The 11th arrondissement of Paris—or Popincourt, if you like—is pinned between the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 12th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements on the Right Bank of the Seine. Aside from being Paris’s most densely populated neighborhood, it’s also a young and diverse area, filled with restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues—a high number of single adults can be found in the western portions of the neighborhood (like Oberkampf), and the 11th is a patchwork of very energetic, tight communities.
The 11th is bounded on the west side by the 8 train from République to Bastille, from Bastille through place de la Nation to boulevard de Charonne on the south side, all the way up to Bellevile station on the east, and from Belleville back to République in the north.
This neighborhood is, by far, the hardest to do properly in only three days, but that won’t keep us from trying:
It doesn’t get more Parisian than the Little Sparrow, so the Musée Edith Piaf, set in the chanteuse‘s former apartment near Ménilmontant, is one of the most Parisian places you can visit. The museum houses personal artifacts, including her famous black dress, in this living space from early in her storied and meteoric career.
Okay, we lied: there are two things more Parisian than Edith Piaf, and that’s smoking and having a museum dedicated to smoking. The Musée du Fumeur, as you might guess, is just such a museum, showing the history of smoking “on a human scale” with everyday objects from the life of a tobacco or hemp smoker throughout time, from clay pipes to opium belts, as well as a gallery of popular art, and a shop with the widest selection of ecigarettes and vaporizers you’re likely to find outside of a sci-fi movie.
Finding the Cirque d’Hiver in the 11th arrondissement is as surprising as finding a circus in, say, Williamsburg, but New York’s animal laws would never allow a hip, out-of-the-way neighborhood to run a two-hour production that features everything form tigers to parrots, troupes of acrobats doing death-defying feats, and a magical theme that runs through the entire show.
If all that seems somehow underwhelming, you can always spend an hour trying to escape from a room.
Musée Edith Piaf
5 rue Crespin du Gast
+33 01 4355 5272
Open 1-6pm Monday through Wednesday, 10am-12pm Thursday.
Musée du Fumeur
7 rue Pache
+33 01 4371 9551
Open 12:30-7:30pm Monday through Saturday.
110 rue Amelot
Métro Saint Sébastien-Froissart
+33 01 4700 2881
One Hour: Live Escape Game
24 rue Emile Lepeu
+33 09 7254 5043
Open 10am-12am daily.
Down the street from the Cirque is the old dining room that used to feed the circum performers—the Clown Bar, run by Saturne restaurateurs Ewen Lemoigne and Sven Chartier, has necessarily been updated from its old down-at-the-heels Belle Époque aesthetic, polishing up the old zinc bar enough to keep current customers and the ghost of Toulouse Latrec alike happy. It’s a small menu, seasonal and short on descriptions, but the French cuisine on display at Le Clown is, without exception, always on point, frequently innovative, and never disappointing. You might find yourself faced with a pigeon dish, a tranche of venison, smoked eel, as well as more traditional fare like fresh oysters and clams, and, of course, charcuterie.
Candelaria creator Luis Rendon has taken his Mexican fare on down the road to Café Chilango, where he’s once using his Mexico City-born know-how to produce a menu of authentic tacos with fresh, homemade corn tortillas. Whether it’s the huevos rancheros or a cup of locally roasted Mexican coffee, Chilango is as good for breakfast as it is for dinner, and at night, an startling, possibly alarming selection of tequilas pair perfectly (and helpfully) with the entire menu.
The sibling restaurants Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin share owners and, very nearly, an address, placed next door to each other on the avenue Parmentier. Chateaubriand offers modern bistro fare that draws foodies from around the world to experience Chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s unique tasting menus (€70), while Le Dauphin takes a more inclusive and casual approach, serving tapas to all comers who want to experience Aizpitarte’s culinary art without the hassle.
114 rue Amelot
Métro Filles du Calvaire, Oberkampf
+33 01 43558735
Open 8am-2am Wednesday through Sunday.
82 rue de la Folie Méricourt
Métro Parmentier, Oberkampf
Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-1:30am
+33 01 4700 7895
129 avenue Parmentier
+33 01 4357 4595
Open 7-11pm Tuesday through Saturday.
131 avenue Parmentier
+33 01 5528 7888
Open 6pm-2am Tuesday through Saturday.
In the heart of Oberkampf you’ll find L’International, a bar with the feeling of a derelict cafeteria upstairs and a phenomenal concert space downstairs, showcasing talent from around Paris and abroad, from rock and pop to electronic and DJ sets, all ripe for one form of dancing or another.
As much as Paris has tried to become Brooklyn recently, it still hasn’t warmed to the idea of craft beers, sticking mostly to the tried-and-true blondes et brunes, but La Fine Mousse in Oberkampf is leading the way in its stone-walled environs, offering drinks twenty beers on tap and a huge list of bottles. The artisanal beer spot is also a restaurant and presents live music events and beer & cheese nights.
For something authentically old-school and very Parisian, La Fée Verte has an amazing throwback vibe matched by its devotion to its namesake “green fairy”—namely, absinthe, served as dictated by tradition or as a cocktail ingredient. Should the effects become too much, there’s a fantastic carte of food to choose from.
5-7 rue Moret
Métro Ménilmontant, Parmentier
+33 01 4202 0205
Open 6pm-2am Monday through Saturday.
La Fine Mousse
6 avenue Jean Aicard
Métro Ménilmontant, Rue Saint-Maur
+33 09 8045 9464
Open 5pm-2am daily.
La Fée Verte
108 rue de la Roquette
+33 01 4372 3124
Open 7am-2am daily.