What to do in Paris
Where to have a drink and listen to live music in Paris Latin Quarter
There are literally dozens of holes in the walls, caveaux (vaults or burial chambers), minuscule nightclubs and wine bars on rue de la Huchette and rue Mouffetard. Some open overnight to fold the next morning. You do not usually have to look hard to find lights, music and revelers in the Quartier Latin.
If you have not heeded our hotel picks, chances are you've ended staying right above a drunkards' den... What makes some places great while others remain faceless? The patrons of course, but also the ability of some wily owners to provide the right mix of good tunes, reasonably priced drinks, and reasonably (ha! in Paris?) friendly service.
#10, rue de l'Odéon, 75005 Paris, France - Tel (0)1 43 26 66 83
Le Dix Bar (Ten Bar) is a bit of an institution. So far, it has withstood the test of a few decades. Opened at the eve of the Trente Glorieuses (the Thirty Glorious post war golden days in France), le Dix first famously dares to offer sangria to Parisians. The recipe of this concoction is more or less the same these days and goes for 3.5 euros a glass. Cheap beers start at 4 euros. There is music... from a juke-box that some worship as the central altar and others pat like a faithful dog. Le Dix is proud to be friendly and relaxed, "where contacts are easy and flirting is light".
#5 rue de la Huchette, 75005 Paris - Tel (0)1 43 26 65 05
Le Caveau de la Huchette (the Vault of the Huchette) is a popular and laid back jazz club with a history. This former free mason lodge was connected by tunnels to the Châtelet on this other side of the Seine. In revolutionary times, Danton, Marat, Saint-Just, Robespierre all drank here. Summary judgments were passed and executions decided on a whim. For the past sixty years or so, Parisians have shaken their legs to the rhythm of music played by an impressive list of international and French jazz icons. Get in for a cover charge of 14 euros on Fridays, Saturdays and busy holidays, and drink alcohol from 6 euros up. After 2.00 am sneak in for free with the younger crowd and a wider selection of crowd pleasing tracks.
#52 rue Galande, 75005 Paris - Tel (0)1 46 34 23 09
The Caveau des Oubliettes (the Burial Vault of the Dungeons) derives its name from the very premises it occupies. Spooky... The basement where music is played dates back to the 12th century, while the ground floor bar retains stone masonry from the 16th century. Never mind the spooky name. Modern jazz, jazz funk, blues, jazz groove, jazz fusion and other appropriately entertaining musical forms of jazz are appreciated by a knowledgeable public. If you're talented, you can jam along with the pros. Although at 4.00 am when le Caveau des Oubliettes finally closes, knowledge of drinks is probably more in vogue. There is no cover charge but you have to drink up. Drinks start at 6 euros, which is reasonable if you can sip all night long.
#6 rue Royer-Collard, 75005 Paris - Tel (0)1 43 54 32 37
The Crocodile is locally known as le Crodile or le Croc-crodile. The bar closes at dawn... barely, which is why it is popular with all the studenty drunkards of the Latin Quarter... Expect nothing much in terms of interior design. The list of 300 cocktails (although nobody has ever counted them) is superlatively ridiculous. Anybody gets in, but you often have to line because few people can fit in a cupboard... Between le Pantalon and le Crocodile, move back and forth with the flow but be careful crossing the street with a glass too many.
#7 rue Royer-Collard, 75005 Paris
Le Pantalon (the Trousers) is where all from Sorbonne, Jussieu, Louis-le-Grand, Henri IV, Beaux-Arts, and the geniuses of Ecole Normale Supérieure congregate on a regular basis. We've been there so many times, it feels second nature, just like popping into the local mini-mart. Friendly and cheap, where new faces are soon treated like old time patrons. Check out the Chapelle Sixtine replica constructed with love by some Beaux-Art (Fine Arts) students. The big crazy and drooly dog is part of the furniture, and sometimes it howls without apparent reason. Anything can happen here, they say. The years in the Quartier Latin have made us jaded... but there is always a bit of time for a drink at le Pantalon.
Opera, theatre and performance arts in Paris
Palais Garnier, rue Scribe et rue Auber, 75009 Paris
Opéra Bastille, place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
L'Opéra de Paris (the Paris Opera) was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV, the "Sun King". The Palais Garnier completed in 1875 is a masterpiece of neo-baroque architecture and opulently adorned with gold, heavy velvets and glimmering chandeliers. Numerous stairwells and cozy alcoves provide opportunities for social mingering during intermissions, while the Grand Foyer and Staircase are great spots to see and be seen. Even if you are not a fan of ballet, the Palais Garnier ought to be on your list of historical landmarks in Paris. Inaugurated in 1989, the Opera Bastille, also part of the Opéra de Paris, is a gigantic complex design to hold opera performances for the masses. The 2,700 seats are designed to be acoustically consistent. A limited number of 5 euro standing tickets are available from automated tellers at Bastille 90 minutes before the show. These days there is no need to be part of the Second Empire's elite to enjoy a popular night out at the Paris Opera.
#221 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris
La Cité de la Musique (the City of Music) is yet another Grand Projet (Great Project) that fits perfectly within France's tradition of building massive state sponsored cultural landmarks. Unless you are tone deaf, you will find something to like at this sprawling complex inaugurated in 1995 and still expanding at the edge of the City of Paris. Anything goes: jazz, funk, classical, romantic, baroque, twentieth century classical, world music, rap, hip hop... From Pierre Boulez to Sonic Youth, la Cité de la Musique offers a plethora of concerts, conferences, workshops and exhibitions. Check out the Music Museum and its repertoire of instruments from around the globe.
#1 place du Châtelet, 75001 Paris
Completed in 1862 under the heydays of Baron Haussman's urban planning of Paris, the Théâtre du Châtelet is mainly used for dance performance, concerts and musicals. Household French oldies but goodies also give regular recitals here. The auditorium seats 2500 people and is conveniently located at the centre of Paris, a short distance walk across the Seine from the Latin Quarter.
3 bis rue Papin, 75003 Paris
Of the original Theatre of Lyrical Gaety, built in 1862, only the facade, entrance and foyer remain. Much of the original auditorium was bulldozed in the late 1980s to build a cartoonish amusement park that survived a mere few weeks. The theatre was mothballed for the major parts of two decades. The City of Paris finally reopened the Gaîté Lyrique in 2011 as a venue for modern music and digital arts. Connoisseurs of below or just above the radar music acts should check the programme regularly, and will undoubtedly appreciate the savvy selection of international and home grown artists, including French Maghrebian ska and rap from the banlieue, the suburbs of Paris.
place Colette, 75001 Paris
Growing up in Paris involves going countless times with your classmates to a performance by the theatre company of the Comédie Française (the French Comedy). Founded in 1680, this state troop revels in the plays of Molière, France's most revered playwright. Even if your mastery of the French language is only approximate, have no fear, your average Parisian hardly understands 16th century French. Head for the Comédie Française after a day at the Louvre... For a quintessential Parisian experience, laugh and cry with the rest of the audience. All time favourites include: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (the Bourgeois Gentleman), Les Précieuses Ridicules (The Ridiculous Précieuses), Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin's Deceits), l'Avare (the Miser), le Misanthrope...