Paris

Like a Local: 10 of the best bars in Oberkampf

by Gareth Jones  |  Published November 21, 2019

A world away from Paris’ sterile tourist hubs, Oberkampf in the city’s 11th arrondissement is the French capital’s most intoxicating soirée district. As nightfall cloaks the city, this edgy yet funky part of town sets the party dial to high-tempo and kicks it ‘til dawn.

La Mercerie on Rue Oberkampf (Photo: Courtesy of La Mercerie)

Rue Oberkampf – the district’s main thoroughfare – and its surrounding streets positively hum with hedonistic activity. Nocturnal pleasure-seekers squeeze cheek-to-cheek in its innumerable jumble of dive bars, foodie hotspots, bohemian hangouts and banging night clubs. Discover our favourite picks below.

Ave Maria

Eclectic is not a word used lightly when stepping inside Ave Maria’s grotto-like wonder. Its off-the-wall décor takes you on a visual tour of the world – if the world were drunk on kitsch and quirk: Rio’s Christ the Redeemer nestled in the leaves of an exotic tree; a wall of swimwear-clad ’50s girls parading the Champs Élysées; and a Hindu goddess staring down from a peeling ceiling are just a vignette of its curiosities. The menu follows suit with a delicious riot of dishes journeying through South America, India and the Caribbean. Don’t miss Ave Maria’s trophy cocktail Bora Bora – you’ll soon be grooving to the bar’s global-fusion soundtrack, and on your way out, thanking Christ the Redeemer you went in.

1 Rue Jacquard

Ave Maria (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

Café Charbon

An Oberkampf institution, the enormously popular Café Charbon has been serving-up thirsty artisan and bohemian types for over a century. Its brasserie-from-a-bygone-era décor (wrought-iron lamps, red leather banquettes and dark belle époque frescoes), and slick, laid-back bar staff infuse the bar with an off-beat refinement. DJs take things up a notch late-evening spinning soul, party-pop and electro tunes. Come lights-up, if you’re still in-flow, Charbon’s back doors swing open and in adjoining Nouveau Casino, a new party pops ’til daybreak.

109 Rue Oberkampf

Café Charbon (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

Nouveau Casino

Serious music heads come to get lost in rhythm in this lovable ex-movie-theatre-turned music venue. Tucked behind the iconic Café Charbon, Nouveau Casino invites some of the most revered names in the electro-rock universe to let loose on its pulsating sound-system – think Ratatat, Stereolab, M.I.A.. Weekends see local collectives and DJs spin music mined from the underground. Dark futuristic décor is illuminated by a glowing organic-shaped bar and razor-sharp lighting system. On the dancefloor, a passionate crowd of street-savvy electro-adventurers take it to the next level.

109 Rue Oberkampf

Nouveau Casino (Photo: Ollografik via Filckr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

La Fine Mousse

La Fine Mousse is something of a maverick on Oberkampf’s bar scene. Its sole purpose is to spread the gospel of craft beer, and to have fun while doing it. Genial beerologists helm the taps and serve a whip-smart rotating list of beers (a good percentage French), while delivering first-class explanations on the ingredients, the breweries and their histories. Beer taps are purposely positioned on the interior of the bar to ensure smooth communication between server and customer. This, plus a galaxy of bottled beers from around the world, sumptuous food and beer pairings and a free-and-easy vibe make La Fine Mousse a fine night out indeed.

4 bis Avenue Jean Aicard

La Fine Mousse (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

La Mercerie

La Mercerie of old was a bastion of shabbiness and decadence. Owing to recent refurbishments the new La Mercerie has put some chic in its shabbiness, and retained its decadence. Off-white walls, wooden canteen-style tables and chairs and crawling plants lend the bar a fresh yet rustic feel. La Mercerie’s renewed energy is also reflected in its gourmet menu; mainstays on its carte du jour are French classics like croque madame or monsieur, saucisse de Toulouse and tartine provençale. DJs drop tip-top selections while Paris’ bright young things schmooze, flirt and sling back unspeakable quantities of liquor. The hardest partying bar in Oberkampf.

98 Rue Oberkampf

La Mercerie (Photo: Courtesy of La Mercerie)

Le P’tit Garage

Intentionally or not, Le P’tit Garage channels the spirit of legendary New York rock club CBGBs, and does everything a true rock ‘n roll bar should do: sell cheap beer, plaster its walls with graffiti and concert posters and play rowdy, heart-ripping rock music. True to its origins, its original side-street car garage sign rusts above corrugated iron shutters. Rock ‘n roll spirit pervades: the bar cranks out all-style rock music from Cream to Can, PJ Harvey to Queens of the Stone Age; and over skip-salvaged tables and chairs, Le P’tit’s resolute rock ‘n roll passangers trade tune knowledge into the blue hours. Oberkampf’s rock ‘n roll HQ.

63 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud

Le P’tit Garage (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

Aux Deux Amis

Paris’ bistronomie movement is in rude health judging by Aux Deux Amis’ stripped-back 70s-style bistro. Tiled walls and floors, a gleaming brass bar-top and neon strip-lighting imbue it with a warm and simple glow. Its chaotic yet convivial atmosphere encourages cross-table banter and the sharing of platters. Offering lip-smacking options like creamy burrata, mussels and white asparagus, pork cheek ragù with chanterelle mushrooms and an extensive selection of by-the-glass natural wines – Aux Deux Amis is an essential stop for foodies on rue Oberkampf.

45 Rue Oberkampf

Aux Deux Amis (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

L’International

The place to catch emerging French and international bands, L’International is spread over two levels. Upstairs, a huge space wraps around a neon-lit bar with industrial / vintage furniture scattered throughout. Downstairs, a dark garage-like basement hosts a small but atmospheric stage where up-and-coming talent strut their stuff. Music policy is mainly indie, alongside dalliances with pop, folk, electro, hip-hop, and a dash of chanson français. Happy hour runs from 6–9pm when bar-staff knock-up cocktails with catchy names like Radio Russia and Cherry Bomb.

5/7 Rue Moret

L’International (Photo: Solly Alba via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Café Chilango

Not one sombrero, Aztec rug or mariachi guitar in sight, Café Chilango’s cute and spirited taqueria dodges the tired clichés often trotted-out in Mexican-themed restaurants. With a simple tile-and-brick design and exotic plants strewn throughout, ‘Real Mexican food made by real Mexicans’ goes its motto. Smiley chefs turn-out inventive renditions of Mexican street-food classics like tacos, burritos and quesadillas – with great options for vegetarians. As night-time rolls around, mixologists craft fruity cocktails and guest DJs spice-up the night with bumping Latino rhythms. Eat, drink, dance…and dream of Mexico.

82 Rue de la Folie Méricourt

Café Chilango (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)

L’Alimentation Générale

The name L’Alimentation Générale (General Foods) hardly inspires images of a clued-up music venue frequented by artsy students and hip intellectuals. But that’s exactly what it is. Its no-nonsense concrete aesthetic throughout the club belies a back-to-basics philosophy more concerned with musical discernment than with stylish surroundings. Delivering a genre-hopping line-up of music, punters pile-in for hip-hop and funk one night, deep-house and dubstep the next, with dancehall reggae, Latin-jazz, Afro-boogie and a whole sonic-brew of styles in between. A thrilling pleasure-zone for the musically curious.

64 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud

L’Alimentation Générale (Photo: Gareth Jones for Travelmag.com)