While the ‘City of Light’ has long been favoured by artists, poets and bohemes, it should come as no surprise that absinthe bars in Paris are a dime a dozen.
France’s love affair with la fee verte – or the ‘green lady’ – is one of the primary reasons as to why absinthe grew to such notoriety during the late 19th century, and in fact is still regarded as the stuff of legends. Favoured by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh and Ernest Hemmingway, the streets of Paris came alive every evening once their elixir of choice began to flow freely.
Arguably, the same notoriety still applies, which is why absinthe bars in Paris are still relatively common sites on a night out. However, not all were created equally, so what are regarded as the best venues to dance with the green fairy?
OUR TOP FIVE ABSINTHE BARS IN PARIS
Paris is famous for its cafe culture, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Moulin Rouge, pastries, fashion, cheese, and of course, absinthe. While the city is known for embodying beauty, elegance, and for being unashamedly romantic, it’s also been known to be somewhat of a pilgrimage for artists too.
For centuries, Paris has attracted writers, painters and poets from around the world, who arrive to the city with the intention of not only educating themselves, but to seek inspiration from its many artistic resources and galleries. However, it was all too easy for many of them to get caught up in the hedonistic lifestyles of their peers, which was perhaps summarised by Ernest Hemmingway best with “got tight on absinthe last night and did knife tricks”.
While the consumption of absinthe and handling sharp objects at the same time is generally not recommended, there are still plenty of haunts and establishments in Paris for both locals and tourists alike to develop a taste for absinthe themselves. While some are of course less than savoury and can only be dubbed ‘tourist traps’, others are regarded as an experience in themselves – so which are regarded as the best absinthe bars in Paris?
La Fee Verte – Quite literally translating to ‘the green fairy’, La Fee Verte is a charming, old-fashioned absinthe bar and café, not too far from the Bastille on the lively Rue de la Roquette. The decor is 19th-century Parisian, and the atmosphere is young and sophisticated without being pretentious. Patrons are invited to sample absinthe in a medley of formats, such as the traditional spoon and sugar cube method, or in a cocktail instead.
L’Absinthe Cafe – If you’ve ever had a late night weekend stroll around the back streets of the Marais, you would have no doubt seen people pouring out of this establishment at any given time. Popular for its seemingly never-ending happy hour, street side dining and well established brasserie, L’Absinthe Cafe is a good spot for a relatively inexpensive glass of absinthe, served traditionally at the bar with a bite to eat.
Le Bon Bock – Located on the border of bohemian suburbs Montmartre and Pigalle, Le Bon Bock is technically a restaurant, but is a must see nonetheless, particularly if you’re on the hunt for some of the best absinthe bars in Paris. Step back in time amongst the many murals and chandeliers, and reimagine yourself amongst the likes of Picasso and Apollinaire who once also shared a glass of the green fairy in this bistrot.
Lulu White – Located on Rue Frochot, neighbouring the winding streets of Montmartre, Lulu White is a haven for the late night wanderers of Paris, and markets itself as being the place for ‘those whose thirst for excess has not yet been quenched’. The bar is home to a huge range of live music events inspired by the culture of New Orleans, and ranges from jazz, blues right through to contemporary folk – all while serving up absinthe however you like it.
Hotel Royal Fromentin – How many absinthe bars in Paris can claim that the likes of Baudelaire and Van Gogh sampled their menu? If you really want to take a step back in time and sample the green fairy like the greats did, step into the boutique Hotel Royal Fromentin bar just like they did. While the venue itself remains mostly unchanged, a whole new generation have experienced the beauties of Montmartre while wining and dining here.
While nobody can say whether you’ll witness Kylie Minogue appear as the green fairy after a few glasses, there’s no denying that the controversy and mistique are all a part of absinthe’s appeal – and the curiosity of those looking for the magic in Paris doesn’t look to be diminishing anytime soon.