Paris bars run the gamut from the toniest hotel lounge to the tiniest neighborhood troquet, where old-timers gather for a chat over their morning petit blanc.

Hotel bars were once considered the aristocrats of the genre. Some mix historic pedigrees with a hushed elegance, while others go for a modern, edgy luxe. A few still represent the chicest spots for frequent high-roller visitors to Paris. But breathtaking prices and the fickle Parisian fashion pack ensure that only the latest, highly hyped bars regularly draw in locals.

Cocktail bars, on the other hand, have been steadily gaining popularity and are now grabbing the spotlight in a sophisticated bar scene that was once the domain of a handful of hotels and eminent watering holes. Parisian cocktail bars rival those anywhere in the world, and, as in other places, they focus on mixed drinks—although most offer anything from craft beer to Champagne. Look for libations created with the native spirits, like Calvados or Cognac, that make French cocktail culture unique.

Wine bars are different from regular bars in that they also serve food, from simple snacks (like cheese and charcuterie) to full meals, plus handpicked wines that are often "natural" or biodynamique. Wine bars keep mealtime hours and close earlier than proper bars—somewhere between 11 and midnight. Be warned, though: many establishments calling themselves wine bars or bars à vin are in fact full-fledged restaurants, with no bar to speak of.


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