Paris is a gorgeous city by day with its manicured gardens, Gothic cathedrals and countless museums. Come nightfall, the city transforms and wine bars, classy restaurants and hip hidden hangout spots take centre stage. Not sure where to start? Here’s our guide to exploring Paris after dark.
1. See Paris by night in a vintage Vintage Citroën 2CV
Paris is absolutely spectacular after dark, with landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Île de la Cité and the Eiffel Tower all beautifully lit up. On this unique tour, you’ll hop into a Vintage Citroën 2CV where your friendly and knowledgeable tour guide will explain the history behind the city and its most iconic sights. The tour also includes a bucket of Champagne on ice that you can enjoy in the car.
2. Stroll the streets of Montmartre
Avoid the daytime crowds and go for a stroll around this gorgeous little village at the twilight hour. We suggest starting at Paris’ highest point and most northerly hill, Butte Montmartre, and making your way through the quaint housing up to the famous Sacré-Cœur church (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur). Sacré-Cœur was built in 1914 and consecrated after World War I in 1919. The view from this beautiful church over the rest of Paris is equally spectacular, especially at dusk. If you’re not up to the climb, hop on the Funiculaire de Montmontre, an inclined cable railway that runs daily from 6am to 12.45am. Afterwards, navigate through the narrow cobbled streets, stopping at the lovely French restaurants near the bottom of the hill.
Métro: Abbesses, Lamarck Caulaincourt
3. Taste delicious French wine
Back in the 18th century, King Louis XV’s sommelier managed the king’s wine collection from the Les Caves du Louvre. Centuries later, the cellars are still dedicated to wine but are now open to the public. Featuring enchanting cellars beneath a wine shop, you can book a wine tasting session and try different French grape varieties while guided by a team of dedicated professionals that will make your experience truly educational and special. There is even a winemaking workshop where you can learn to blend your own wine.
4. Dine in the dark
Dans le Noir? (translated to ‘In the Dark?’) allows you to dine in complete darkness; it’s an exclusive experience that will awaken your senses of taste and smell. Arrive and hold on to your visually impaired host as you step into a world of darkness. What you ate is not revealed until the end of dinner, however, guests can choose between meat, fish or vegetarian menus. The experience is a social one; tables are joined with other guests who arrive at a separate time. Here, you can chat to a complete stranger in darkness and see them in the light if you choose to leave at the same time.
5. Shelter with the cool kids
One of the trendiest hotels in Paris, Mama Shelter is a favourite hangout spot for the hipster crowd. The restaurant, rooftop bar and pizza restaurant have a joint quirky vibe – decorated with graffiti walls, eclectic art and random play things. Mama Shelter is situated on the not-so-touristy Rue de Bagnolet, home to many quaint restaurants and buzzing little cafes, bakeries and bars. The rooms are pretty reasonably priced and come packed with entertainment themselves (there are cartoon masks and cameras to play with!), so it may even be worth a spontaneous booking should you wish to continue the fun.
Métro: Alexandre Dumas
6. Visit a world icon
This symbol of the city and internationally recognised monument needs no introduction. Standing at 324m tall, the Eiffel Tower is the must-visit attraction of Paris both day and night. At night, watch a sea of lights sparkle as Paris lights up. You can go up the Eiffel Tower by stairs or lift. On the first floor, there is a range of shops as well as the viewing deck; on the second floor, you can experience the finest of dining at the renowned Jules Verne restaurant (be warned, tables book up months in advance; above); and on the third floor, you can enjoy panoramic views. The night queues also tend to be shorter than in the daytime.
Métro: Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel, Bir-Hakeim
7. Be captivated by French opera
The Opéra Bastille is a beautifully sleek auditorium which opened in 1989 and is the home of the Paris National Opera, France’s principal opera company; ballet and various concert performances are also presented on the premises. Get comfy in a red velvet seat one night and lose yourself in the intense emotions of modern opera music and talented ballet dancers. The structure was designed by Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott and is well worth a stroll around after a show.
8. Cruise along the River Seine
Take a night cruise along the River Seine which flows right through Paris, past many of the city’s stunning and most famous monuments and attractions including Musée d’Orsay, Notre-Dame de Paris, Pont Neuf and of course the Eiffel Tower. There are a number of companies to choose from, but Bateux Parisiens cruises offer all-glass boats to really immerse guests in the surroundings. These boats set off for dinner cruises at 6:15pm and 8:30pm each night. Their kitchen serves traditional French cuisine, freshly prepared on board each day using seasonal produce.
Métro: Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel
9. Climb the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile stands at the top of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It was built between 1806 and 1836 in honour of those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There are 284 steps leading to the top of this impressive piece of architecture, and the views are sensational. Best of all, these can be enjoyed till as late as 11pm.
Métro: Charles de Gaulle – Etoile
10. Get a kick out of frog’s legs
Once a favourite restaurant of Picasso himself, the legendary Roger la Grenouille on the rue des Grands Augustins serves frog legs in a variety of styles. The interior of the restaurant is themed to frogs; there are hints of them all over from the windows to the tables. The menu includes frog fritters with a bordelaise sauce, frog à la persillade (with chopped garlic and parsley) and frog burgers. Non-bouncy creatures are also on the menu for the less adventurous.
Métro: St Michel
11. Cheer on a team
The Stade de France is the biggest stadium in France and a national icon. It was built in 1998 for the World Cup but now hosts the French national football team and the French rugby union team for international games. In addition, it serves as a venue for opera and music concerts. On off-show days, you can even take a behind-the-scenes tour which includes a fascinating museum and a look at the on-site hospital and prison cells. The Stade de France is situated in Saint-Denis, just north of Paris, and is easily accessible by public transport.
Métro: St Denis – Porte-de-Paris
12. Take a late-night swim
Piscine Pontoise (closed for renovation until January 2024) is a public swimming pool in the heart of the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement. It is in a gorgeous Art Deco building, with rows of vintage changing cabins, water that is illuminated with blue lights at night, and a blissful soundtrack. There are also a variety of group activities held here including yoga lessons, fitness training and squash. Open till 11:45pm on most days, the relaxing pool is a great place to unwind after a long day of Parisian exploration.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
PHOTOS: LES CAVES DU LOUVRE FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, DANS LE NOIR FACEBOOK, MAMA SHELTER FACEBOOK, ALAIN DUCASSE FACEBOOK, OPERA NATIONAL DE PARIS FACEBOOK, BATEAUX PARISIENS FACEBOOK, ROGER LA GRENOUILLE FACEBOOK, STADE DE FRANCE FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.