Paris Nightlife: How to save on bars, clubs and culture

Parisians heading out in the evening on the Left Bank. Photo napdsp

Paris usually takes a backseat to New York or Berlin when it comes to nightlife options. Things are a bit more relaxed in Paris, but the good news is that there’s no shortage of budget options, whether you’re in a party mood or looking for something a bit more sedate or cultural.

We’ve shown you how to save on dining and hotels, and now let’s break down the nightlife scene into a few categories to make things clear — and affordable!

Nighttime transportation

Metro: No matter what you do at night, know that Paris is more difficult to navigate once the Metro closes around 1 am (2 am on weekends). Never head to a station just before it closes expecting to catch a train, since the last one may have already passed.

Bus: Fear not, the night bus, called the Noctilien, fills in the gaps until the Metro opens up again in the morning. While not a fantastic option, it’s useful if you’ve mapped out your route home in advance and know where the nearest stop is.

Taxis and Uber: If all else fails, and you can dip into some international cellphone data, the Uber app will always help you get home, especially as taxis will become notoriously difficult to find later in the night. Whatever happens, as in any city, do not enter any unmarked cabs.

Walking: And then again, consider walking – it doesn’t get any cheaper!

Paris Cafe Night

Drink like the locals and grab a seat at a cafe like this one on bustling Rue Montorgueil. Photo: Daviddje

Drinking for less at cafes and bars

Bars and cafes: Parisians are no stranger to spirits, and most locals “having a night out” will head to a café or bar until 1 or 2 am, and usually catch the last Metro home. Sip on affordable carafes of wine late into the evening at any neighborhood café – don’t feel the need to get fancy with a bottle of something nice.

Cocktails: For those looking to check out the cocktail scene in Paris, prices start to rise considerably. At the café, enjoy €3 glasses of wine. At a cocktail bar, prices can climb to €12, €15, even €20 for a drink! Some are super posh, but not all of them are, with some lower key bars like “aveK” providing quality, but still affordable mixed drinks.

Drinking al fresco: Hands down, the cheapest option if the weather is nice is to grab a few French beers or a bottle from the closest shop and ask someone for an opener along the Seine or the Canal – it’s what those of us who live here actually do.

Related: 5 Bars perfect for a Cheapo night out

Sunset Paris

Catch a show at Sunside and Sunset Jazz club in Paris. Photo: Luc Legacy

Late night clubs for live music and dancing

Clubs: The Paris club scene is, well, fine. Those looking for parties and dancing will certainly find it in here, but it’s not always cheap or glamorous. You can pay a hefty cover for venues like Bus Palladium or Favela Chic, but if you’re into the “scene,” then by all means enjoy. Just don’t expect to find too many locals hitting up the clubs of the Champs-Elysées with you.

Dancing on the Seine: Do you like to show off your moves but the club scene isn’t your thing? Instead, consider heading to the outdoor salsa and tango classes along the Seine during warmer months, just east of the Institut du Monde Arabe.

Gay and lesbian: A lot of the gay bars and lesbian clubs and bars have no cover charges, although they may be difficult about letting too many ladies in at one time at the gay bars.

Live music: Music fans might want to check out the jazz clubs like Sunside and Sunset in Les Halles. Shows cost around €20, but check the schedule for free events as well. There’s also the occasional free soirées at the Alimentation Générale for enthusiasts, as well.

Musee d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay lit up in the evening. Photo: mwscheung

Nights at the museum

If drinking and partying isn’t your thing, or you just don’t want to be a night owl, there are some notable cultural offerings at night. While you may be sacrificing prime dining time, you’ll also be avoiding the crowds and tour groups that plague these museums during the days. In fact, you can visit a museum every night of the week.

Every day: The Palais de Tokyo is open until midnight (yes, 12 am!) every day (closed on Tuesday).

Monday: The Musée du Luxembourg is open until 10 pm.

Tuesday: The Fondation Cartier until 10 pm.

Wednesday: The Louvre is open until 9:45 pm.  Rodin Museum until 8:45 pm.

Thursday: The Musée d’Orsay stays open until 9:45 pm. The Centre Pompidou until 11 pm.

Friday: The Louvre is open until 9:45 pm. The Institut du Monde Arabe until 9:30 pm.

Saturday: The Quai Branly until 10 pm.

Related: A list of free and discounted museums in Paris

And that’s not even all of them! Check the museum’s hours before going to see if they have an evening opening.

Studio 28

Studio 28 is a classic movie theatre founded in 1928. Photo: sonofgroucho

Saving on theater and film

For something more lively, but still cultural, consider taking in a show!

Opera and ballet: You can always try for cheap tickets to the Opera by going the day of the show and taking any unclaimed or unsold tickets for as little as €5-10. Last-minute cheap tickets for the Palais Garnier go on sale at 11:30 am, while the Opera Bastille requires you to be at the ticket window an hour and a half before show time.

Cinema: If you’re a movie buff, Paris is filled with excellent cinemas like La Pagone, Le Gran Rex and Studio 28. Tickets are usually affordable, but there are also many ways to get discount tickets and movie passes.

French theater: For the dozens of other shows in Paris, you’ll need to brush up on your French a bit. If there is a deal to be had, you’ll find it on the website BilletReduc. Catch a French musical at the Mogador Theatre, or maybe some other dance or opera performance, just don’t pay full price. I want to be a good patron of the arts, but I need to pay rent, too.

Affordable late-night dining

After all of those glasses of wine, it’ll be time to soak it up before hitting the hay. Few places in Paris serve late night food, but there are a few go-to’s that I recommend beyond the typical greasy kebab (we’ve all been there).

Falafel: If it’s not too late, head to L’As du Fallafel for the city’s best falafel sandwich in the Marais. Sunday through Thursday they are typically open until midnight. On Friday and Saturday, their competitors are also open just across the street — the line’s shorter, but let’s face it, it’s just not as good.

Gelato: Afterwards, also in the Marais, head to Pozetto for the city’s best gelato, open until midnight as well.

Classic French dishes: For real late night eats, there are few places to grab anything resembling a late night slice in New York. Instead, grab a seat at Au Pied do Cochon in Les Halles, a restaurant that used to feed the hungry market workers a century ago. They have French classics like onion soup well into the wee hours of the morning. Down the street, La Poule au Pot is also open from 7 pm – 5 am, Tuesday through Sunday.

Grocery store: Also, note that Monoprix on the Champs-Elysées stays open until midnight, just in case you want to prepare a last minute late-night picnic.

Paris is very much alive at night, just don’t expect to stumble upon the party. Once you know where to look, however, you’ll be golden.

Have fun!

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