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Your LGBTQIA+ Travel Guide to Paris…

Pride in Paris

Paris is not only France’s queer capital, but one of Europe’s biggest and most extravagant LGBTQIA+ destinations. The city’s queer history dates back to the middle ages, and has been growing ever since. 

Approaching the late 1890s, queer life began to exist more publicly through niche bars and cafés that attracted queer folk from all around Paris. During this time, queer art and fashion also found itself in front of a much bigger audience, being featured in musical and cabaret halls throughout the city. 

While many legal freedoms for the LGBTQIA+ community would only come years later, the queer impact on Paris’ art, music, and cultural history is absolutely undeniable – it played a vital role in the creation of the beautiful city we know today. Onto today’s LGBTQIA+ Paris: where should you visit, what you should do, and how to navigate the city’s extensive queer nexus.

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Le Marais

We could not discuss the city’s LGBTQIA+ scene without starting in the iconic neighbourhood of Le Marais: a historical Parisian district that has been a hub for the queer community since the 1980s. Located in Paris’ 4th Arrondissement, this district is now majorly identifiable as the city’s LGBTQIA+ core.

A great way to kick-off Le Marais’ queer tour would be Le Centre LGBTQI+ de Paris – the city’s non-profit organisation which works against queer-phobic discrimination and provides a diverse set of resources to Paris’ LGBTQIA+ community. The centre also hosts art exhibitions, communal activities and well-being sessions which aim to support members of the community in a multitude of ways. 

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Le Cox

Today, Le Marais is home to Paris’ most adored queer venues such as Le Cox, a dance-based bar which consistently brings in a huge crowd, often spilling onto the streets during the early hours of the morning. With weekly DJ sets, and popular happy-hours, Le Cox is a great place to meet fellow queers and start your queer-Parisian exploration.

Diva’s Kabaret

Also located in Le Marais, is one of the district’s oldest piano and live cabaret bars: Diva’s Kabaret. Nestled in a historic cellar from 12th century Paris, here you can find Le Marais’ best selection of drag cabaret, comedy, and vocal talent.

Le Cactus

A mere four-minute walk brings us to Le Cactus. This is a bar and bistro popular amongst queer tourists and those looking to meet different members of the community. Famous for their tapas and overall relaxed energy, Le Cactus is a heavily recommended stop in your journey through LGBTQIA+ Paris. During the spring and summer months, Le Cactus’ outdoor terrace becomes a common meeting place and the venue of many unforgettable Parisian nights. 

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La Mutinerie

A short journey through the beautiful Marais district leads us to a famous Parisian venue that describes itself as a ‘feminist-queer bar’. This is La Mutinerie! Located in the heart of the Marais district, this neighbourhood bar hosts concerts, DJ sets, drag shows, workshops, karaoke, and above all, is a local institution that supports LGBTQIA+ socio-political matters. La Mutinerie is one of the few queer and women-centred safe spaces in Paris, constantly pushing for inclusion and accessibility for all within LGBTQIA+ Paris.

La Champmeslé

A leisurely stroll or quick metro hop takes us to La Champmeslé located on the edge of the city’s 2nd Arrondissement, and considered to be Paris’ first queer women’s bar. Opening in 1979, this venue is famous for its transition from a chilled mojito-filled evening, to a wild queer celebration that burns bright until 4 in the morning. Thursday Cabaret nights bring in an international crowd, and the traditional French wine speaks for itself.

Les Mots à la Bouche

Located in the 4th Arrondissement, before its move to the 11th, is the famous bookstore, Les Mots à la Bouche. This independent bookstore specialises in LGBTQIA+ literature, novels, and magazines. Being conveniently placed along the historic Maurice Gardette Square makes it the perfect location to grab a new queer read and enjoy the Parisian urban nature.

Opening its doors in 1983, Le Mots à la Bouche has been hailed as Paris’ oldest queer bookshop and played a vital role in the creation of Le Marais’ LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood. Starting off as a rather small-scale bookshop to give Paris’ queer community space for intellectual exchange, the business is now a huge tourist attraction and recognised internationally. 

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Madame Arthur

Another historical queer venue that helped to give LGBTQIA+ Paris its name is Madame Arthur, located in the city’s 18th Arrondissement. This trailblazing drag cabaret venue opened its doors 1946, and has been providing a stage for the city’s best drag and trans performers ever since. 

Weekly performances pay homage to Paris’ extensive musical history, alongside cabaret and club nights that take you on a journey through the city’s theatrical culture. Since 2015, the venue has shone more of a light on drag and trans burlesque performers in the city, bringing in a newer and younger crowd to this 77 year-old venue. 

Café Contresort

A short metro ride further through the 18th Arrondissement brings us to Café Contresort. This LGBTQIA-friendly restaurant and tea room transports you to an enchanting Parisian witch-inspired dream. The café has become famous for the best vegan and gluten baked goods in the city – you cannot miss out!

Ran by two insanely talented pastry chefs who also have experience in astrology and palm-work, the menu is heavily inspired by mythology, pop culture, and features real super-plants in well-being recipes. 

A la Folie

Moving over to the 19th Arrondissement – this is home to À la Folie, one of Paris’ most iconic dance floors. This bar, restaurant, and club has it all, and has become known for its great tasting cocktails and live music. During the spring and summer months, the Folie terrace is a space bustling with music, drinks, and laughter – a great place to meet fellow queer Parisians and tourists. 

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Flash Cocotte

Queer collectives are another form of LGBTQIA+ organisations which drive the inclusion of all queer identities. Collectives such as Flash Cocotte host monthly nights which celebrate trans and queer identities, while providing a stage for some of Paris’ most talented techno, house, and electro-trance DJs.

Flash Cocotte has become famous for their themed parties – one of their most popular being Halloween night, bringing together LGBTQIA+ Paris’ extravagant costumes and pioneering DJs to create a wild night of spooky queer celebration! 

La Gaston

Similarly to Flash Cocotte, La Gaston is a queer-clubbing collective which aims to unite Paris’ niche and segmented LGBTQIA+ communities. Their message is ‘come as you are’, motivating guests to dress to express themselves. La Gaston gives visitors a chance to enjoy their night without worrying about looks, status, or cliques, choosing to embrace community and a safe space for truly cut loose. 

The Gibus Club

Looking for a more alternative music vibe? The Gibus Club provides a space for the city’s underground and upcoming rock bands, as well as legendary club nights. Located along the stunning Saint-Martin Canal, the club commonly hosts artists from the international DJ scene, and has been part of Paris’ core queer nightlife scene for over 50 years.

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Ballrooms

Paris is also home to Europe’s biggest and most bustling queer ballroom scene, gaining significant traction during the early 2000s as a safe space for many queer people of colour who felt isolated from existing LGBTQIA+ spaces. Today, the club hosts many monthly drag balls with over twelve official houses bursting with queer talent and gag-worthy performances. 

House of Moda

An example of the city’s legendary ballroom talent is House of Moda – a queer party collective hosting regular events with themes to inspire fashion and expression. Themes are inspired by the 1980’s New York ball scene, and manifests a wild collection of queer fashion celebrating together in one space. Before your trip to Paris comes to a close, you must check out a House of Moda event…

ELB Ball

2023 was a big year for LGBTQIA+ Paris, with the well-known ELB Ball becoming the city’s largest ever queer ballroom event to date. The ELB Ball was created to celebrate Paris’ unique and diverse ballroom talent, which today overflows in beautiful excess at a multitude of events.

Many spaces also host vogueing workshops and runway classes – accompanied by large-scale balls to show off your moves, fashion and queer celebration. Behind the performances lie a genuine community, and essential safe spaces for Paris’ QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Colour) community. 

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Dolly Stud

Paris now has many organisations which centre the safety of marginalised identities within the queer community. For example, Dolly Stud is the city’s first French media organisation for queer Afro-Caribbean women, which hosts wild Chicago-inspired ‘Stud by Night’ events, bringing members of Paris’ queer women’s community together for a night of DJs, dancing and memory-making.

La Marche des Fiertés LGBTQIA+

Rounding off LGBTQIA+ Paris would be impossible without mentioning Marche des Fiertés LGBTIA+: the city’s annual pride parade. Recognised as one of the largest pride parades in the world, this event contains the best of France’s musical performance, drag, and fashion. Over half a million people join forces for a day of intense queer celebration, and a victorious march through central Paris. Additionally, don’t forget to check out the many venues mentioned here for the city’s numerous pride after-parties, queer hangouts, and alternative festivals. 

Paris’ queer power and presence is indisputable, with several different lanes of LGBTQIA+ spaces, events and communities throughout the city. Le Marais remains Paris’ queer hub, and is a great starting place for visitors to the city. Enjoy your time, and make sure to visit during pride season…

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