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Paris vs London : which city has the best nightlife ?
This article is not the diary of an adventurous party animal looking for a life devoted to debauched fun. Please consider it as a piece of highly accurate sociological comparative field work about English and French night-life. The truth is that I wanted to know, once and for all, which city, between Paris and London, had the best nightlife. So, in the name of research, I have been working very hard over the past 7 months -sometimes until the very early hours of the morning... And this has put me in a very good position to determine which of the two capitals is the best city to party at.
Long ago, Paris was labelled as the world's capital of chic and glamour, no other city could have been more far removed from cold and puritanical London. The French 'folie' was much appreciated by a wide range of partygoers, especially the rich tourists looking for a night of classy debauchery. But things have changed, and Paris is no longer the top destination for cosmopolitan dandies in search of a thrill. All Francophiles and French people who were lucky enough to live through the time when the French capital was proud of its reputation for excess now have to face the truth : Paris may just have lost it. Of course, there are still many marvellous places to visit, from a boat ride on the Seine to a ruinous shopping trip down the Champs Elysees, not to mention the tour of the Palace of Versailles, The Notre Dame Cathedral, and The Louvre Museum. No one will dispute the fact that Paris is beautiful....but when it comes to partying at night, in comparison with London, the French capital loses its lustre.
No doubt you may disagree with me – I know Paris is a sacred city of sorts and to criticise it is tantamount to blasphemy – but my comparative and relatively unbiased experiences of London and Paris are what have led me to this conclusion . Let me explain why in 5 points.
1. Party spirit : cold Parisians versus friendly Londoners
This may be purely subjective, but I do believe that the English attitude is much more friendly and straightforward than its French counterpart. I am used to French parties which are often a sort of contest where the only goal is to draw attention to yourself, to seem more social than you really are. In contrast, I have found English people incredibly warm and friendly. Is it due to binge drinking ? I do not think so- at least not solely- as downing bottles over as short a time as possible is much appreciated by Parisians as well. I would simply say that it is about their mentality : the French go out to be seen, the English just go out to have the time of their lives, whenever...and wherever. On the contrary, 'in Paris, it is simply impossible to pub-crawl in the street as you could do in London. Some bars are cool, but clubs are not really attractive. And you really have to know precisely in which club you want to enter', says Julien, a Paris-born expatriate living in London.
2. Atmosphere : 'When the night quietly dies' in Paris, the party goes on in London
Amid complaints that Parisian nightlife suffers by comparison with a city like London, more than 16,000 Parisians have signed a petition entitled 'When the Night Quietly Dies', protesting against the closure of leading bars and clubs in Paris - many clubs are closing before 2am - as well as the strict rules on noise and the smoking regulations. But the main concern is about the atmosphere of the city : you may have spent a great night which ended at 3am in London but been boring in Paris, even if clubs can now stay open until 7am. As you may understand, it is not about the length of the party so much as the atmosphere. The petitioners claim that 'the city of Light' is in danger of becoming the 'European Capital of Sleep'. Hard to disagree. Even on the New Year's Eve, Paris is unbelievably quiet : 'I was really disappointed when I saw that there were neither fireworks nor big parties in Paris on 31st December', Pauline, a 22 year-old student living in Paris, says.
3. Paris's mythical places....which places ?
Les Bains-Douches, le Régine, la Locomotive : Parisians have had some of the most hyped clubs in the world at their disposal. But the scene has been in steady decline since its golden age in the 1960's. Nowadays, each year more and more mythical places are closing (either temporarily or permanently), or have their night licenses revoked. La Locomotive, once a regular venue for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, located just below the Moulin Rouge, had to close after being heavily fined because of complaints that its amplifiers were too loud. The Paris anti-noise legislation is actually surprisingly strict. Les Bains-Douches, which welcomed Andy Warhol, Mel Gibson, Prince, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Jack Nicholson closed last year because of dilapidation. Even Pigalle is now a sort of gloomy desert. Has Paris lost its soul ? Actually it has lost its 'vedettes' (stars): the most famous DJs in the world - some of them are French - have crossed the Channel and prefer performing in London. Fabric and The Ministry of Sound are now ruling Western European electro. Au revoir Paris.
4. The weird Parisian bouncers...
Another problem for anyone who has already been clubbing in Paris is the weird and ambiguous way the bouncers refuse entry to some people. Should they dislike your look, then I am afraid you'll be spending your night on the wrong side of the red rope. The most famous scandal occurred in 2007 when French anti-racist NGO SOS Racism sued the very famous club Le Queen for discrimination. The least one can say is that it is much easier to get into London clubs, and this has nothing to do with lower standards on this side of the pond. They are simply more tolerant. Paris clubs have gone too far in declaring that 'the more cliquey the club is, the better'. At the end of the day, all this has done is earned them a bad reputation. 'Whether you spend a lot of money by buying a bottle, whether you can't enter', Pauline says as a conclusion.
5. Transports : when clubbing in Paris turns to an expedition
It is fair to say that going back home after a clubbing night in Paris can often be a long, tortuous and sometimes risky adventure. Unless you are courageous enough to wait for the first tube at 6.00am, you will probably have to walk back home. Indeed, Noctilien, the night bus service in Paris, is just insufficient, whereas transports in London is far more frequent and safer, as the large crowds at at all hours increase the sense of security. 'The Noctilien buses ? It is just weird!' says Irène, living in Paris. The most common way to go back home in Paris is to take a taxi. But you wallet won't thank you for it.
As a French expatriate experiencing London night-life this year (and I'm certainly having a laugh discovering it), I have really understood why it is one of the best in Europe. It undoubtedly goes some way to explaining the high number of Parisian people who fly away from their home town in order to party-on elsewhere. "Paris" as they say "est mort"...vive London. However, there are of course good clubs in both of the cities...and we have listed them in an amazing top 5 !
Top 5 Best Clubs in Paris and London
6 Avenue Marceau, 75008 Paris
11-12 Walkers Court, W1F 0ED
(020) 7434 4374
102 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris
Ministry of Sound
103 Gaunt Street, Greater London SE1 6DP
2 Place du Palais Royal 75 001 PARIS
77A Charterhouse St, EC1M 3HN,
91-93 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3HZ
Port des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris
Notting Hill Arts Club
19-21 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JQ