La Pachanga is the primary stomping ground for salsa lovers in Paris. Channeling a Latino-Caribbean vibe, the venue is down-to-earth but the crowd is young and the dancing irresistible. The music pulses salsa, bachata, and reggaeton until your feet fall off. Entry is cheap and includes a drink and lessons for all levels.
Le Cubana Café
This Havana-themed bar is dedicated to giving you the full “Cuban experience,” complete with a smoking room, where the aficionados among us can sit below a palm tree smoking a puro and soaking up the atmosphere. Rum is of course a specialty, but jugs of beer and cocktails are also available and are a great option for groups. The café is open all day and serves food morning to evening, but if you’re looking to dance, then arrive in the evening when the diners clear out and the dance floor opens. Wednesdays are the best evenings to go for the real Latino experience, as there are live bands who play at the venue. Keep a look out on their website for themed nights, too.
The Banks of the Seine
June through August, when the air gets hot and the sun starts to set, hundreds of dancers appear on the Quai Saint Bernard for an all-night dance party. Four amphitheaters spill from the quai onto the Seine, and dancers can bounce between salsa, tango, swing and folk shindigs. There are even free classes, which begin around 7:00 p.m. Dancing under the stars by the river is possibly one of the most magical things to do in Paris, and raises the question: why doesn’t this happen everywhere?
This venue epitomizes decadence. Comprising four floors, each as elaborate as the next, this is the place to get dressed up, go to dance the night away and generally soak up the opulent atmosphere. The food leaves little to the imagination and the drinks are expensive, so our advice would be stick to the dance floor. Go for a night of people-watching and sashaying up and down the carpeted staircases. They host salsa lessons on Sundays and Mondays, both beginner and intermediate classes, which are priced accordingly. Check out their website for more info.
Situated in the neighborhood of République, this Brazilian-themed venue draws in a varied but reliably raucous crowd, and is particularly popular over the weekend. Its décor is fun and vibrant, with patterned wallpapers and mis-matched picnic tables in the restaurant areas, reflecting the exciting and communal Brazilian culture. This spot is certainly somewhere you could spend a whole evening indulging in food, cocktails and plenty of dancing with a group of friends, but perhaps not suitable for the hardened salseros, as the music is not strictly salsa.
Just down the road from Barrio Latino, what Retro Dancing lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in spirit. While not the trendiest of venues, those who look beyond the slightly dated layout and embrace the down-to-earth fun of it all (who says no to free bar snacks?) will be amply rewarded. Saturday nights are dedicated to Cuban Salsa, and admission gets you access to an hour-long group class, (8:00 p.m. for beginners and 9:00 p.m. for intermediates) a drink from the bar and access to the dance floor until 3:00 a.m. to practice your new moves.
You would not necessarily have expected the Irish bar O’Sullivans, nestled in the heart of Pigalle, to host some of the best salsa events in the city. But every Sunday, its ‘backstage’ music venue is turned into an Afro-Caribbean sensation – who would have guessed? Evenings kick off with a show at 6:00 p.m., followed by a lesson at either 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., and continue until 1:00 a.m. with DJs spinning Afro-Caribbean and Latin American beats. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly; perfect for beginners who may find some of the more formal salsa groups intimidating. Events are advertised on their Facebook page, so keep an eye out for special events and pictures.
This is officially a dance school, and they have a real range of classes with professional teachers. They are taught in French, but you will be able to pick up the moves anyway; just watch and learn. Check out the full timetable on their website. This is a fantastic venue for those who genuinely want to improve their dancing skills. They host regular soirees here too, for which the tickets are far more reasonably priced than some of the larger club venues, while including the same things: entrance, a lesson, a drink and a concert. A great way to meet with your “classmates” in a more relaxed environment.
Although there may not be regular organized salsa evenings here, this artistic space is THE place for dance enthusiasts to go and let off steam. Sunday evenings are a particularly good time to go, where you can see people of all ages and backgrounds flock to juggle, jive or feast on the incredible pizza from the food trucks there. The mix of people makes for the most amazing, feel-good atmosphere, and you will be challenged to leave without a smile on your face. Babies are being swung around by their parents, while young hip hop dancers bust moves just a few meters away. This is a must-see, even if you do not intend to dance yourself. This place shows a spontaneous, vibrant Paris that is miles away from its glamorous, haughty reputation. They do occasionally put on samba or salsa nights in their underground dance and performance space, but they are less commercially publicized, so be sure to regularly check their website for pop up events and fun, unique evenings.