The best Paris bars are steeped in history and well-hidden — underground. (Photo: Alamy)
It’s easy to forget, when strolling the wide boulevards and sunny gardens of the City of Light, that for adventurers like you, many of Paris’ best bars actually exist underground, in hidden basements and ancient cellars best explored after dark. Whether you’re looking for the languorous glamour of the 1920s or a romantic medieval feel, here’s a list of intriguing drink spots sure to lure you to see and sip what lies beneath this fair city.
Caveau de la Huchette
The Caveau de la Huchette is saturated with history. This atmospheric, stone-vaulted cellar space hosted gatherings of the Knights Templar during the later Middle Ages, while in the 18th century it was used as a Freemason lodge and connected to the church of St Séverin and Châtelet via secret passageways; later, mock courts were held here during the French Revolution. Finally, following World War II it became a leading jazz venue, attracting world-class musicians and singers, not to mention jitterbug fans eager to dance the night away in this unique cellar bar that still reflects its medieval heritage.
Le Ballroom du Beef Club
Tucked away beneath the Beef Club restaurant, Le Ballroom du Beef Club evokes a 1920s speakeasy, with dim lighting and opulent velvet furnishings in rich vintage shades. Accessed via a black, unmarked door near the restaurant entrance, this is a shadowy, welcoming place in which to hide away and enjoy a glass of wine – or branch out and sample one of the innovative cocktails from the small but exquisite menu.
Caveau des Oubliettes
Once a medieval dungeon and cellar dating to the 12th century, the Caveau des Oubliettes still displays a selection of ancient and torture instruments and even a guillotine dispersed throughout its winding stone passageways. Despite these rather grim reminders, however, this underground bar is friendly and surprisingly cosy – an evocative setting for live performances of jazz, blues and rock throughout the week.
Eager to spend some time in a traditional Parisian wine bar, tasting some quality vintages and expanding your knowledge of the grape? Ô Chateau is a fantastic place for beginners and connoisseurs alike to enjoy a variety of wines, with an elegant bar serving up innovative French cuisine, as well as wine by the bottle or glass, plus a cosy underground tasting cavern where expert sommeliers conduct guided wine tastings. Think rugged stone walls, dark woods and leather seats, within a comfortably snug 17th century cellar space.
For those who don’t mind a crowd, this vaulted cellar bar is a popular for simple, hearty food, good wine and an eclectic mix of tunes – perfect for mixing and mingling with local Parisians in the know. As a bit of a Paris institution, Chez Georges tends to get jam-packed later in the evening – but the convivial vibe makes it worth occasionally waiting to get in.