À La Folie
Nestled right at the mouth of the Bassin de la Villette and within the ever-developing Parc de la Villette is A La Folie. You will be immediately struck by the design of the building, whose vibrant, pillar-box red tower resembles more a children’s Lego set than a bar. This tapas-serving guinguette and music venue welcomes both the young and old and is family-friendly. This makes for a wonderfully open atmosphere during the day and a fun one at night. It’s impossible to leave in a bad mood. They also host activities ranging from yoga to dance classes, as well as catering to an enormous range of tastes musically, from house to hip-hop.
This cozy venue is an exciting place to spend an evening, not least of which because it’s on a boat. The Péniche Antipode puts on various concerts, dance, film, theater, and comedy nights (some for children). It also offers a bar and restaurant space on its top deck, charmingly illuminated by bold crayon-colored lights haphazardly strung from the frame of the roof. Local tip: their planche marine is of particularly good value, in an ‘are-we-still-in-Paris?’ kind of way. The Péniche is relatively cozy, so it’s recommended to book ahead for events.
Paname Brewing Company
If it is too cold to sit outside on the terrace, try to get a table in the window at the front of the bar, for an incredible view right down the canal. True to the name, P.B.C. brews its own beers and displays the equipment right in the bar, making a fantastic addition to the already very sleek interior. Relatively new to the Quai de la Loire, it has already made quite a mark on the area by introducing craft beers and ales to a Parisian audience. Consequently, it provides stiff competition for the neighboring bars. They also serve good, down-to-earth food, but make sure to save room for the plethora of delicious, flavored beers. It’s a real asset to the area.
This bar can be found where the canal temporarily breaks, a stone’s throw away from Jaurès metro station. Combining silver and red canteen-style tables, it is difficult to ascertain whether you have stepped back in time or into the future when you enter. However, the effect is powerful either way. In the summer, Le 25° Est opens its second floor terrace, overlooking Canal Saint-Martin, but during the winter months it can be just as well enjoyed from the ground floor, which floats over the water. Embrace the smokey, student-y vibe and its little hidden-away corner setting and you’ll be in for a good evening.
For those of you seeking a slightly more ‘civilized’ evening, with good wine served in a luxuriously large glass, look no further than La Méduse. This place provides a little relief from the otherwise very ‘gritty’ style of bar that surrounds the canal. Both a seafood restaurant and cocktail and wine bar, it’s packed to the brim with locals every night of the week. The presentation here is understated and elegant, extending from the food and cocktails to the decor (inside and out). Both the cocktails and dishes, which they very modestly describe as ‘choses à manger’ (‘things to eat’), are like small works of modern art.
Point Éphémère returns to the very underground, edgy vibe that has become characteristic of the bars surrounding the canal. It is the epitome of cool, with its graffitied exterior and naked concrete interior walls. A former squat for artists, this place allows you to come here day or night to explore their exhibitions and concerts. Or, just enjoy a beer in the bar. Their outdoor seating area is heated during the winter and extends right down the bank during the summer, making this spot a great choice any time of year.
The sound of chatter and clattering cutlery fills this lively little venue, which is full almost every night of the week. Expect a warm welcome from the young friendly staff, who add to the unpretentious atmosphere. The simple, hearty menu reflects the relaxed, familial vibe and the prices are reasonable. The bar area is quite small and the barstools are likely to be already taken up by pint-sipping locals. However, take one of the tightly packed tables and enjoy a bottle of red and one of their ‘planches’, if you’re feeling peckish.
Le Comptoir Général
This is the ultimate ‘hipster’ venue, the culmination of canal trendiness and a self-proclaimed temple to ghetto culture. The museum and thrift shop are decorated with typewriters, old maps, and fossils (making for delightful daytime rummaging). Meanwhile two Afro-Caribbean themed bars serving up cocktails take over the night shift. It’s a guaranteed good time, although you’ll be lucky to get a spot big enough to put down your drink – the air here is thick with hipsters. The Comptoir Général also hosts music nights, as well as various educational, cultural, and charity events.