Look, traveling is hard. But traveling solo as a queer person? Even harder. For all the gay travel sites and guides out there, there’s a heavy focus on cis-men. But what about the women, the trans folk, and the non-binary? We travel too, but it’s hard to find reliable information about inclusive, queer spots to visit while on the road.
Montparnasse of the early 1900s might have been lesbian central, but where do you go to meet other queer people in Paris in the 21st Century? As it happens, there are tons of cool spots all around the city. Here are a few of the best gay bars, restaurants, and cafes in Paris.
The Best Gay Bars and Lesbian Bars in Paris
La Mutinerie exists to provide an inclusive space to all. Owned and operated by WLW and fully trans-inclusive, Mutinerie is the kind of place where you can fully be yourself. As far as inclusivity in gay Paris goes, La Mut is at the top of its game. Along with being a bustling queer bar and creative, cultural space, La Mutinerie also aims to give back to local queer and artistic communities around the city. If that isn’t enough of a pull, the venue even has its very own feminist library. Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” over a carafe, anyone?
Put plain and simply, 3W stands for Women With Women, although men are welcome, too. There’s no doubt that 3W is by and for women. Situated in the heart of the Marais, 3W has a lot going on behind its fiery red facade. Comfortable couches, knowledgeable bar staff, and a small-but-not-too-crowded dance floor aside, 3W’s biggest pulls are its happy hours, theme nights, and one of the best karaokes in Paris. My fave song choice? Non, je ne regrette rien.
Often cited as being Paris’ first dyke bar, La Champmeslé has been owned and in operation since the 1970’s. If you prefer your queer nights out with a quieter clientele, art exhibitions, tarot readings, and live, mostly acoustic music, then La Champmeslé is the place for you. Evening entertainment consists of everything from evenings of clairvoyance to cabaret, with something for everyone. There are also plenty of local lesbians to meet and interact with, offering the chance (and the volume) to actually make friends.
One of the newer queer bars in town, Le Velvet is a gay-friendly cocktail bar that aims to unite its clientele. At just a walking distance away from all the important sites in Paris, we definitely suggest popping in here after a day of walking the Tuileries. Or, if you’re a shopping gay, respite after admiring everything couture that Rue Saint-Honoré has to offer. Happy Hour at Velvet is Tuesday to Thursday from 6 pm to 10 pm and Friday and Saturday, 6 pm to 9 pm. Buy a drink? Get another free. Who can say no to that?
Created and owned by two women in love, Le Bar’Ouf is a Paris gay bar that’s a friendly, chilled out oasis in the busy world of gay nightlife. The vibe here is one of welcoming relaxation, where you can pop in for a game of Scrabble or billiards the way one would a night hosted by a famed DJ. Le Bar’Ouf throws weekly and monthly events from karaoke to pool tournaments. If that’s not enough, the bar has a resident spaniel, Gaspard. It’s also just up the road from La Mut.
The 19th Arrondissement, in the northeast of the city, might feel like a trek away from the Marais. To be frank, it is, but it’s also got its own lesbian haven in an abandoned tavern in a corner of the Buttes-Chaumont park. On the contrary to So-What, Rosa Bonheur opens early and closes early, which makes it a great place to go for some peace and quiet and still have the chance to mix with other lesbians and queer women.
Pro tip: Watch the sunset over Paris from the park before you head in. I recommend it almost as much as I do the Rosa itself.
If you’re less of a watching-the-sunset queer and more of a clubbing-your-heart-out one, Saint Germain’s Rive Gauche is out there waiting. Rive Gauche is Paris’ only lesbian nightclub and has been so since the 70s, providing a space to dance your cares away until you can’t dance anymore for the last four decades. Although the club is now open to all types of LGBTQ+ individuals, Saturdays are still reserved for women and women only. There’s plenty of space, a good mix of tunes, and plenty of benches to take the load off between tracks.
What was once a lesbian staple, the O’Kubi bar is now Chez Marie; a neighborhood bar with a familial, home-away-from-home kind of feel. Whatever language is your first, Chez Marie, named after its awesome bar manager, has great beer, better prices, and a foosball table to help decide who buys the next round. There’s even a projector screen on which they broadcast women’s World Cup football matches. Chez Marie is definitely all about the relaxed vibes.
The Best Gay-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes in Paris
Just feet from City Hall is one of the newer gay bars in Paris. ICI Bar opened in 2018, and its aesthetic is heavy on the hipster, which I am, personally, all about. With fairy lights, golden chandeliers, and a black facade, ICI invites WLW and their friends to come and dance, drink, and dabble in fun events like queer speed dating and football viewing parties.
Open Café might just be one of the most popular gay spots in Paris. Although the bar itself leans more towards men, it’s a great place for anyone to spend daytime hours. Grab a pew outside to people watch while you tuck into one of their delicious club sandwiches and coffee or wine, depending on how early you think is “too early.”
Open since 1976, Le Petit Prince de Paris is one of the only queer-friendly establishments in the Latin Quarter. Just a few steps from the Panthéon and close to the Sorbonne campus and Jardin du Luxembourg, this is a relaxing, chilled out restaurant to pop into after you’ve done a bit of sight seeing.
I once traveled to France with somebody who wouldn’t dine in traditionally French bistros. I don’t know about you, but that defeats the point to me. Little Café is a great gay-friendly café in the Marais with decent prices and delicious dishes, including my favorite thing about Parisian restaurants: set menus.
At first, it might seem pretty hard to find vegan or vegetarian food in Paris, but there are places scattered around the capital. Feria Café is a trendy spot on the edge of the Marais where you can do just that. Affordable food, set menus, and in close proximity to a bunch of the bars already listed.
On the tiny street of Rue Quincampoix you’ll find L’Imprévu: a friendly, cosy spot to stop by for a coffee, snacks, drinks later in the day, and a chance to ogle the fittingly strange decor throughout them all. L’Imprévu has a young, queer-leaning clientele with chatty staff and a fab, inclusive vibe.
The Best of Gay Arts in Paris
We’ve all heard of Shakespeare and Co, but Violette and Co is a bookstore with a difference. It’s a feminist and queer bookstore, selling books on everything from sex to photographic anthologies. It’s also lesbian founded and run, so why not stop by while you’re in town?
Les Mots à la bouche is another of Paris’ best queer bookstores, though it lacks the feminist lean of Violette and Co. Regardless, it’s still a great and inclusive place to go for books on all things LGBTQ: gay, lesbian, trans-issues, and words from all parts of the gender and sexuality spectrums. A lot of the titles are also in French, but if you’ve been dying to brush up, this just might be the best way.
The Best of Gay History and Culture in Paris
Although it’s been closed for years and has now, sadly, reopened as a hostess joint for straight men named New Monocle, Le Monocle is such an important part of queer Parisian history. Before WWII, Le Monocle was the most famous lesbian nightclub. You can just imagine what kind of intriguing and amazing people went to the establishment run by Lulu de Montparnasse. If someone were to write a “Midnight In Paris”-esque film around queer Paris in the Jazz Age, Monocle would be the center of the whole movie. Its distinct, monocle-shaped doorway is still there to this day.
On a side street off of Pigalle, Cabaret Michou is a truly authentic French cabaret with only the best drag acts and troupes in Paris. It’s a super fun night for anyone who likes to indulge in a bit of camp glory, and definitely worth the entrance fee.
After a queer haircut in Paris? Look no further than ROCK HAIR. The salon now has a few locations open in Paris, but its most prominent (and queer) has to be the one between Place de Bastille and Place des Vosges. ROCK HAIR is one of the hippest joints in Paris and no hair style is off the mark. It’s super queer, super inclusive, and super fun.
Most of the queers I know are fond of ink to some degree, and Paris has a few great queer-friendly tattoo parlors. Sometimes, you just feel more comfortable having another queer person that close to your body. Mutant.e.s is a queer and feminist tattoo shop that’s part of La Mutinerie. Inclusivity and warmth are essential parts of their mission, which makes it an amazing spot for anyone who’s ever felt left out of regular tattoo shops.
Paris has a bakery that makes penis-shaped baguettes. This is amazing, hilarious, and all well and good unless you’re someone who possibly suffers from dysphoria. La Fabrique à Gâteaux provides a calmer alternative. Opened and operated by lesbians, La Fabrique à Gâteaux is close enough for you to grab some delicious treats before an afternoon walk along the canal.
If you’re in Paris for a longer stretch of time or thinking of living there, it’s more than worth popping along to the LGBT community center. With art exhibitions, activities, free legal advice, and a safe space to get to know other queer people living in and around Paris, the center provides an oasis of understanding in an often times confusing life.