If you’re looking for an exciting, under-the-radar Parisian adventure, you won’t find it in the mainstream heart of the ninth arrondissement. What you will find instead are packed (though admittedly impressively decorated with rooftop view of Paris) department stores like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, the famous Opéra Garnier national ballet theater and a few museums. You’ll be able to tick off these must-see spots, but, fair warning, you’ll be doing so amongst an ocean of tourists. For a taste of how a true Parisian might spend their time around the ninth, head up towards SoPi — South Pigalle.
Somebody told all the tourists to go here for nightlife. We’re not sure who it was, but it certainly wasn’t us. The effect is as expected—bars catering to tourists. If you flew all the way to Paris to visit a wax museum or a Hard Rock Café, that’s on you. Don’t blame us for wasting your time staring at wax figures of Mbappé and Johnny Halliday. This complex neighborhood straddles the second and the ninth districts, which keeps it humming and thrumming day and night, and packed with Paris’ biggest collection of basic, highly avoidable, mainstream pubs, and ‘just-keep-walking’ restaurants (the clubs and theatres are cool though, so don’t lump them in with the boring chain pubs that line the traffic-choked ‘boulevard’—depending on who is spinning, the Rex Club can be LIT…). With the good, the bad, and the ugly all smashed together, the Grands Boulevards quarter is anything but subtle.
Instead of getting engulfed in this mainstream mayhem, keep it real by wandering around the covered passages, where the best restaurants in the neighborhood can be found (Victoria Station, Racines…). Fauxhemians prefer the Marais, but, if you happen to be here and are a discerning person (ahem, you are reading PARIS » DEFINED, so…), you’ll want to drill down a little deeper on smaller side streets and spend time among locals by sipping on a straw of our loving curation below.
Light a candle and repeat Rochechouart three times fast in the mirror, and one of the neighborhood guys selling stolen bikes and cell phones will appear in front of you. Escape from polluted and noisy rue Lafayette, and take cover around the funtastic zone encompassing rue des Martyrs and Avenue Trudaine. Don’t miss the Musée de la Vie Romantique.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Called Pig Alley by puritanical American G.I.s after the liberation of Paris, they were aghast at how one could allow maisons closes to be so blatantly visible. Pigalle is where Paris spreads its legs—in more ways than one. Actually, just in one way, to varying degrees, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. On the high end, there’s the Moulin Rouge, one of Paris’ most-photographed buildings, the birthplace of the French can-can, and the worst place in Paris to propose to your significant other. On the low end, well, just take a look around. You have your choice between the Sexodrome, Pussy’s, La Diva…good luck and Godspeed!