Paris after dark: after-hours theater, queer spaces and late-night jazz

It’s famous for fashion and food, but the nightlife in Paris also deserves your attention. Whether you’re looking for a late-night dive bar, after-hours theater shows, inclusive queer spaces with excellent cocktails, or natural wine in a cozy setting, Paris has you covered.

Here’s our pick of the best places to go when the sun goes down on the City of Light.

Bar Josephine

Best for a splurge
Monday-Sunday: 5pm-1am
6th arrondissement

If you want to splash out, then a drink at one of Paris’ palace hotels – a status awarded to the most exceptional five-star addresses – is one of the best ways to do it. There are 12 palace hotels in Paris but Bar Josephine at the Hôtel Lutetia is one of the standouts. Named after Josephine Baker, who used the hotel as her Parisian pied-à-terre when in town, the historic bar still sports its original frescoes on the domed ceiling and serves up a fantastic cocktail menu crafted by rising bartender Angelo Forte. Unlike some other palace bars, it’s as popular with locals as it is with guests, which gives an easy, laidback feel, even if you might find yourself sipping champagne next to the likes of Marion Cotillard and Isabelle Huppert. There’s also a lesser-known speakeasy hidden away in the hotel with a different cocktail menu and a cozier, low-lit vibe.

Septime La Cave

Best for natural wine
Monday-Sunday: 4-11pm
11th arrondissement

Reservations go notoriously quick at the one Michelin-star restaurant Septime, but if you don’t manage to snag one before your trip, you can always try a taste of the natural wine list just around the corner at sister address Septime La Cave. As it opens at 4pm and serves sharing plates such as comté cheese and fig chutney and slices of pork terrine, it makes a great spot for an apéro (the French colloquial term for apéritif) before trying to get a table at Septime’s other address, Clamato, which has a no-reservations policy. The space is tiny, so it can be difficult to get a seat, but most locals spill out onto the street, glasses in hand. If you’re not familiar with natural wines, the English-speaking team is happy to talk you through the selection, and if you find something you like, you can buy a bottle to take home. 

Look out for different ways to get reduced-priced ticketing at Palais Garnier © Julie Mayfeng / Shutterstock

Palais Garnier

Best for opera and ballet
Performance times vary
9th arrondissement

After surviving an assassination attempt at a nearby opera house, Napoleon III commissioned the young and unknown architect Charles Garnier to create what would become the Palais Garnier, complete with his own private entrance so he could slip past any would-be assailants for a night at the opera. The Emperor died before he ever saw it completed but at least he gave Paris one of its most beautiful monuments, and of course a home to the legendary Phantom of the Opera. You can do tours during the day but getting dressed up for an evening at the ballet or opera is a next level experience. Look on the website for different ways to get hold of a reduced-priced ticket, including last minute €10 tickets if you don’t mind a reduced view, and for under 28s there are €10 tickets to attend a preview show.

Paname Brewing Company

Best for summer craft beers
Monday-Sunday: 11am-1am
19th arrondissement

Paris’ craft beer scene has really grown in recent years but Paname Brewing Company remains one of the beloved originals. Located in the lesser-visited 19th arrondissement, the “brew pub” was founded by four friends who have brewed more than 150 recipes since opening back in 2015. There’s usually around eight to 14 of their beers on tap and the pub regularly hosts “Tap Takeovers” to serve up craft beers from French and international brewery friends. As well as its selection of beers, its terrace overlooking the canal is also a real selling point in summer. 

Cocktails displayed on armchairs in a Paris cocktail bar
© Dirty Lemon

Dirty Lemon

Best for a queer-friendly space (and great cocktails)
Tuesday-Thursday: 6pm-2am; Friday: 6pm-3am; Saturday: 11am-3.30pm, 6pm-3am; Sunday: 11am-3.30pm
11th arrondissement

Paris-trained chef Ruba Koury cut her teeth in some of the city’s most renowned Michelin-star restaurants before applying her talents to cocktails. At Dirty Lemon, Koury has created an inclusive space where queer and female clients in particular can feel comfortable popping by for a drink, either with friends or alone. The cocktail menu changes throughout the year, but drinks are always cheekily named to regain control over tired female tropes such as “Girl Next Door” and “Mommy Issues”. You can also turn cocktail hour into dinner: a food menu that pays homage to Koury’s Palestinian roots is available until as late as 1am.

Lost in Frenchlation

Best for cinema
Performance times vary
Neighborhoods across Paris

Lost in Frenchlation brings the latest French films to cinemas across Paris with the helpful addition of English subtitles, and often with drinks before the screening and a Q&A session with the director after. It’s been a huge hit with Paris’ international community since it launched a decade ago and is a great way for visitors to also experience French cinema whilst in town. If you do understand French and don’t need the subtitles or are happy catching an English-speaking film, then Le Balzac, Le Champo, Le Louxor, Studio 28, Le Grand Rex, the Max Linder and Studio Galande are some of Paris’ most iconic venues. In summer, pack a picnic and head to the open-air cinema at La Villette, which shows a mix of English-speaking and French films. 

Lobster, tinned fish, wine and lipstick-marked napkins on a white-tablecloth table
Maggie Rooftop has views of Sacré-Cœur and an evening menu that runs until midnight © Leo Kharfan / Maggie Rooftop / Hotel Rochechouart

Maggie Rooftop

Best for rooftop views
Monday-Sunday: 12noon-midnight (open April-October)
9th arrondissement

Yes, everyone wants a view of the Eiffel Tower, but wait until you see the view from Maggie Rooftop. The rooftop bar sits above the historic Hotel Rochechouart, which used to welcome the likes of Édith Piaf and Josephine Baker in its 1920s heyday when it also had a downstairs cabaret. It reopened in 2020 with a stylish makeover and its brand new leafy rooftop bar, which places guests spectacularly close to one of Paris’ most famous sights, Sacré-Cœur. The evening menu offers late-night eats, like grilled satay prawns, beef pastrami toast and smoked aubergine. The 360-degree view means you also get a bonus shot of the Eiffel Tower. You can’t book in the evening, so try and get there early to secure a spot; you can book for lunch to get a daytime view.

Theatre in Paris

Best for live performances
Performance times vary
Neighborhoods across Paris

Like Lost in Frenchlation, Theatre in Paris brings a slice of Paris culture to an English-speaking audience by adding “surtitles” onto a screen above its stage performances. The company works with playhouses across Paris, from the more famous Théâtre Edouard VII to the beautiful 19th-century Théâtre le Ranelagh, and shows range from stand-up comedy to French classics such as Cyrano de Bergerac.

Exterior shot of classic French cafe at night, Le Piano Vache
Located in the Latin Quarter in Paris, not far from the Pantheon sits a very classic French cafe and jazz bar, Le Piano Vache © Shutterstock / Petr Kovalenkov

Le Piano Vache

Best for jazz nights
Monday-Sunday: 4pm-2am
5th arrondissement

Le Piano Vache, a dive bar/pub, has been a neighborhood stalwart in the 5th arrondissement since 1969. Thanks to a location near the Sorbonne University, a summer terrace, and its fair-priced drinks (a pint of the bar’s own beer is €6), it’s naturally a popular spot with students but Monday nights pull in a jazz-loving crowd for its live sets of jazz Manouche, or Romani jazz. Pop by the rest of the week for ’80s night on Tuesday, goth night on Wednesdays, an “after work” happy hour on Thursdays, and a DJ playing rock, punk, pop on Fridays and Saturdays.

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