Cafe de la Rotonde, Paris, All Things French

Enjoy a Night Out Like a Local in Paris – The 14th Arrondissement

Deep into the left bank of the River Seine, discover the meeting grounds of the unforgettable 'Lost Generation'.

Many writers, painters, sculptors, and actors, such as Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald and Chagall, found solace and inspiration in the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris during the 1920's. In Montparnasse, amongst the buzz of neon signs, car horns, and the cheerfully noisy crowds of cafés and bistros pouring out onto terraces, there are theatres and cinemas on almost every street corner. Most of these establishments are very old, and were frequented by this literary and art expat group the world continues to admire today.

Since the time of flapper girls, Coco Chanel, the American Prohibition, and swinging jazz music, the 14th arrondissement, better known as the Montparnasse district, has had a lively vibe, giving it the nickname 'Mini-Broadway'.

Fortunately for culture-vultures headed to the city of lights, the most eclectic places for entertainment in Paris are not just for Parisians. Theatre in Paris is a little company with the goal of making the secret, hidden gems of Parisian culture more accessible to curious travellers seeking a truly local night out. Their team will make your entire theatre experience in Paris effortless. See popular revues, plays, and musicals, which are subtitled in English, at venues such as the 'Theatre de la Gaite' and the 'Theatre Edgar'.

Théâtre de la Gaîté Montparnasse
Theatre de la Gaite, Montparnasse
The place to be during the 1920's was the eclectic and often rowdy Theatre de la Gaite

Since the Théâtre de la Gaîté opened its doors in 1868 as a cafe-concert, it has survived the test of time and a threat of demolition, remaining as one of the most prominent theatre venues in Paris. Its golden days were known for giving famous French names such as Juliette Greco their big breaks on stage.

With glasses often overflowing with wine or beer, a high-spirited crowd was often seen enjoying a meal or drink, dancing with friends, or seeing a show or cabaret. When the popularity of the café-concert culture declined, the theatre struggled to stay afloat. But vibrancy was quickly regained during WWII, when troupes of singers took to the stage to raise the morale of soldiers and citizens alike. A threat of demolition in the late 80’s forced theatre buffs to rally together to preserve this beautiful time-capsule of the cafe-concert era.

Cafe de la Rotonde, Paris
Step into Picasso’s famed 'Café de la Rotonde' painting with a visit to the very real, unchanged Café de la Rotonde .

The bohemian charm of this corner cafe is a time-machine right back to the era of Picasso, Fitzgerald, Amedeo Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Ernest Hemingway, and Diego Rivera. While sharing baskets of bread and sipping cups of coffee, these starving artists found inspiration in their surroundings. When they couldn’t pay their bill, the owner hung a piece of their art on the wall until they could pay.

There were times when the walls were covered with original pieces that would make any museum curator or art-buff drizzy. Nowadays, with traditional French cuisine on the menu and walls covered in copies of art from the famed artists that had their own tables here, the fame of the well-known artist's meeting ground continues.

Theatre Edgar, Montparnasse
The Theatre Edgar, known as 'The Blue Theatre' due to its unique royal sky-blue exterior colour, is unlike any other building in Paris.

It's a space that been dedicated to discovering new playwrights, directors and actors since its opening in 1973. This venue once was a cafe-theatre where Parisians would come to enjoy a drink and a show at the same time; it was the perfect way to relax. Originally being two separate performance spaces, Café d’Edgar and Théâtre d’Edgar, a renovation in 2014 combined the two spaces into one under the name, “'Théâtre Edgar'. A rather petite theatre compared to the other venues in the city, the intimacy is ideal for short, comical performances giving plenty of liberty to the actors.

How 'Theatre in Paris' works for you

Meet your Theatre in Paris host at a designated place at each theatre. They’ll take care of everything for you, including your tickets. Hear about the history of the venue as well as insider’s information about your play, and get your printed programmes in English.

The translations, or ‘surtitles’ as they are known, are projected just above the stage so that you can follow along with the French audience, immersed in the authentic atmosphere of a genuine Parisian cultural experience. What a way to enjoy a truly local vibe on a special night out in beloved Paris!

For more information, visit the Theatre in Paris website, check out their current shows, and make contact with these engaging and highly dedicated people. Organise a truly memorable night out in Paris. You'll be glad you did!

Guest article kindly written by Kate Cusick, with thanks 🙂