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Paris Nightlife

When planning an evening out in Paris, it is more important to decide where to go than what to do. The Champs-Elysees and Trocadero areas are full of tourists and overpriced nightspots, but if wishing to impress, may be worth considering. Pigalle is the seedy sex centre of Paris but home to the Moulin Rouge cabaret, 82 boulevard Clichy, 18th, where the cancan is still performed, and some good music venues. Montmartre is heaving in summer, but the views over Paris from Sacre-Coeur are unbeatable. Bastille is buzzing with bars and clubs but is a bit too hectic for some. The best area for an evening's cafe-hopping is the Marais district, (also the centre of the gay scene), closely followed by the increasingly fashionable Oberkampf, which suits a younger crowd.

Bars: Most cafes in Paris are considered bars as well - by virtue of their long opening hours and the fact that the same place you might have a coffee, you could also have a beer. There are, however, a number of specifically evening venues which are listed below. With the exception of Anglo/Irish bars, beers on tap (bire la pression) are normally served as a demi (25cl).

The super-trendy Le Buddha Bar, 8 rue Boissy d'Anglas, 8th, so-called because of the giant kitsch Buddha which defines the decor of this underground beauty parade, continues to be the place to be seen. Another bar of beauties, popular with the wealthy business community, is Barfly, 49-51 avenue George V, 8th, which serves a variety of (expensive) cocktails and sushi. The crowd is more laid-back at L'Armagnac, 104 rue de Charonne, 11th, an ideal cafe-restaurant for a cool down after a good night out in the Bastille.

The first bar to make Oberkampf a popular new nightspot was Cafe Charbon, 109 rue Oberkampf, 11th. It is still popular with a young artistic crowd. The DJ plays funk and house Tuesday to Saturday. Le Mecano Bar, 99 rue Oberkampf, 11th, so called because of its tool-box decor, is typically Parisian. Although Pigalle can be seedy, Le Cho-B-Cafe, 22 boulevard Clichy, 18th, with its Chinese decor, is popular and even slightly chic.

The Marais (3rd and 4th) is packed with a happy melange of gay and straight bars. Vibrant gay bars include the Coffee Shop, 3 rue Ste-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie and Amnesia, 42 rue Vieille-du-Temple. Le Central, 33 rue Vieille-du-Temple, is one of the city's oldest gay bars, with a more sedate clientele. Paris' one gay-only hotel is above the cafe. Xavier Denamure runs a treasure of quirky little (straight) bars in and around the rue Vieille-du-Temple: La Chaise au Plafond, 10 rue du Tresor, with its ceiling decorated with Fresian cows and its lovely terrace; Au Petit Fer Cheval, 30 rue Vieille-du-Temple, named after its huge horseshoe-shaped bar and the recently opened L'Etoile Manquante, 34 rue Vieille-du-Temple. Still in the Marais, but under different ownership, is The Web Bar, 32 rue de Picardie a silversmith's atelier turned into a hip but relaxing haunt. There is a cluster of cafe/bars around the Centre Pompidou. The most famed is the large Cafe Beaubourg, 43 rue St-Merri, 4th, an extremely popular, central meeting place. Anglophone expatriates find safety in numbers at the Cafe Oz, 184 rue St-Jacques, 5th, which serves a good range of draught and bottled beers or the Frog & Rosbif, 116 rue St-Denis, 2nd, a traditional British pub.

Casinos: The Casino d'Enghien les Bains, 3 avenue de Ceinture, Enghien-Les-Bains is a 20-minute drive from Paris on the A15. Visitors must be over 18 years, carry a passport and be formally attired to gain admission (FFr80).

Clubs: Techno, house, garage, latino and ra are the popular sounds, and to a lesser extent, hip hop, trip hop and drum'n'bass. Bouncers frequently turn potential punters away and many of the smarter clubs are (or claim to be) private. There is no sure way of gaining admission, although being foreign, dressed identically to everyone inside, accompanied by a regular or simply beautiful helps. Admission prices (usually about the FFr100 mark) often include one free drink. Clubs open at about 2300 and tend not to close until dawn, it is coolest to arrive around 0300, or at least after midnight.

Top DJs play house tunes at Le Queen, 102 avenue des Champs-Elysees, 8th, a gay club still considered the best club in Paris. Thursday and Saturday is gay only, with drag queens in profusion; Monday is Disco Inferno - time to get the flares out. Le Divan du Monde, located in Pigalle at 75 rue des Martyrs, 18th, once hosted Toulouse Lautrec but now draws a crowd which changes radically according to the evening's programme - Brazilian, tango, indie, rock, house and hip hop nights alternate with top French and international DJs. Le Saint, 7 rue St-Severin, 5th, which plays disco, house and salsa, is inexpensive and relaxed. At the other extreme is Les Bains, 7 rue du Bourg-l'Abbe, 3rd, a former Turkish bathhouse transformed into the most pretentious of clubs.

Live music: Le Divan du Monde (see above) hosts intimate pop concerts, providing a chance to see stars close up. Live jazz is played nightly at Le Bilboquet, 13 rue St-Benot, 6th (from 2245 onwards), by local and international high-calibre musicians. There is no admission charge, but drinks are priced at FFr120. A young, unsophisticated crowd are drawn to La Flche d'Or Cafe, 102bis rue de Bagnolet, 20th, a converted station turned live music venue, with a sticky, beer-stained floor. Concerts run from Thursday to Sunday evenings and the music ranges from rock to blues or reggae and satirical French chansons. Chesterfield Cafe, 124 rue La Boetie, 8th, just off the avenue des Champs-Elysees is popular with expatriates and hosts US rock and blues bands. To guarantee a seat, it is wise to book a table and take a Tex-Mex (tel: (01) 4225 1806).



 
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