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After a day of meandering through Paris’ museums, trolling boutiques or pounding the cobblestones as you see the sights, there’s nothing quite like taking a load off and parking yourself at a corner café to partake in that most pleasant of French table traditions, “l’apéritif,” or “l’apéro” for short.
The French cherish that time of day when they’ve finished up with work, obligations and errands and can relax with friends over a drink or two to “open the appetite” before moving on to the more serious matter of dinner. Most restaurants that don’t exclusively cater to the tourist crowd won’t begin serving dinner until 8 p.m., so settling down to a beverage and perhaps some light finger foods is the ideal way to finish off the day and kick-start your night.
Cheapo-friendly aperitif spots
Finding cheapo-friendly spots to enjoy one (or more) of the delicious apéritif drink options is not always easy, especially in high-traffic tourist areas and the more chic neighborhoods like Saint Germain des Près, the Champs-Elysées or the Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower.
If you’re looking for an apéro experience that’s easy on the wallet, check out some of the bars and cafés in parts of town that are more “fly” than “flush.” Many of these neighborhood haunts have adopted the decidedly American institution of Happy Hour, offering cheapo drinks and food during those twilight hours.
El Café Bar
45 rue Rodier, Paris 9th
South of Pigalle, or “SoPi” as it’s become known, which is roughly hemmed in by the Saint Georges, Anvers, Pigalle and Blanche Métro stops in the 9th arrondissment, is quickly becoming the go-to quartier for hipsters, musicians, and start-up players looking to see and be seen. The vibe in this ‘hood is studied-cool, so pull that trilby down over one eye and grab a seat at El Café Bar.
While it may not be much to look at from the outside, one glance at the fashionable crowd seated on its patio will tell you you’ve found the right place. With a steady buzz of conversation, a guitar in the corner just waiting to be strummed, and Pastis priced at a mere €2.20 to quaff alongside the wooden boards heaped with finely sliced Iberian ham and hunks of cheese from the Pyrénées, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d somehow wandered into a village café in the South of France.
The area that straddles the 3rd and the 4th arrondissments is home to über-cool, bohemian boutiques, trendy restaurants and Paris’ gay neighborhood. While it may not be a Cheapo’s first destination, you can still find deals on late afternoon drinks and snacks.
Stroll down to the bottom of rue Vieille-du-Temple to La Perla and snag a table, either on the patio basking in the sinking sun or inside the lovely bar for €5 cocktails from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Bonus: A bowl of free chips and salsa is brought to every table, and refills are only €1.90. Or go for a big platter of nachos for €9.50 that will easily satiate two peckish revelers.
3 cour des Petites Ecuries, Paris 10th
Neighborhood: Faubourg Saint Denis
“Faubourg” is an old French word that means village. Any time you find yourself in an area of Paris called a faubourg, you’re actually in what was once a village outside the city limits back when Paris had walls circling it. The Faubourg Saint Denis is a working-class neighborhood that’s on the rise as journalists, artists and fashion industry-types buy up the relatively affordable real estate and camp out on lazy afternoons with friends in the local bars.
For that village feel, get out your map or GPS and find cour des Petites Ecuries, a cul-de-sac home to several friendly little watering holes.
A favorite is Tribal Café, where everyone comes for the easy ambiance, the €3 pints, and free—yes, free—plates of mussels and fries on Wednesdays and Thursdays and platters of couscous on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s hard to beat those prices, so come early to stake out your table!
There are plenty of other neighborhoods, such as rue Oberkampf and the Canal Saint Martin in the 11th, Ménilmontant in the 20th near the Père Lachaise cemetery, and Buttes aux Cailles not far from Place d’Italie in the 13th, that boast friendly spots advertising slashed drink prices during l’apéro. So, if the price is right, take a seat—you may just discover your own Happy Hour hot spot.