Top 10 Things To Do in Paris At Night

From Cocktail Bars to Opera

Perhaps rivaled only by Venice as the city that's even more photogenic and dreamlike after dusk than it is during the day, the French capital is also a remarkably democratic place for nightlife. Not only are there a variety of free or relatively inexpensive things to do at night; it's also a city that caters to all ages, interests and preferred styles. If Berlin and New York are preferred by students and twenty-somethings for their high-energy clubbing scenes, and London is best for pubs and world-class theatre, Paris is less of a specialist. So whether you're simply angling for a good glass of wine on a terrace overlooking the softly lit streets, or are in for a whole night's worth of wild clubbing, chances are there's something for you. 

  • 01 of 10
    Pont Neuf and the buildings along River Seine, Paris, France
    ••• Pont Neuf and the buildings along the River Seine, Paris, France. Danita Delimont/Getty Images

    As films from "An American in Paris" to "Midnight in Paris" suggest, there's something indisputably otherworldly and enchanted about strolling through the Parisian streets, la nuit tombée (at nightfall). 

    The banks of the Seine are ideal in the warmer months: particularly spots include the Pont Neuf area (pictured); the Pont des Arts, and the Ile de la Cité. I especially recommend strolls along those riverbanks offering vantages of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Illuminated at night, its dramatic facades and spires will likely leave you gobsmacked. 

    Other places in the capital that I count among my favorites for late-night ambling include the Marais-- wander around the narrow, medieval-era streets and passageways and take in the ambience before ducking into a bar or restaurant for dinner and drinks-- and the Rue Montorgueil district, perfect for a stroll before or after a show at an old theatre in the nearby "Grands Boulevards"

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    The Rex Club is a major concert venue and club in the French capital.
    ••• The Rex Club is a major concert venue and club in the French capital. Courtesy of Le Rex Club.

    Whether you're itching for a long night of salsa or latin dancing, are wondering where the city's most talented DJs get the crowds moving until dawn, or are hoping to find a gritty rock bar where indie tunes rule the night, this capital has it all. So get on your dancing shoes, hydrate well, and go find out how Parisian nightowls make every hour count. 

  • 03 of 10
    Wine and oysters on the half-shell at Le Baron Rouge, Paris
    ••• Wine and oysters on the half-shell at Le Baron Rouge, Paris. Owen Franken/Getty Images

    Particularly for those who find the traditional restaurant scene in Paris a mite intimidating/pretentious/starchy/all of the above, wine bars offer a fantastic, laid-back antidote to that brand of formality. Stake out a table early on in the evening-- many bars don't allow reservations-- and settle on a good bottle of red or white paired with cheese, charcuterie, or other nibbles. Some of the edgier wine bars on our list, including Au Verre Volé and Frenchie Bar à Vins,  retain a relatively relaxed vibe, but serve gourmet small plates featuring gorgeously arranged vegetables, delicate cuts of meat or fish, and desserts to go with a bit of sweet wine (hydromel or Riesling, maybe) at the end of the meal. 

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    A night cruise of the Seine is always a good idea.
    ••• A night cruise of the Seine is always a good idea. Yvan Travert/Creative RM/Getty Images

    While I'm aware that it's a rather cliche thing to recommend, every time friends and family visit Paris for the first time, I all but command them to book a night cruise on the Seine River. From dry land, you simply don't get the same vantage points of Paris in all its nocturnal glory-- including the Louvre, the Pont des Arts, the Assemblée Nationale, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower-- all bathed in painstakingly curated light to achieve magical effects. The shimmering play of that light on the water tends to seduce even the most cynical of visitors; and as long as you hacabaretve a camera with a good low-light setting, the night photo ops are unbeatable.

    Read related: Top 15 Classic Monuments in Paris 

    If you'd rather not have to worry about fitting dinner in before or after your cruise, there are plenty of dinner + cruise packages on offer. Some are more formal than others, so I recommend shopping around to find the package that best suits the occasion, and your...MORE budget. 

    Book a cruise or dinner + cruise package now (via Isango)

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  • 05 of 10

    Book a good show or cabaret

    Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris.
    ••• Especially on a first trip to Paris, a cabaret show can be fun. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

    The obvious thing that springs to mind when imagining a typical show in Paris is, of course, the kitschy fun of a traditional Parisian cabaret-- but for those with more demanding tastes, there's plenty in store for you, too.

    For theatre aficionados, a number of English-language plays and musical run in the capital in any given month. See this page at the Paris Tourist Office for the latest listings in English.  If you know some French and would like to take your Gallic skills for a test run, L'official des Spectacles is a great general site for show listings in Paris, from plays to one-woman and one-man shows and musicals. 

    Last but not least, if you're more in the mood for music, check out our complete guide to where to head for concerts, operas and music festivals in the capital. 

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    Whole fresh scallop seared on Parisian limestone with toast garnish, at Clover Restaurant
    ••• Whole fresh scallop seared on Parisian limestone with toast garnish, at Clover Restaurant. Colette Davidson

    A night out stretching your gastronomic muscles--I, for one, can think of little more appealing than that. But as I've noted elsewhere, the Paris restaurant scene is far from consistently good.

    Gambling on dinner at any old corner place near your hotel might mean you stumble on Michelin-level gold-- or it may have you end up wishing you'd just ordered a crepe from that stand across the street, and saved 100 Euros. Consult our complete guide to food and dining in Paris to avoid that scenario, and home in on the good stuff. 

    If your budget is tight and you're hoping to find the most delicious bang for your (Euro) bucks, our guide to scrumptious street food is your friend-- as is this list of the city's best budget gourmet French eateries

    Finally, for something a little offbeat, private dinner clubs have been gaining popularity among visitors to the French capital. What better way to meet a Parisian host, strike up a good conversation or two with fellow diners, and see a...MORE private residence? This is a great way to get a bit of an insider's glimpse of city life. Time Out has a good list of active supper clubs here

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    The Experimental Cocktail Club is a favorite spot for exceptional drinks in Paris.
    ••• The Experimental Cocktail Club is a favorite spot for exceptional drinks in Paris. Lee S./ Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

    After dinner, an exceptional cocktail may be in order. Whether it's a trendy bitters or botanicals-infused artisanal gin you're after, or an artful concoction like the fruity, citrusy one pictured here, read on for our picks of some of the city's more stylish places to lounge. 

  • 08 of 10

    Take an evening dip in an Art-Deco pool

    The Piscine Pontoise is open weekdays until close to midnight.
    ••• The Piscine Pontoise is open weekdays until close to midnight.

    Hankering for a pre or after-dinner dip? Even if you're visiting in the autumn or winter, consider packing your suit and bathing cap: there's a lavish old art-deco style pool in the historic Latin Quarter that's heated and sheltered from the elements. This might be one of the most relaxing, and picturesque, ways to get some exercise in to justify that champagne and creme brûlée at dinner. 

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  • 09 of 10
    The Perchoir is one of Paris' coveted rooftop bars.
    ••• The Perchoir is one of Paris' coveted rooftop bars. Courtesy of Douet Design

    The nightlife scene in Paris is neither frenetic and wild nor subdued and sleepy: it's somewhere in the middle, with most locals preferring a laid-back, but stylish and aesthetically pleasing, vibe. Rooftop bars have been gaining a loyal following in recent years, and are a great bet for a night out, as long as you're not intimidated by fashion-conscious crowds. Le Perchoir (pictured, 14 Rue Crespin du Gast, 11th arrondissement; Metro Menilmontant), is among the most coveted-- so much so that the owners recently opened another location in the Marais district, just next to the BHV Department Store  (33 Rue de la Verrerie, 4th arrondissement; Metro Hotel de Ville).

    I also recommend the large, cozy-cool rooftop bar at Mama Shelter, a  bar, restaurant and hotel complex in the ultra-hip northeast designed by the architect Philip Starck (109 rue de Bagnolet, 20th arrondissement; Metro Gambetta or Porte de Bagnolet). 

    (Related: My full review of Mama Shelter)

    For more picks of the...MORE city's best places for a drink up on the roof, see this list

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    Mk2 Quai de Loire is a newer cinema coveted by Parisians.
    ••• Mk2 Quai de Loire is a newer cinema coveted by Parisians. Manuel |MC/Some rights reserved under Creative Commons

    A friend once asked me why there's still a remarkable lack of sprawling multiplex movie theatres in Paris, and why locals seem to prefer either old arthouse places or new stables, such as the Mk2 theatre chain pictured here, that remain mostly dedicated to independent films.  My answer? Parisians take the art of cinema-- and the art of going out to the cinema-- far too seriously to favor the soulless, shamelessly corporate multiplex. That doesn't mean they don't indulge, like the rest of us, in a good global blockbuster from time to time. They just tend to see film as a true art form, rather than mere entertainment-- and their moviegoing rituals often reflect that attitude. 

    For a proper night out at the cinema in the capital, you'd generally enjoy a drink on or near the premises of your chosen theatre, before or after the show, and spend lots of time discussing and critiquing the film you've just seen with your friends or partner. And as I've mentioned...MORE elsewhere, popcorn is really not regarded well by fellow spectators-- unless you're off to see the latest Star Wars film or another noisy blockbuster, rendering your crunching and munching inoffensive. Don't say we didn't warn you.