Ready for a gay Paris tour?
Ready for a gay Paris tour? Here’s the interview of Marc, a local Gaybassador of the city.
Hello Marc, you are Gaybassador for Paris. Can you tell us a bit more about you?
I was born in a small village in Southern France, surrounded by vineyards. Then I moved to Paris to do my Masters in Philosophy. And now I am finishing a PhD in Philosophy of law and economics and teaching at the Sorbonne.
Why do you love your Paris that much?
Paris feels like the best compromise to me. It’s a world-class capital; therefore it has all you might want, but it’s a reasonable size, and 19th-century beauty makes it less crazy than huge cities such as London or New York.
Which are the areas you would like to show in Paris to gay travellers?
The area surrounding the Opera Garnier is fascinating for many reasons, but especially for its architecture and urbanism. This is a very XIXth century neighbourhood, and you feel like going back to the glorious past of Paris when Haussmann’s renovations have completely transformed the city into a modern metropolis.
Of course, the Opera is the masterpiece. If you have the opportunity to attend a performance, go ahead. Or simply visit it, just to admire the ceiling of the Opera House painted by Chagall.
But there is so much more to explore. In particular, you can visit the old “Passages” and “Galleries” which used to be the shopping malls of this times.
The passages are the aim of the visit I offer as a Gaybassador. They are symbols of the urbanism of the beginning of the 19th century, and each one has a distinct identity.
This is an excellent way to walk around Paris, especially on rainy days, and to discover some of it’s most beautiful monuments. It’s almost possible to walk one or two kilometers from Palais-Royal to the Opera just using the passages.
The most famous ones are the Galeries du Palais-Royal, Galerie Vivienne, Galerie Colbert, Passage Choiseul, Passage des Panoramas.
Most of them are listed as historical monuments since the 70′, but many of them were destroyed before this date, to create more modern, and charmless buildings.
Kenzo, Yuki Torii and Jean-Paul Gaultier open their first shops in those galleries, at the very beginning of their careers, when they were considered as decrepit and decadent (we are still talking about the galleries). The fashion crowd came back, and it was the first step of their resurection.
You should know that the passages used to be very popular within the gay community in the XIXth century, and could turn into cruising areas on late evenings. In the seventies, it was the “dryer” way to go from the gay area of Rue Sainte-Anne to the most famous gay club in Paris, which was “Le Palace”, a former theatre in Rue du Faubourg Montmartre.
So you will be walking on the footpath of Elton John, Gloria Gaynor, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and maybe Madonna.
Nowadays, no matter what your tastes are, you will find something that matches them in those secret places: art, luxury, shopping, architecture, food, and even gay saunas in some of them ,) …
Another places I would love to show to travellers are the small streets of the Marais. The Marais forms a triangle bounded by the squares of the Bastille, the Republic and the Town Hall.
There is the Picasso Museum in Paris, or Victor Hugo’s house. The area is known as the emblematic district of the Parisian LGBT population, is also known for the many fashion boutiques. Therefore, you can go shopping there, have a drink, or go there to spend an unforgettable night out.
the Latin Quarter and the leading University of Paris, called La Sorbonne.
Finally, the Latin Quarter, and the Sorbonne, worth a visit. They are located in the 5th district, on the left bank of the capital. The district is therefore full of students, but also tourists because the tourist sites are particularly numerous there. For instance, you will see the Panthéon, the Luxembourg garden and museum and of course, the Sorbonne, a famous university.
What about your favourite secret local places?
The Deyrolle shop is a precious little gem that a friend of mine showed me: it is an old shop that used to be the French specialist in taxidermy (you know, dead stuffed animals). This is an alternative place to approach bears, lions, crocodiles and more exotic animals. Nowadays they create fantastic and original decorations with insects. This might sound creepy, but it is both a shop and a museum.
The café at the Great Mosk of Paris: this place is very popular among Parisians, you can have a lovely tea and delicacies at their café. The Mosk was built in a Moroccan style in 1926.
Near it, you can explore the old building of the Natural History Museum, where you will see a beautiful old-fashioned display of comparative anatomy. You can end your walk in Jardin des Plantes, which is the botanical garden of Paris
Buttes Chaumont Park. I do not understand why there are so few tourists there, because is it so beautiful. Tourists are often told that the Luxembourg gardens are the Parisian equivalent of Central Park, but they are wrong. The Buttes are (and it is where my grandparents had their first date!).
Which restaurants would you recommend in Paris?
The creperie Ty Billig, near Montparnasse, is absolutely fantastic. It is a great way to discover the food of eastern France (Britanny). Drink some of the many ciders they have! It is also quite a bargain.
One must go to Chez Papa, especially now that there are several ones in Paris. It is one of the best places to have food from the South West of France, from where I am. It might look touristy, but it is positively excellent, and reasonably priced, despite the high quality of the products.
The restaurant Verse Toujours, very foreigners friendly, is my favourite place in the 13th arrondissement. It mixes French food with different cuisines, with reasonable prices and much food.
If you want to expand beyond mainland France and taste the food of French Speaking countries, you can try some of the African restaurants, Senegalese for instance, between Strasbourg Saint-Denis and the train station Gare de l’Est.
What about gay life in Paris?
Paris is pretty gay-friendly in general, even if the LGBT presence, even in the Marais, can be tranquil. You will not risk anything by being yourself here. Of course, there are many bars and clubs, with a pretty diverse offer, for bears community, twinks etc. My only recommendation, for party
people would be to search for the parties of the moment/day/weekend: Parisians like to go specifically after work parties or late night parties that can be happening on specific days and not others.
Gay bars in Paris and LGBT venues
Cox. One of the most iconic bars of Paris, famous for its read building and huge crowds as soon as the working day is over. The crowd is pretty mixed, but it is more oriented towards bearded and hairy guys. Other tribes are welcome though. It is excellent for those who like gay bars that look like pubs.
If you are into bears and/or older guys, Bear’s Den and El Hombre are the places to be. They are smaller bars than the ones above and gather smaller crowds. Therefore, they can be more welcoming.
Raidd bar is more glamorous and is famous for its showers where handsome naked guys reveal themselves to everybody’s gaze. It is meant for a younger and twink crowd than Cox or the bear bars but remains entirely open.
Try the after work parties, most of them named after the days of the week, because they happen at that moment, only once a week for each: La Dimanche, La Mardi, La Mercredi, la Vendredix… They are often located outside the Marais, in nice bars, and are very popular.
Gay bars in Paris
Gay clubs and parties in Paris
Gay Saunas in Paris
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