Is there a better way to spend an afternoon or evening with friends than silently plotting their imminent and colossal demise? No, if you’re honest with yourself, there isn’t. Which is precisely why the game of chess has survived for more than 1,500 years and why it is played regularly by a 10th of the planet’s population. To help you satisfy your intellectual bloodlust, here are seven trendy places to play chess in Paris.
There is no chess battleground more legendary, or for that matter picturesque, than the Jardin du Luxembourg. Any day of the year, come rain, hail, or shine, a band of faithful players and spectators will be gathered around its numerous tables – which are free to use and open to everyone – and, in the actual event of inclement weather, under its wrought iron pavilion. Tournaments are regularly organized and the locals are usually happy to be challenged by newcomers – just don’t expect them to go easy on you. The park opening hours shift with the seasons but, usually, if it’s light out then it’s open.
Not so long ago, you wouldn’t have stepped foot on Rue des Martyrs – now you can hardly move on it for all the new bars, restaurants and shops in need of your immediate inspection. People Drug Store is, without question, one of the coolest of the bunch. It stocks more than 500 varieties of beer, a fine selection of organic wine, and the best ciders from Brittany and Normandy. But, more to the point, it is literally overflowing with avid chess players who, when the inside tables are all taken, set themselves up on crates all along the street outside the bar. Open every day, 12PM to 12AM.
L’Anticafé has four locations in Paris: Beaubourg, Louvre, Olympiades and République. Each of these popular co-working spaces operates a pay-by-the-hour policy in return for unlimited snacks and drinks. The atmosphere is cozy and relaxed, truly a place to make yourself feel at home while you tap away on the old laptop. But the cafés have another side: they are also the site of some of Paris’ most intense chess showdowns. Details of upcoming tournaments can be found on their website. Open Monday to Friday, 9AM to 10:30PM, and Saturday and Sunday 10AM to 9:30PM.
There is more and more to see and do along the river Seine and, with the recent announcement that a great swathe of the right bank could follow in the left bank’s footsteps by becoming pedestrianized, that trend seems to show no sign of slowing down. If you have a chess set of your own, there is no shortage of spots in which to play. However, towards the Quai d’Orsay there are a number of tables with boards painted on them. So, if you have the pieces but no board, you can head there and share with everyone the hilarious anecdote that led you to such an unusual state of affairs.
In addition to being an all-around great bar, with live jazz music on weekends no less, and located in the happening neighborhood of Canal Saint-Martin, the East Bunker is also an official meeting place of the Fédération Française des Echecs. The organization runs a competition here every Friday night and entry is 6€ for adults and 3€ for juniors. If you think you’ve got what it takes to enter and win, fire an email in the direction of Xavier Rubini. Open every day, 6:30AM to 12AM.
What Teddy’s Bar lacks in looks and sophistication (unless stuffed toys hanging from the ceiling and Formica tabletops are your thing) it more than makes up for in warmth and charm. Popular with students of La Sorbonne, it is in the heart of the Latin Quarter and more often than not packed with locals and tourists alike looking to soak up the jovial atmosphere and cheap drinks. Add a spirited game of chess into the mix and it’s a guaranteed good time. Open Sunday to Thursday, 3:30PM to 1:30AM, and Friday and Saturday, 3:30PM to 5AM.
At the opposite end of the style spectrum is Le Fumoir. This 1920s-era bar, restaurant and lounge by the Louvre is the perfect place to curl up on a Chesterfield sofa with a friend, coffees (or cocktails) in hand and a chessboard between you, and while away the afternoon. The victor can also treat the loser to a delicious meal and a bottle of something special from the extensive wine list. Or vice versa, depending on how cruel you are. Open every day, 11AM to 2AM.