Are you in the mood for a musical evening that doesn’t mean the classics?
Cozy up at some of my favorite Left Bank live music clubs. There’s something for everyone and you’ll see a different side of Paris than if you never left the Louvre.
Before you go, check event calendars for schedules, hours and cover charges because all change, as live entertainment venues tend to do.
La Closerie des Lilas, Paris 6th
You may know La Closerie des Lilas as one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts, where the literati of the Golden Age of Paris (à la Midnight in Paris) gathered. What you may not know is that it’s not only a restaurant, but has a hot and hopping piano bar that features a mix of every music genre, including jazz standards and ballads late at night. It’s open seven days a week.
Drinks aren’t cheap, but you’re paying for the ambiance and a place to see and be seen. This isn’t a kid’s scene: the people who frequent La Closerie (many of them are regulars) tend to be older. Women alone don’t stay alone for very long unless they want to and that’s fine.
Tél: 01 4051 3450
171, blvd Montparnasse, Paris 6th
Brasserie: open 12pm-1am daily
Bar: 11pm-1:30am daily
Swan Bar, American Jazz Bar, Paris 6th
If you’re into jazz and blues, walk a few doors down to the Swan Bar, an excellent venue for New York-style jazz featuring a varied selection of performing artists. Owner Lionel Bloom is a New Yorker, so if you feel nervous about speaking French, there’s zero need to feel intimidated here. Tuesday and Wednesday nights are open stage nights and there’s a whole lot of participation. Don’t tell, but there’s a downstairs room where smoking is allowed. Be ready to be transported back to the ’30s because that’s ever so much in vogue now.
Tél.: 1 4427 0584
165, boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 6th
Métro: Raspail, Vavin
RER: Port Royal
2 nightly sets: 7:30pm and 9:30pm Tuesdays through Saturdays
“Round Midnight” set Midnight-2am Fridays and Saturdays
Open stage 9:30pm Wednesdays
Caveau de la Huchette, Paris 5th
Hunker on down and go to Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz and swing institution for over 60 years. Located in a cellar in the Paris 5th, this building is filled with history that includes 18th-century executions. There are few jazz greats who haven’t passed through its doors and it’s been compared to the Cotton Club. People who like to dance can dance the night away in tight underground quarters. Even though music aficionados have been known to be smokers, it’s probably better that smoking isn’t allowed because if nothing else, you couldn’t emerge without smelling like a cigarette.
VIDEO: vocalist Marc Thomas and band
Tél: 01 4326 6505
5, rue de la Huchette, Paris 5th
Métro: Saint-Michel; Pont Neuf
Open nightly at 9:30pm
Le Petit Journal Montparnasse, Paris 14th
Another Left Bank jazz and dinner club for jazz lovers is Le Petit Journal Montparnasse, located only a couple of blocks from the Gare de Montparnasse. It’s larger (and less elegant) than some Paris jazz clubs, but the club hosts performances by international jazz stars that draw audience from France and beyond. Le Petit Journal Montparnasse swings with some fabulous performances and French connoisseurs say they’ve heard some music greats perform here before they’ve reached stardom. During the summer, people gravitate there for apéritifs and piano music that takes place on the restaurant’s terrace.
Be sure to check program listings at the website because the club presents an incredible variety of performances and some will appeal more to you than others.
Tél: 01 4321 5889
13, rue du Commandant Mouchotte, Paris 14th
Open: officially 8pm-2am but hours vary; concerts usually start at 8pm with 2 sets some nights
Café Laurent piano bar, Paris 6th
If you prefer to begin or end an evening with considerably quieter music, Café Laurent might be more to your liking. Located in the heart of the Saint–Germain–des–Prés at Hôtel d’Aubusson, this is a lounge where people go to listen to music and have quiet conversations. Don’t stare, but chances are you’ll even spot some elegantly dressed lovers holding hands before going upstairs or simply saying bonne nuit.
VIDEO: six-minute clip captures the scene
Tél: 01 4329 0333
33, rue Dauphine, Paris 6th
at Hôtel d’Aubusson
Métro: Odéon or Pont Neuf
Piano jazz soloist 6:30-8pm nightly
Jazz concerts 9pm-midnight
These are just five Left Bank live music clubs. There are many others, some of which come and go with lightning speed. Some people consider Paris a city of monuments while others come here to feel the beat.
PHOTO CREDITS: La Closerie des Lilas, ©Les Depots Rive Gauche; The Swan Bar publicity photo; Caveau de la Huchette, ©nicholasduportal; Le Petit Journal publicity photo and Café Laurent ©blogtrotta.
Karen Fawcett is the publisher of BonjourParis. Please click on her name to read more about her.
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