Over the past few decades, a different kind of revolution has taken place Paris, in particular in the streets of the elegant and bourgeois Le Marais, turning the neighbourhood into an area that today is known all over the world as ‘Gay Paris’.
Paris has always been a city known for its freedom and tolerance, which is why it boasts one of the biggest gay scenes in the world. With a thriving and often decadent nightlife, hundreds of elegant boutiques and excellent restaurants and bars, Le Marais is the boiling pot where it’s all happening.
If your want to put your dancing shoes on and dance the night away, here are a few suggestions of bars and clubs to jot down on your to-do-list:
Chez Moune: The First lesbian club in Paris, offers free entry, unlike the majority of Parisian nightclubs. Filled with 20-something hipsters, the music is eclectic and trendy with an emphasis on electro-rock. This basement hangout has a great atmosphere all the way through until the morning after.
Tip: Don’t miss the old lesbian stained glass on the walls.
Les Souffleurs: A hip little gay bar in the centre of Le Marais with L, G, B, and T bartenders. It would be difficult to spot this petite gem if you didn’t know where to find it. Once inside, you could easily mistake it for being in Berlin, with its basement dance floor that gets sweaty in the summer, and warms the cockles of your heart in winter. The international crowd ranges in age, interests and background.
While the crowd is mostly cis-sexed gay men, everyone is always welcome, and no one looks at you scathingly for being there (something that can happen in certain bars and clubs). They also throw a great lesbian party called Dyke Air.
Tip: Aim for the happy hour between 6pm and 9pm for prices much lower than you’ll usually find in the area.
Café Cox: This mainstay of Le Marais gay bars, is centrally located on Rue des Archives where, on warmer evenings, the crowd spills onto the pavements with only a feeble chain rope to keep patrons from taking over the street.
This watering hole attracts a manlier clientele set of older biker-types and leather fans. This may seem intimidating at first, but if it’s your scene (or if you are curious), prepare for a hearty welcome, even if you’re a bit younger…
Tip: A lengthy happy hour on Sunday keeps the beer flowing until 2am before the crowds head elsewhere.
Les Taulières: Rated by TimeOut magazine as one of Paris’ Top 100 bars, is managed by Catherine and Nathalie, a lesbian couple. It’s a trendy micro-bar on the north face of the Montmartre mound, with a mix of regular straight and gay clientele, who are as rock ‘n’ roll as the cocktail menu… Treat yourself with The Femme Fontaine (Juicy Lucy) or a Vladivostock. (The names on the menu say it all!)
Tip: The place can get a bit crazy, but if you’re high in energy and up for an eclectic and fun crowd this is the place for you.
La Perle: Probably one of the few places that manages to achieve a rare balance between all-day and late-night venue. Equally well-balanced is the friendly gay, straight, whatever goes vibe. In the morning, it draws early risers; lunchtime is for a business crowd; the afternoon reels in retired locals, and in the evening, screenwriters rub elbows with young dandies, keeping one eye on the mirror and an ear on the electro-rock.
When in Paris, you can’t help but to be charmed the simple and elegant fashion sense of the locals… and even more so in Le Marais. How do you get ‘le chic à la Française’? Suffice to say, it will take a will of steel to resist splurging on the latest fashion trends, at the must-visit boutiques like Pierre Talamon (men’s haute couture at prêt à porter prices), Anne-Charlotte Goutal (vinyl fashion accessories for the lipstick Lesbian), Segoola optician (for the latest uber-trendy sunglasses and eyewear) and La Squadra chic ready-to-wear men’s clothes inspired by yachting and sportswear.
If you are a bit more retro you’ll be happy to know that vintage clothes shopping in Le Marais remains unrivalled. The scintillating La Jolie Garde-Robe channels the spirits of Belle du Jour and Holly Golightly in a choice collection of ready-to-wear and haute couture from the ’50s to the ’90s. If you’re missing the heady days of Studio 54 (no it doesn’t give away your age), sashay over to Studio W, and for the budget-savvy fashionista the chaos of Free ‘P’ Star will be a sheer delight.
Apart from the its rich Jewish history and lively LGBT community, the narrow cobbled streets of Le Marais overflow with seductive art galleries like Au Bonheur du Jour, where you’ll discover two great galleries in one.The first is dedicated to vintage photography and specializes in oriental, erotic and gay pictures from the early 20th century. The second room is warmly decorated, exhibiting original photos by French stars from Studio Harcourt, as well as realistic paintings from the 1930’s representing sailors, military men, athletes and exotic beauties. Many drawings of academic masculine nudes from 19th century are also presented.
Tips: If you don’t stay in Le Marais during your visit in Paris, the closest entry to the neighbourhood is from the Metro Saint-Paul on Rue de Rivoli. Entry to Le Marais begins with Rue Pavée close to an Art Deco style famous synagogue designed by French architect Hector Guimard. The synagogue was re-built after World War II, after it was blownup by Nazis and Vichy on Yom Kippur in 1941, along with six other synagogues in Paris.
Staying out late? The Paris Metro stops running around 12:30am. Be sure to make travel arrangements back to your hotel. The streets of Paris are relatively safe so a walk back to your accommodation can be very romantic. There are some night busses running, but these are not so reliable or regular. Bottom line: Have fun… but plan ahead.
Also see our review of Hôtel Original, a trendy boutique hotel in the heart of Paris… perfectly located for your stay in Le Marais.
Read Discover The Past — Le Marais, Paris… for an overview of the historical Jewish signifficance of Le Marais.