Fancy a change from scruffy-chic cafés and traditional brasseries? Give these off-the-wall watering holes and eateries a try.
The Ice Kube by Grey Goose
1–5, passage Ruelle, in the 18th Arrondissement.
01 42 05 20 00. Wed–Sat, 7 p.m.–1 a.m.
Reservations required. Entry: 38 euros (four drinks included).
The Kube Hotel is hidden away in a tiny passage off the bustling rue Marx Dormoy in the 18th Arrondissement—not the area you expect to find a four-star design hotel, though it is handy for Gare du Nord. The hotel is home to Paris’s only ice bar. The temperature inside is –12°, so guests are only allowed in for 30-minute slots. Gloves and parkas are provided, and four Grey Goose vodka cocktails are included in the entry fee. I haven’t worked up the courage to go in yet. (Sorry, my idea of a proper bar includes a roaring fire, real ale and a cat curled up in the corner.) But you can take a quick virtual tour courtesy of this kindly YouTuber. The ice decor changes every year.
10–12, rue Daunou, in the 2nd.
This cozy bar near Opéra takes its name from the FTSE index at the London Stock Exchange. The drink prices are displayed on four large screens and fluctuate according to market value. Provided you’re not fussy about your tipple, you can have endless fun here. Funny how the market never seems to crash when it’s my round, though.
Dans le Noir?
51, rue Quincampoix, in the 4th.
01 42 77 98 04. [email protected]
Dans le Noir offers a novel and rather sobering dining experience: in the dark. Established in association with the Paul Guinot Foundation for the Blind, it now has sister restaurants in London, New York, Barcelona and farther afield. Meals are ordered in the light, then a visually impaired waiter leads you into the blacked-out dining room and acts as your guide, showing you how to pour wine (finger in the glass) and even accompanying you to the bathroom. The “menu surprise” adds to the intrigue and heightens your perception of smell and taste. There’s nothing too surprising on the traditional French menu—a relief, as much of it tastes very different without the prejudice of sight.
13, rue Lucien Sampaix, in the 10th.
This sweet little workshop in the trendy Canal St.-Martin area is Paris’s first sewing café. Tapping into the DIY-friendly recessionista trend—and seeking to revive the lost art of sewing—fashion designer Sissi Holleis and makeup artist Martena Duss set up shop in March. They have 10 state-of-the-art Singer sewing machines for hire at 6 euros per hour, and a seating area at the back. Next-door neighbor Bob’s Juice Bar supplies organic refreshments. The place has a retro feel and a friendly international vibe. There’s a lively program of workshops by professionals and guest designers, and a summer school in July and August that alternates French language classes with knitting and patchwork. Coffee and cake cost 5 euros.
Le Caveau des Oubliettes
52, rue Galande, in the 5th.
01 46 34 23 09. 5 p.m.–4 a.m.
This old-world pub and jazz club in the Latin Quarter has a ground-level bar and an atmospheric vaulted dungeon dating from the 12th century, complete with a guillotine. Don’t be deterred by the remnants of its grisly past: the ambience is lively, with jazz jam sessions or concerts every night. Arrive early—it’s on the bijou side and gets very intimate.
Editor’s note: Why not become a Girls’ Guide member before your next trip to Paris? You’ll receive fantastic discounts.