Happy hours, big screens and French flair – Paris rocks when it comes to sports bars
With champions France on a roll at the World Cup and a vital quarter-final with England scheduled for Saturday, we trawl the boulevards of the French capital in search of the best bars to watch football in Paris.
The city’s significant Moroccan, Portuguese and Brazilian communities will also be out in numbers, watching, celebrating and/or commiserating, not to mention the numerous Brit expats and visitors of every stripe.
On either side of the Seine, in tourist-friendly arrondissements such as 5th, 6th and 8th, in edgier eastern Paris and in a particular hub around place de Clichy straddling the 9th and the 18th, you’ll find plenty of sport-focused pubs and bars appealing to a global clientele.
Long-established local chains such as the FrogPubs, O’Sullivans and Corcoran’s always fill for international rugby weekends, a major fixture on the calendar. Another common feature are long happy hours, offsetting hefty bar prices by a couple of euros and recently coinciding with early-evening kick-off times for the 2022 World Cup. The eight Frogpubs are also offering a free pint for those signing up to the brand’s loyalty club.
Major cities across France, including Paris, decided against setting up big public screens that have made watching other tournaments so memorable here. There will be no fan zones, either.
The move has been seen as a criticism of Qatar’s record as an organising country and a reflection on the practicalities a winter World Cup – although Paris has benefitted more from Qatari money than anyone in terms of football profile. The three key figures dominating the World Cup – Mbappé, Messi and Neymar – all play for the same club team here in the City of Light.
the auld alliance
Its name reflecting the traditional links between Scotland and France, this sturdy pub just over the Right Bank from Notre Dame aims to be an island of Caledonian culture in the trendy Marais quarter.
Haggis features on the menu and, bizarrely, as part of the lighter variety of weekend brunch. Red MacGregor ale from the Orkney Brewery is a rare find indeed. The weekly TV sport schedule is posted up on the pub website, which also contains charming examples of Franglais – anyone know what a Scottish egg might be? – indicating that the AA is French-run but with its heart is in the right place.
Those looking to relax before kick-off can play a fe games of pool in a back room solely dedicated to the clack of black, spots and stripes. The Auld Alliance, 75004 Paris, 80 rue François Miron
As opposed to the plethora of faux pubs across France, those under the Wells & Co umbrella, currently numbering 17, at least have long links to rural England – specifically, Bedfordshire in 1876. Their French portfolio extends from Lille to La Rochelle and Montpellier, with this long-established spot in the Latin Quarter their Parisian flagship.
In the shadow of the Panthéon, where Voltaire, Rousseau and Victor Hugo lie buried, roast dinners, cask ales and fish ‘n’ chips are served, darts and games of battleships played, and Premier League games screened.
Charlie Wells and John Bull beers have undergone a contemporary marketing overhaul to appeal to today’s savvier hophead without losing touch with tradition. Happy hour between 5pm-7pm brings in post-work regulars, and the location a short walk from Notre-Dame attracts many a weary tourist. The Bombardier, 75005 Paris, 2 place du Panthéon
With five pubs across Paris, from the steep steps of Montmartre to the retail frenzy of the Grand Boulevards, Corcoran’s has long been a mainstay of the French capital’s expat pub scene. The formula breaks little new ground, but then it doesn’t need to: TV sport, Guinness, fish ‘n’ chips, happy hours (either 5pm-8pm or 7pm-9pm).
The move into the bohemian east of Paris, the Lilas branch past Belleville, raised a few eyebrows, particularly as the place is huge, with plenty of side rooms you can reserve for private functions. The Clichy outlet now forms part of a pub hub of half-a-dozen establishments within a few yards of each other. If The Harp is packed, head for Corcoran’s. Mid-morning opening means that you can treat your hangover to an Irish breakfast of Mallon’s sausages, black and white pudding, mushrooms, the works.
O’Hara’s dominates the draught options, Nitro Red, Natural Blonde and Curim Gold, the lager option also available by the jug. Time your visit for happy hour, hit a couple of cocktails equally discounted, and you’re set for the night. Corcoran’s, Boulogne, Clichy, Grands Boulevards, Lilas and Sacré Coeur (see website for addresses)
the french flair
To watch the game with French football followers rather than Brit or Celtic ones, this large bar in the Clichy pub hub is the place to come. The name is something of a misnomer – there’s nothing French about the décor at all, the walls done out with Pistols and Floyd album covers, and sporting iconography from pre-war Britain. So far, Fulham.
Where FF does come up trumps is in its obscure draught beers – St Idesbald from Koksijde, L’Iloise from St Agulin – and superior platters, fine charcuterie served instead of inferior fish ‘n’ chips. Le rugby gets more of a look-in than le foot, but big games are always screened, while DJs spin recherché tunes till 5am on Fridays and Saturdays without subjecting you to Come On Eileen.
The bar doesn’t turn its nose up at the provision of happy hour, however, between 5pm-8pm, when lager goes for €4.50 a pint and cocktails for €5. There’s a back room to crack away at a few games of pool. The French Flair, 75009 Paris, 75 bis boulevard de Clichy
It was back in the early 1990s that local business students came up with a concept of an Anglo-style pub in Paris serving its own microbrewed beer. After they graduated, they put their idea into action, pairing cross-Channel nicknames to create the Frog and Rosbif, their initial venture on rue St Denis that opened in 1993.
An immediate success despite the address – a byword for the city’s red light district – the F&R not only inspired three more Frogs across town over the next decade, but pioneered the popular trend for Brit-style pubs with a Parisian twist.
Today, there are some 30 such places across the French capital, including eight Frogs in total, and also expanding into Bordeaux and Toulouse. The original brewpub is still going strong, a bastion of match-watching over artisanal brews, while the Frog & Princess in the student quarter of St-Germain has a younger dynamic, still with sport to the fore.
The Frog in Bercy Village is large enough to contain two terraces and the company’s main brewery. The Frog at the British Library is more brasserie, Frog XVI welcomes the many tourists around Trocadéro, Frog Revolution in the bar hub of Bastille boasts 24 beer taps, Frog Hop House appeals to a more discerning crowd around Opéra and the chic Frog Underground brings the brand to the city’s retail quarter with a (very) late-night basement bar attached. FrogPubs, 8 pubs across Paris (see website for addresses)
If there’s one bar to head for in Paris to watch the match, it’s The Harp. The only downside is that this cosy cabin between Blanche and place de Clichy métro stations has limited space, so arriving early (it opens at 5pm) is paramount on big-match nights.
The spotlight is very firmly on sport, shown amid the flags and scarves covering every inch of wall and ceiling, with rugby as favoured as football. During happy hour (5pm-8pm), the house lager, Brooklyn IPA and Palm Royale beers run a little cheaper, a long list of bottled selections, too.
A concise bar menu hits the spot – most are happy to order a bowl of chips and sit out on the terrace, amid Parisian boulevard bustle a few steps from the Moulin Rouge. Recommended. The Harp, 75018 Paris, 118 boulevard de Clichy
The hideout Paris
Five minutes from the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord, The Hideout straddles the Channel with its lived-in pub interior and French ambience. Behind a classic Parisian terrace of wicker chairs and bustle, an old-school saloon houses a lively bar counter lined with draught options – Newcastle Brown, Belgian Hapkin and Alsatian Mützig – that also reflect a Eurostar dynamic. Guinness is a given, of course, as are match screenings.
The bar food of croque monsieurs and charcuterie platters is mainly Gallic, alongside six burger varieties. Hot drinks are served until 5pm, including chocolate, wine and that winter classic, rum-based grog. Happy hours then come into force on a daily basis. The Hideout Paris, 75010 Paris, 8 boulevard de Denain
Close to the Seine, steps away from historic pont Neuf, The Highlander is authentically Scottish but goes easy on the blether. Filling three floors of a timeworn building with four screens upstairs, two large ones below and a cellar for hire, The Highlander has long been a pillar of the local expat community with its open-mic nights and live music on Fridays.
Here, the sense of Caledonia comes with a sense of humour – its list of great Scottish inventions includes Irn-Bru, Sean Connery and G&T. Belhaven brews dominate the draught options, Best and Black the big sellers, alongside Innis & Gunn Original and Twisted Oak IPA. Labels such as Balbair, Old Pulteney and Clynelish feature among the Highland whiskies, plus anCnoc from Knock, Auchentoshan from Glasgow (‘the breakfast whiskey’) and Big Peat from Islay.
Just when you thought that Irn-Bru, obviously also available, could not possibly be improved upon, it gets mixed with peach schnapps in a Scottish cocktail. Beer prices are reduced by a couple of euros during happy hour, weekdays 3pm-8pm. Sensible opening hours until 5am every morning keep the whisky flowing. The Highlander, 75006 Paris, 8 rue de Nevers
the long hop
With a big crown on its navy-blue awning by a prominent corner of the Latin Quarter, The Long Hop pushes its pub credentials to the fore. It’s also a place that takes its pool and baby-foot seriously, laying out the rules in granular detail – no spinning! – and contributing to the lively atmosphere towards the end of the week as soirées after work fill the functional interior. Darts, beer pong and quiz nights also feature.
The pub serves its own house lager, a euro cheaper during happy hour (weekdays 4pm-8pm), while discounts also apply to Heineken, Edelweiss wheat and Belgian Affligem. For those in a hurry, these four options come in 150cl (ie three-pint) measures.
The draught range extends to Guinness, Ciney and Magners cider, Latin-American Quilmes and Corona are sold by the bottle or by the bucket, and platters, burgers and breakfasts are served until 10.30pm. On summer evenings, get here early to grab a terrace table. The Long Hop, 75005 Paris, 25 rue Frédéric Sauton
Another chain that has expanded across France, to Cannes, Montpellier and four locations in Paris, O’Sullivans has managed to marry pub tradition with French concepts depending on the setting. The huge, two-floor branch in the shopping vortex of boulevard Montmartre becomes a late-night bar dansant, helped along by 5.30am closing times at weekends.
It also stands in direct competition with a FrogPub diagonally opposite and a Corcoran’s the other side of Grands Boulevards métro station, and so pulls down a big screen to pull in the crowds on big-match nights. The after work trade is also big business.
Menus change according to venue, too – here, near the city’s main department stores, Canadian poutine is in fashion. At the Franklin D Roosevelt branch on the Champs-Elysées, open from noon, high tea is served, plus trendy Beyond Meat steaks. Up on Pigalle, live music takes the spotlight.
In central Châtelet, the chain’s Rebel Bar reflects its previous guises as a theatre where Gérard Depardieu trod the boards, going big on pub games, baby-foot, beer pong and so on. TV sport features throughout, of course, along with happy hours. O’Sullivans, Châtelet, Grands Boulevards, Franklin D Roosevelt and Pigalle (see website for addresses)