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“Closed due to a dead city, please go to a neighbouring capital.”

Nouveau_casinoText: David Britain

So reads the plea accompanying the petition to save Parisian nightlife. The petition, which was signed by 12,000 people in less than three weeks, was started as a last ditch attempt by club owners to stop the clampdowns on noise and police closures of venues and reduce the continuing decline of nightlife in the city. Everyone will have his or her own opinion on Parisian nightlife, but how bad is it really?

According to a report commissioned by the Maire de Paris the city’s nightlife excels when it comes to diversity, large events such as Nuits Blanches and historic nightlife spots. However the report found the city lags far behind London, Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam in every other way. This is not particularly surprising news. Paris is known for its history, its vast number of Museums, galleries and monuments, not for its nightlife. Club owners blame the conservative attitude of powerful residents and police harassment but the report also found that feelings of insecurity amongst revellers, the image of Paris as a museum city, expensive and infrequent transport and the strict and often aggressive door policies also play a role in making Paris the worst major city in Europe to be partying after 2am. The Marie’s response is to create a website and consider plans for ‘party zones’ in order to concentrate night-time activity in specific locations. Unfortunately it will take a lot more than that for Paris to be able to compete with other European capitals.

The uncomfortable position many venues find themselves in has created a noticeable whiff of paranoia in the stuffy air of clubs and bars: Door men hurry people away from the club so any noise cannot be attributed to the venue, they become more aggressive towards those breaking the rules and the atmosphere declines. Another result of this paranoia seems to be the common rule of ‘sortie definitive’, meaning once you leave you cannot re-enter, presumably to both reduce noise outside the venue and stop people leaving to buy their drinks more cheaply. This will seem odd to those familiar with most London clubs (where stamps or wrist bands are used like a ticket for re-entry) and can be extremely frustrating if you run out of cash, want to eat, or just feel like some fresh air. 

Despite the occasional excellent soirée, Paris seems to survive entirely on its position as a major European capital to draw the best international musicians, rather than a reputation for excellent venues. REX and Social club top the list for small clubs with good headliners. Bigger venues Nouveau Casino and Elysée Montmartre also host good nights. However, all will sting you with a €15 entry price, extortionate drinks prices and the highly irritating ‘sortie definitive’. As a result, there are few who would choose to go clubbing in Paris over Berlin, London or Barcelona. These cities typically offer more interesting venues, cheaper entry and drinks and line ups with more depth of quality for the money you are spending.

Above all, the poor night transport takes first prize in the long list of things jeopardising Parisian nightlife. While France’s national transport infrastructure is a model of efficiency the intercity transport is a different matter. It is possible to travel rapidly door to door around London and Berlin throughout the night, every night, due to the abundant night bus/metro services and large complement of taxis. The unfortunate truth in Paris is that a wait of over 45 minutes for a night bus is not uncommon, and then you may be faced with a long walk home from wherever you end up. The prospect of hailing a taxi is even less appealing – many prefer to wait it out in a café until the metro re-opens rather than spend an hour or two by the side of the road hoping in vain for a taxi to stop. For anyone who has been to New York, Berlin or London this is stunning - how can Paris, a global city, have such poor transport after 2am?  More importantly, what can Paris do to reclaim its rightful moniker The City of Light

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catherine aubin

Very interesting article, though it applies to very late night events, rather than regular night events. The city hosts about 270 plays, 140 concerts (music of all kinds), 20 movie festivals, not counting what goes on the outskirts or via networks. The quality is often excellent and the fees are affordable. I've gotten these figures by counting the announcements in "L'Officiel du spectacle", and if anyone has comparable figures for New York or other European towns, I would love to have them!

I agree this isn't the same as bars or nightclubs ...


Who really cares if Paris has a nightlife? Though I agree about the metro...

YM Ousley

You didn't really explore it here, but the doormen can be a real turnoff as well. On 3 separate occasions - one at a club that was supposed to be touristy (Queen), another two where there was a guestlist (that my group was on - Regine's, Maison Blanche) - I've had problems at the door. This was before any drinking, everyone properly dressed, small group of all girls who would have been immediately waved in almost anywhere else in the world including London, New York or Miami. As soon as the bouncers heard a foreign accent we were persona non grata. I understand a desire to maintain some "exclusivity" but the arbitrary door policy at a lot of these places wins no repeat business or positive word of mouth for a place to have fun. I've since switched almost exclusively to house parties with friends and lounges just to avoid the Parisian door attitude.

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