Caveau de la Bolée 25 rue de l’Hirondelle 75006
As a non-European coming from Wisconsin, USA where a vintage building is maybe 100 years old, I’ve always been starstruck by the medieval caves that are in Paris.
No no, I’m not talking about a bat cave or dungeon (although some of them were once prisons, but that’s another story), I’m referring to what Americans would probably compare to an unfinished basement with cement walls.
Here in Paris, they are often hundreds of years old and most buildings have them. Sometimes they function as storage space (usually the case in apartment buildings like mine) or maybe they have been converted into parking garages.
During the World Wars many served as bomb shelters and before electricity this where you could keep food and wine fresh. But my favorite kind of cave is one that serves a highly essential purpose.NIGHTCLUBS!
Hey, if you want to party all night on a rooftop balcony with an Eiffel Tower view and 20€ cocktails, that’s your business. But FFS, please don’t come to Paris without spending at least one night drinking cheap beer until sunrise in an authentic cave bar.
From your first steps down whatever shallow staircase you take to descend into the depths of history, you’ll be hooked. Sure the bar might be sticky from spilt Jagerbombs and the bathrooms will surely be covered in graffiti- but these kind of pubs are where you are going to have a blast as you dance the night away to 80’s French hits under a 14th century vaulted ceiling amongst Parisians/students/tourists/2nd shift restaurant industry workers of all different ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles.
My favorite thing about these kind of places is how unpretentious they are. People come here to let loose and have fun, unlike many other more classy establishments that will deny you entry based on any number of irrelevant factors. From the well-known jazz clubs like Caveau des Oubliettes (former Guillotine Pub, home to a real French Revolution era guillotine blade) et Caveau De La Huchette “officiel” – to the lesser known, yet more authentic The Violon Dingue and La Pomme d’Eve – Paris has many bars like this you won’t find front and center under popular nightclubs in your typical tour guide books- but after 7 years in Paris, these are the places where I’ve had my most wild, memorable nights.
The cave pictured here is the 14th century Caveau de la Bolée, which is currently being restored and updated to be a café by day and cave club after hours. I stopped by recently to see if I could get a look at the cave which the owner was happy to show me.
Historically, this space was initially the cellar of an Abbaye that once stood in this area before turning into various nightclubs frequented by the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Francois Villion, and Paul Verlaine who sought out these discrete hangouts, out of sight and sound from the chaos of the streets above.
Long gone are the days of cigarette smoke, heated political debates, and libertine romances in dark corners; but remnants of the past like grotesque sculptures and perfectly carved signatures will undoubtedly continue to endure for years to come.