Montparnasse excels at low-key nightlife. Its cosy piano bars have changed little over the centuries, its terraces are inviting spots to while away an evening – with a rosé in summer or a vin chaud in winter – and even its newest cocktail bars remain free from the latest fads.
Montparnasse has it all, according to Paris food and wine expert Veronica Cassidy. The 14th arrondissement and its surrounding area may not be renowned places for a night out, but “no matter your interests, there’s something for you in this vibrant neighbourhood,” she says. Classic café/bars are the area’s best-known after-dark haunts, but there’s plenty more to discover, such as unexpectedly glitzy cocktail bars, modern taprooms and budget-friendly happy-hour hangouts. “Conviviality makes a great Parisian bar,” Cassidy says. “I’ll come to a bar for good drinks, but I’ll come back for good people.”
You know you’re in one of the most traditional bars in Paris when your glass of Côtes de Provence rosé – a Château Minuty for €8 (£6.75), perhaps – comes with a side of plump, marinated olives. It’s not really about the drinks or snacks at Le Dôme, though: the red wicker chairs on its small street-side terrace are some of the best spots on Boulevard du Montparnasse for people watching as the sun goes down. Le Dôme is a particularly lovely aperitif option in summer, when vines are draped from the roof and you can add ice cubes to your wine without judgement. If you don’t stay on to eat in Le Dôme’s restaurant, be sure to steal a glimpse at its magnificently over-the-top Art Deco interior before you leave.
Quirky but not cutesy, Café Bohème stands out among the other bars packed into this lively stretch of Boulevard Edgar Quinet. Lacy lanterns dangle above the terrace in summer and dried flowers are woven into the lampshades inside. The cocktails are just as colourful as the decor: go for the signature strawberry, raspberry and passion fruit mojito, or try a sharing-size spritz with friends in summer; in winter you can’t beat a classic kir royale or a Love and Flowers Belgian wheat beer. Most people head here for the happy-hour cocktails – from €6 (£5) before 8pm – but nothing soaks up one cocktail too many like a bowl of Café Bohème’s truffle fries or a board of cheese and charcuterie.
The first Breton craft-beer bar in Paris – a niche but nonetheless impressive achievement – Ker Beer was founded as a cooperative in 2017. This minimalist bar showcases some of the best beers from Brittany’s 90 breweries, available both by the bottle and on tap. Go for the unusual fruity Bora, a collaboration between Rennes-based Brasserie Skumenn and Brasserie du Grand Paris, or La Brasserie de L’Ombre’s American pale ale. Special-offer pints start at €5 (£4.20) and the bar runs occasional one-off events, such as showcases of local Parisian beers from the likes of Deck & Donohue and Brasserie Crazy Hops (check Facebook for their calendar).
Just inside the 5th arrondissement, but only five minutes’ walk from the heart of Montparasse, Solera surprises with cool cocktails and a cosy but club-like atmosphere. For its quiet, side-street location it’s unexpectedly ritzy: all black tables, dark walls and a glinting gold-backed bar. Their signature cocktails continue the bold theme: there’s a mojito spiked with Thai basil and ginger; a Parisian Smash with Monkey Shoulder whisky, Southern Comfort and passion fruit purée; and a Bistropolitain that blends elderflower cordial, lavender bitters and Hendrick’s Gin. Alternatively, you can order wine and champagne by the glass and they’ll mix classics such as caipirinhas and margaritas on request.
If Singapore slings, sidecars and brandy Alexanders float your cocktail boat, pull up a stool at Montparnasse institution Rosebud. Times may have changed in the 50 years that this atmospheric, speakeasy-style bar has been a fixture on rue Delambre, but the menu and stylish white-jacketed bar staff have stayed remarkably consistent. Both classic cocktails and innovative creations are priced at a very reasonable €14 (£12), even those with champagne. You could start your evening with a Belleva (peach liqueur, mezcal and champagne), kick a hangover with a Bloody Bud (cumin liqueur, vodka and tomato juice) or simply nurse a 16-year-old Lagavulin until the early hours.
Get in the holiday spirit year-round behind Cubana Café’s neon signs. It may be a geographical stretch from Montparnasse to Havana, but once you’ve settled into a leather armchair and ordered a ti’ punch or Cuba libre for €5 (£4) during the daily 4pm to 8pm happy hour, it’s hard not to get carried away. Consider trying their exotic piña colada with pineapple juice and tropical fruit purée, or their twist on a frozen daiquiri. On Saturdays there are DJ sets from 9.30pm, and smokers can even hole up with Cuban cigars in the (legal) smoking room.
No Montparnasse bar odyssey would be complete without paying tribute to the area’s rich history during the 1920s, the Années folles (‘crazy years’) – and there’s nowhere better to do so than the low-lit piano bar at La Closerie des Lilas. Whether or not you follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and debate the literary merits of your latest work at the mahogany bar, or just enjoy a romantic cocktail at a table for two is up to you. Their signature is the Royal Closerie at €18 (£15), with champagne, Armagnac, Mandarine Impériale and a red fruit coulis. The bar is open nightly until 1.30am and they’ll appreciate it if you’re not too scruffy.
Opened in 2019, the Copper Pub has a simple concept: beers and burgers available throughout the day (no one’s judging if you fancy a pint or two at lunch). It’s a smart, modern spot with its royal-blue awnings, and the menu is similarly on trend. There are 14 beers on tap, plus many more by the bottle – from €6 (£5) – including big-name imports from Brewdog, Duvel and Erdinger alongside French originals like the Brasserie du Mont-Blanc. To eat, as well as traditional burgers and tartars, there’s a pulled-pork bun for €14.50 (£12.20), various salads and some seriously tempting desserts such as an M&M floating island and a Guinness chocolate cake. Non-beer drinkers aren’t forgotten either, as the wine and cocktail list is surprisingly extensive.
Open from Wednesday to Saturday nights, the super-laid-back indoor-outdoor bar at community live-work village Les Grands Voisins is a world away from Montparnasse’s boulevard haunts. In the spirit of this burgeoning micro-neighbourhood, you don’t even have to buy a drink to enjoy a night at La Lingerie. It’s really about the atmosphere here: come for cheap beer, cider and organic wine in plastic cups (don’t expect to pay more than €5 (£4.20) for a drink) and a diverse schedule of events and gigs. DJ sets range from disco to rock, and there’s also drag bingo, open-air cinema screenings and live acoustic sets.
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This light, bright and airy spot offers something a little different to the usual places to drink in Montparnasse. Whether you pull up a stool at the turquoise bar or flop into a squishy armchair, expect to stay for longer than you planned (and make sure you get there early for the pick of the best seats). Cocktails kick off at €8 (£6.75) – try the Dewi Motion with vodka, Cointreau, yuzu purée and Perrier – wine by the glass starts at €4.50 (£3.80) and there are sharing boards and tapas to snack on. The menu is original and fun: small plates are very loosely French-inspired and might include whiskey-marinated ribs, gravadlax (Nordic-style cured salmon) or black pudding samosas.