Seedy Pigalle’s hipster transformation
Pigalle, Paris’ red light district, has been transformed by the arrival of hip bars such as the decadent Carmen. (Kim Laidlaw)
Paris’ seedy Pigalle area has been transformed into one of the hippest spots in the city.
Located on the border of the 9th and 18th arrondissements, the capital’s red light district is dotted with sex shops, topless cabarets (including the famous Moulin Rouge) and euphemistically named “hostess” bars. But recently, its southern area, which some are dubbing SoPi (South Pigalle), has seen an influx of trendy cocktail bars that are making this neighbourhood one of the hottest nightlife destinations in Paris.
Le Carmen kick started this trend. Opened in November 2010 in the decadent Baroque setting of composer Bizet’s former residence (and from whose famous opera it gets its name), the bar comes complete with Neoclassical columns and sparkling chandeliers – but with a rock and roll vibe. Its eclectic programme features music ranging from 1960s to electro, and events such as fashion week parties and live tattooing draw in a boho clientele.
A newer addition to the neighbourhood is Glass, founded in October 2012 by the team behind the much lauded Marais cocktail bar Candelaria. Located on a side street lined with hostess bars, Glass has blacked out windows and a formidable looking doorman at the entrance. Inside however, the intimate space reveals a buzzing dance floor that lights up and a menu of inventive cocktails, imported beers and hotdogs for late night refuelling.
The latest addition to firmly put SoPi on the Paris hipster map is new tiki bar Dirty Dick (10 rue Frochot; 01-48-78-74-58), which opened in February. On the same street as Glass, and with a name that cheekily references the seedy bars that surround it, Dirty Dick combines a retro Polynesian vibe with an assortment of cocktails, including classics such as the Mai-Tai and tropical punch bowls to share.
When 3 am rolls by and the bars begin to close, energetic hipsters move on to L’Embuscade (47 rue de la Rochefoucault; 01-42-80-19-50), a raucous and sweaty bar located behind an unmarked door. Owned by one of the team members behind seminal Paris nightclub Le Baron, L’Embuscade is an afterhours party with a West Indian ambiance: the potent rum cocktails and tropical beats are turning up the heat in Paris in an entirely new way.
Kim Laidlaw is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.