At House of Coco, we like to do things a little differently. Our Travel and Lifestyle writer, Sam Johnson, has been exploring Paris’ hipster hangouts and rooftop terraces to bring you the crème de la crème of the city’s Upper East Side.
Five years ago, you would have sooner walked out of your way than got off the Metro at Barbès-Rochechouart. Nowadays, the seductive side streets around the Boulevard de Barbès are becoming the most eccentric up-and-coming quartier in the whole of Paris.
An immediate turn left (in French: gauche) out of the Metro station will take you to the Louxor Cinema (170 Boulevard de Magenta, 18eme), an Art Deco masterpiece. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit through all seven hours of Les Misérables to be able to enjoy the neo-Egyptian architecture, simply admire over a small glass (in French: bottle) of artisan wine in the Bar Louxor on the third floor.
Across the street is the Brasserie Barbès (2 Boulevard de Barbès, 18eme), no doubt teeming with ‘BoBo’ (Bourgeois Bohemian) Parisian hipsters. The first two floors are a South Floridian Art Deco fantasy with an eclectic menu (anything from eggs benedict to escargots) and up on the second floor le dancing nightclub, for later. Finally, the top floor sprawls out onto an extravagant roof terrace with views across Montmartre and at its summit, the breathtaking towers of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Now, most tourists take a right out of the Metro at Pigalle and follow the hoards uphill to the overpriced bars surrounding Place du Tertre to watch naive tourists sitting for bad caricatures, or shoddy close up magic tricks. The fashionable Parisians head south of the porn-lined Boulevard de Clichy to where the real magic happens.
There’s not a lot of people who do cheese better than the French, and there’s not a lot of French who do cheese better than L’Affineur Affiné (51 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 9eme). You won’t be able to find steak et frites anywhere on the menu here but you’ll be able to try some of the best cheese in France, and some of the best wine to wash it down with. Get the big plate if you’re feeling adventurous…
Mirrors and broken disco balls line the walls of Le Glass (7 rue Frochot, 9eme); one of the SoPi (South Pigalle) trailblazers. Any Glass veteran can tell you to watch out for Lila & Santana, not the owners, but a deceptive name for their speciality drink; strong Mexican beer with an El Jimador chaser.
If you’re looking to lower the tone even more, head across the street (10 rue Frochot, 9eme) to Polynesian 1950s tiki dive bar, Dirty Dick. As the name suggests, it’s not somewhere you’d want to take your mother, but it’s a must if you enjoy your drinks on fire and served out of a shell by a man in a Hawaiin shirt.
As Pigalle’s much older, wiser (and naughtier) brother, Montmartre is the home of traditional French cabaret clubs such as Cabaret Michou (80 Rue des Martyrs, 18eme) whose stage has showcased the likes of Liza Minelli and Jacques Chirac. Other favourites are the world famous Moulin Rouge (82 Boulevard de Clichy, 18eme) and less conventional Cabaret Au Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit Cabaret), which has been around since 1860 and was a regular haunt for Pablo Picasso and other struggling artists.
La Famille (41 rue des Trois Frères, 18eme) is quickly becoming known for serving the best mojito in Paris. Drinks arrive smoking, infused with exotic fruits and garnished with eyeballs, syringes of liqueur and more exotic fruits. It’s a far cry from French traditional, it’s just really, really cool.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated way to watch the sun go down, take advantage of Montmartre’s natural vantage point and head to a luxury rooftop terrace, with breathtaking views over the entire city. With the ultra swishy modern interiors of the Terrass Hotel (12-14 Rue Joseph de Maistre, 18eme), you’d never know that this place has been run by the same family for more than one hundred years. If ever you’re going to find a local expert, it’s here.
CANAL ST MARTIN
Brightly coloured boulangeries and bohemian bistros flank the banks of the Canal St Martin, one of Paris’ more traditionally trendier and chilled out neighbourhoods. Expect to see only the coolest young Parisians here enjoying picnics and spontaneous acoustic concerts while the sun goes down.
If you didn’t come picnic prepared, don’t panic. Canal St Martin has one of the most well stocked wine shops in the whole of Paris, Le Verre Vol (67 Rue de Lancry, 10eme). The experienced and very friendly sommeliers will help you pick out a perfect wine for your taste and budget. Pop across the canal to Pink Flamingo (67 Rue Bichat, 10eme) and order yourself a gourmet pizza (go for the L’ho Chi Minh but don’t ask what’s on it). Find yourself a perching spot on the edge of the canal and they’ll give you a bright pink balloon so they can spot you when they come to deliver it!
The Canal St Martin itself is teeming with late night bars, too. Tiki temple meets African bongo club at Le Comptoir General (80 Quai de Jemmapes, 10eme). The tropical mix of vibes is unique, even for Paris, but what else would you expect from a self-styled temple of exoticism?
A little walk south towards Bastille and you’ll reach Pizza Da Vito (5 Rue Sedaine, 11eme). There’s nothing about the place to suggest anything out of the ordinary, but push open the big metal door to the chef’s walk-in fridge and you’ll find yourself, not surrounded by jambon et fromage, but partying in one of Paris’ secret cocktail bars, Moonshiner.
PARC DES BUTTES-CHAUMONT
During the summer, the daytime streets of Pigalle and Montmartre are deserted as locals migrate to the nearby Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. It’s the smallest of Paris’ five main green spaces, but by far the quietest, as it’s 19eme postcode often deters the very mainstream tourists.
The park was created in 1860 as part of Haussman’s city regeneration plans, and is located on the site of a former quarry in the village of Belleville, which was once a luxury escape destination for Parisians. Although now very much a part of the city, locals can still find tranquility in the park’s winding paths, cascading waterfalls and hidden grottos. The central island is accessible by a bridge which was designed by esteemed engineer Gustave Eiffel, who is also responsible for a little thing the French like to call la Tour Eiffel…
When you’re in Paris, even the parks have bars. In this case, head over to the park’s famous knees up (in French, guinguette), Rosa Bonheur – a nod to both the 19th Century feminist and it’s rough translation to English meaning ‘pink happiness’. The relaxed terrace is a perfect spot to while away your summer evenings with a bottle of something French, taking in the stunning views of the city below.
Cover photo from © Paris Tourist Office: David Lefranc