This laid-back, less touristy area of Paris is by no means famous for its wild nightlife. However, thanks to dozens of university campuses filled with large numbers of students, there are plenty of pubs and bars to be found. They are mainly concentrated in two places; the Butte-aux-Cailles, a small, village-like neighborhood known for its narrow cobbled streets and quaint low-rise buildings, and along the Seine between Pont de Tolbiac and Pont de Bercy — undoubtedly the newest, trendiest spot for bars and clubs, especially in summer. Here’s a list of the 10 best establishments in the area.
Soviet-inspired posters line the walls of this student favorite, alongside temporary art and photography exhibitions. Right in the heart of the Butte-aux-Cailles, Sputnik’s spacious terrace — the biggest in the area — is popular all year-round, as is the babyfoot table in the rear section of the bar. With six beers on tap, as well as a good selection of bottles, wines and spirits, there are plenty of options from which to choose. During happy hour, cocktails are five euros and a pint of beer costs the same as a half, making it undoubtedly the most popular time to visit.
The first in a long line of cheap and cheerful bars, La Taverne de la Butte stands out for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Whether you are perched on one of the bar stools that line the walls outside or snuggled cozily on a banquette inside, you’ll be kept happy with generous — and free — bar snacks and refills of cheap drinks. Pints of beer from during happy hour are unsurprisingly popular, but the biggest draw is the selection of delicious rhums arrangés. With more of a pub atmosphere, you won’t really find gigs or concerts here, except during the Fête de la Musique, when this is one of the most popular venues.
Also in the Butte-aux-Cailles but more discreetly tucked away around a corner, La Folie en Tête is a perennial favorite, and with its cheap drink prices, unique decor and friendly staff, it’s not hard to see why. A must-visit for music fans due to various common and more unusual instruments adorning the walls and ceiling, the playlist is always funky and provides a good background for enjoying a deadly Ti Punch Maison. Seats fill up quickly in this tiny bar, and you’ll likely find yourself huddled around a barrel if you arrive too late.
On the roof of the Cité de la Mode et du Design, Nüba is a great place to go during the day to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet and panoramic views of Paris. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner Thursday to Sunday, but it is at night that it really gets going. Undoubtedly best in the summertime, the open-air terrace, with its deck chairs and communal tables, has a beach bar vibe, and even the DJ booth is housed in a wooden hut.
One of the longest-standing boats in the area, El Alamein continues to be popular, and for good reason. Moored at the foot of the BNF, this instantly recognizable purple pénicheenjoys a privileged position on the river and is a real suntrap in summer. Covered in green plants and flowers, the floating garden creates a soothing ambiance to enjoy a casual drink — you’d think you were on a tropical island rather than in the middle of Paris — while the fully equipped function room downstairs hosts concerts, in all musical styles, almost every day of the week.
The only bar in the 13th arrondissement to feature in Time Out’s 100 best bars in Paris, Petit Bain rightly deserves its impressive reputation. Nestled between Nix Nox and Piscine Joséphine Baker, its wooden exterior and bright yellow features make it stand out from the plethora of péniches along this stretch of the river. Built over three levels, the sunny terrace filled with aquatic plants is a lovely spot to have a drink with friends in summer — or do a spot of gardening — while the downstairs concert hall, equipped with its own recording studio, is the ideal entertainment venue.
If it wasn’t for the Seine opposite, you’d think you were in New York. Brick walls and American football decor combined with friendly service and the never-ending stream of burgers emerging from the open kitchen give this Manhattan-themed bar the authenticity it needs. Particularly popular with students from the adjacent university at lunchtime and during happy hours, the impressive range of draft beers, including Brooklyn Lager and Samuel Adams, makes this riverside spot well worth a visit. Sports fans will enjoy the big-screen showings of major matches, while the food menu is extensive enough to please all tastes.