throwback elegance melded with contemporary design. Panelled wood walls meet mid-century modernist-style furnishings, floating blue ceiling drapings that might make you think you're caught somewhere in a David Lynch movie, and a transparent resin bar designed to look like it's levitating. There's an in-house DJ three nights a week, but conversation is never overpowered by the music.
The cocktail menu, extensive and creative, is designed with different tastes and moods in mind; most of the drinks come in small, medium and large sizes, meaning you needn't worry about indulging.
Try the Zona Rosa, made with Patron silver tequila, triple sec, pineapple, ginger, lemon, raspberry and rose cordials. There's also a long list of Hibiki Japanese whiskies and seasonal cocktails created exclusively for the Plaza bar.
- Address: 25 Avenue Montaigne,... 8th arrondissement
- Metro: Alma-Marceau or Champs-Elysées Clemenceau
- Tel: +33 (0) 11 53 67 66 65
- Reservations: not required, but recommended in busy periods and on weekends
06 of 09
Situated in the midst of the St-Honoré fashion district, the 5-star Hotel Costes is beloved by local fashionistas and global celebrities. A drink at the hotel bar here, decorated in an elegant Florentine style that somehow manages not to feel too pretentious, may even earn you an occasional celebrity sighting. The music here can be on the loud side-- this isn't the best spot for a quiet drink, especially on weekends when acclaimed DJs spin here. The service is also reputed as a bit surly at times-- and the price tags are steep. Still, if you'd like to place yourself at the center of the action during Paris Fashion Week, and you enjoy being a fly on the wall, this is an ideal spot to do it, trendy cocktail in hand.
- Address: 239 rue St Honoré, near Place Vendome, 1st arrondissement
- Metro: Concorde
- Tel: +33 (0)142 445 000
- Open: daily from 7:00 pm to 2:00 am; reservations not required but recommended on weekends
07 of 09
Moving over to the rive gauche (left bank) for a change of pace, Le Bar at the sumptuous 5-star establishment simply known as L'Hotel offers a combination of intimacy and chic. L'Hotel is famous for having lodged Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde in the last months of his life and until his death; he claimed to live "above his means" as a lodger there. Later, the hotel near St-Germain-des-Prés became a preferred address for countless celebrities, from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to the French crooner Serge Gainsbourg. The bar, decorated in tones of pale green, soft grey and deep pinkish red, evokes the traditionally arty character of the left bank.
The drinks menu, designed by barman Jonathan Mirval, includes a range of signature cocktails focused around fresh fruit, sharp citrus, and botanical notes. Favorites among patrons include the Aphrodite Martini (Crystal Head vodka, rose syrup and Aphrodite bitters) and the So Wilde, a tribute to the beloved Irish writer... that blends champagne, St-Germain liqueur, cognac and lime juice.
- Address: 13 rue des Beaux Arts, 6th arrondissement
- Metro: Rue du Bac
- Tel: +33 (0)1 44 41 99 00
- Open: daily from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am
08 of 09
The decadent, velvet-heavy bar at the hotel-spa La Reserve near the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is well-known among luxury-seeking locals for being one of the chicest (and most romantic) spots in town for before-dinner drinks. This one is especially recommended for visitors with a casual or connoisseur-level interest in wines, since it boasts an impressive menu that includes dozens of varieties. Sip a rare vintage or enjoy a signature or bespoke cocktail in one of the plush red velvet chairs, surrounded by antique mirrors, paintings and soft lamplight.
The menu includes numerous wines from La Reserve's own domains (Cos d'Estournel and Domaine Tokaj Hétszõlõ), wine by the glass or bottle from some of France's most prized winemakers, as well as a large variety of cocktails. If you're more in the mood for the latter, try the Fizzy Travel, combining Grey Goose Black Cherry vodka, Lillet rose wine, lemon juice, house syrup, and Michel Reybier champagne. For something less... sweet, the Reserve Sling brings together gin, Creole bitters, Peter Heering cherry liqueur and white pepper from Penja.
For those interested in stretching their knowledge of wine further, Le Bar hosts a special wine evening on the first Thursday of every month, which includes extensive tastings of wines and champagnes. See more information in English here.
Continue to 9 of 9 below.
- Address: 42 avenue Gabriel, 8th arrondissement
- Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Tel: +33 (0)1 58 36 60 50
- Open: Daily from 7:00 am to 1:00 am
09 of 09
Last but certainly not least, this wine bar at one of the nicest hotels in Paris' historically seedy Pigalle district offers something a bit more on the bohemian-chic side of the equation. This Italian-style newcomer is drawing in foodies and curious travelers for its cozy yet modern decor and its extensive list of wines from around the world. You can also enjoy a casual Italian lunch or dinner alongside your drinks, with dishes from chef Giovanni Passerini. Dishes and small bites include smoked burrata cheese, fresh pasta and antipasti platters.
- Address: 129, rue Victor Massé, 9th arrondissement
- Metro: Pigalle
- Tel: +33 (0) 143 16 33 74