As the epicentre of the French Revolution and the birthplace of modern France, Bastille is an important location in the country’s cultural consciousness. Today, it’s home to incredible nightlife and some of the best bars in Paris. You won’t find a neighbourhood more dedicated to liberté, and what better way to celebrate freedom than with a drink or three? Santé!
The concept of the speakeasy is now beloved in Paris, and Moonshiner, which opened in 2013, was the original secret bar. To find the tucked-away entrance, go through Pizzeria Da Vito and walk into the ‘freezer’ where you’ll find the hidden door, but don’t be put off – it’s legitimate. Inside, you’ll find a hushed atmosphere filled with upbeat jazz and relaxed, friendly bar staff. As befits a bar of this ilk, in true American fashion, there are more than 80 whiskies on the menu, as well as a range of beers and cocktails.
Most of the patrons at Septime La Cave are waiting to be seated in the establishment’s sister restaurants Septime (which has become trendy since Beyoncé’s visit in 2013) or Clamato across the road on rue de Charonne, but the bar itself is a standout all on its own. The cool, slate-grey space is unpretentious yet refined, allowing the top-quality wines to take centre stage. Septime La Cave particularly embraces the French ritual of l’apéro; there are no big dishes here but a variety of smaller plates to share among friends. The toast with smoked butter and black truffle is particularly good, as is the leek with Nanina ricotta and crushed pecans.
What sets Le Calbar apart from other bars in Bastille is its playful, if unusual, concept: the talented bartenders are all trouserless. What might seem like a gimmicky theme makes for an unforgettable night on the town when combined with the artful cocktail menu, and it’s the little unexpected twists that take Le Calbar from novelty to mainstay. Le Calbar’s Tiki Tiki Face to Fesse is a particular standout, at once fruity and spicy with rum, pineapple, vanilla liqueur, lemon, passionfruit juice and ylang-ylang honey, though a little less sophisticated than the Miss Suenos (Silver Patrón infused with kaffir lime leaves, peach liqueur, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and Japanese sansho pepper).
After the success of their first bar, the team behind the popular speakeasy Moonshiner continued the theme by opening Bluebird in 2016. The decor is inspired by 1950s California (complete with a smoking room), with subdued lighting occasionally interrupted by a beam of neon streaming from the fish tank, which takes centre stage. It’s cosy, with candlelight adding to the intimate mood that the Moonshiner team does so well. The cocktail menu, which looks like a prop straight out of Mad Men, is an ode to gin, though all the usual tipples are also available alongside a small selection of nibbles.
The nautical-themed Medusa bar is dedicated to high-quality alcohol at a low price, and this focus has proven to be a success. The interior is part tavern, part pirate ship, and it’s easy to get caught up in the quirky vibe. Raw wood and white walls form a perfect backdrop for the amber-tinted exposed light bulbs, which create a warm glow that, coupled with the wooden rocking chairs, make this little bar one of the most comfortable spots near the Bastille. The cocktails are simple but executed well, but eating is cheating at Medusa – there’s no food on the menu at all. Plan to dine beforehand, or make this your rendezvous point before dinner.
The mid-century theme to many of Bastille’s bars continues strong in the Lone Palm, but instead of California cool, the interiors here transport visitors to 1950s Miami. The jade-glass, mosaic-tiled bar channels classic American style, which is enhanced by the old-school cocktail menu of pisco sours and dirty martinis. It’s charmingly, unapologetically retro, from the lampshades covered in palm-tree prints to the abstract shapes framed and mounted on the walls. The Lone Palm is not the cheapest bar in the area, but it’s still very reasonably priced (especially during happy hour from 6pm to 8pm), and with Elvis and Sinatra gracing the radio waves, expect a good time to be had by all.
For a place to drink in Bastille with plenty of character, look no further. Bubar (French slang for ‘bearded’) is named after its owner, who sports the aforementioned beard with aplomb. The bar is popular with Parisian bobos looking for an eclectic, under-the-radar place to drink. Friendly and laid-back, the bar is an easy spot to spend hours chatting away with friends. The menu mainly consists of wine – a range of less common but well-chosen bottles – and free nibbles sit on the bar, though if you’re looking for something more substantial to match your chosen tipple, charcuterie and cheese platters are also available. There’s no sign out front, so make sure you take note of the address before you go.
Watch the footie or join a themed night at Yellow Mad Monkey
Bar, Beer, Cocktails, Wine, $$$
The name alone conjures a sort of mad, frenetic energy, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in the famous Yellow Mad Monkey. Live music, foosball, beer pong and pinball, plus five huge TV screens dedicated to live sporting events combine to fire up a young crowd crammed around the jungle-themed bar. Psychedelic neon lights illuminate the room that, most nights, is full of revellers partying until the early hours of the morning. The bar feels very American, and it’s almost an homage to the country, with cheeseburgers and cheap beer on tap. Regular themed nights keep its offering fresh and playful.
Le Baron Rouge, or The Red Baron, as the name translates, is tiny, unpretentious and traditionally French. It’s located not far from the Marché d’Aligre, and local people come here to buy their wine in bulk, filling up empty bottles from the barrels around the room. The temple to Bacchus is beloved by Parisians, which is made evident from the crowd that regularly spills out onto the street. There are many different wines available to enjoy here, and you can’t really go wrong, though the staff is on hand to make suggestions. Enjoy a French red with charcuterie, or on Sundays, pair a glass of wine with fresh oysters.
Maria Loca is named after a particular hooch made in Brazilian prisons, but the bar is far from illicit. Situated on a pretty corner of Bastille, the elegant Maria Loca oozes typical Brazilian charm and serves a diverse array of good French wines and international rums. But there’s also something more exotic: cachaça, which is something of a first in Paris. Cachaça, made from distilled cane sugar, is used in caipirinhas but is often replaced by rum and other, easier to source ingredients outside of the South American country.
This kitsch bar on rue de Lappe is quirky, to say the least, with walls covered in Catholic-themed iconography. The prices are attractive, and they make a particularly good mojito. Don’t expect to hear typical choral music, however; it’s just as likely to be groove as it is hip-hop, which, though seeming a bit contrary at first, often follow similar themes. The atmosphere is warm, and the lights are low, which is a good thing because space is limited, particularly during happy hour where you’ll find affordable pints and cheap cocktails.