Themed bars are a bit like Marmite – well known for producing polarized love/hate reactions among friends. There are those who cannot get enough of carefully curated establishments where the drinks, décor and music are all perfectly aligned. And there are others who find thematic setups particularly unpalatable, often describing them with words like “kitsch” and “cheesy”.
Love them or hate them, we believe that much like Marmite, themed bars have to be tried at least once. Here is a list of our top five favorites in the city.
For a throwback to the 1920s, enjoy a cocktail in the speakeasy-style bar the Moonshiner. This hidden bar is housed in a pizzeria called Da Vito, just off Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Once inside, head toward the large wooden door leading to a walk-in-cooler through which you will find the exceptionally authentic, Prohibition-era bar. With a wide selection of whiskeys and cocktails on the menu, you won’t quite be drinking “hooch”. Nevertheless, this small, dimly lit venue with its vintage décor and mood music is guaranteed to have you feeling like a character straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Location: 5 Rue Sedaine, 75011. Métro: Bréguet Sabin
According to the owners, this bar is the “first place dedicated to imaginary cultures”. The bars name, which translates as “Last Bar before the End of the World” is likely a nod to Douglas Adams’s Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the second book in the well-known comedy science fiction trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Essentially, the prevailing theme here is geek paradise. With this in mind, the venue houses an exceptional collection of sci-fi books, board games, video games and memorabilia which can all be enjoyed to your heart’s content, while sipping on an appropriately named cocktail. For board game enthusiasts, a board games skills workshop is held once a month, should you want to hone your technique.
Location: 19 Avenue Victoria, 75001. Métro: Châtelet (exit Théâtre du Châtelet)
Less than easy to locate, Le Comptoir Général is hidden just off the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin. Accessible through a side passageway, the bar’s discreet entrance tends to be indicated by a long queue of regular devotees along the canal on busy weekends. Le Comptoir owes its inception to the joint enthusiasm of two best friends for “black culture, religion and theme parks”. The hidden venue is a fabulous cultural mash-up celebrating marginalized society and “ghetto cultures” as the owners term it, through the cocktails served, the art exhibited, the restaurant’s food and the vintage shop.
Location: 80 Quai de Jemmapes, 75010. Métro: République or Goncourt
Forget beer pong, ping pong is the new drinking game. Le Gossima is the collective business venture of a group of ex-table tennis champions, among them French world champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. A former garage, this vast 600-square-meter venue houses multiple tables and is ideal for a group of friends or opponents looking to drink and get competitive. Although it is a little pricey (playing tariffs are cheaper before 6 pm), the service can’t be faulted. If you are a table-tennis fan who’s fond of bars, this could be the perfect match.
Location: 4 Rue Victor Gelez, 75011. Métro: Ménilmontant, or Rue Saint-Maur
Frequented by the future doctors of France, the ‘Emergency Room’ is a medical-themed bar on the doorstep of the École de Médecine in the 6th arrondissement. Don’t expect to be given a glass in here; test tubes, fake syringes, and feeding bottles are how the cocktails and shots are served. The unconventional cocktail menu with options including “Viagra” and “Electroshock” ensure the theme won’t be forgotten. If you are dying for a drink, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Location: 45 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006. Métro: Odéon or Cluny-La Sorbonne.