If you follow us on facebook then you may have heard us mentioning about somewhere we discovered in Paris. We described it as a museum/cafe/vintage shop/bar...because that's exactly what it is! Le Comptoir Général is a one off and unlike anywhere we have been before! If you're going to try and compare it to anything else in Europe, then the Kert bars in Budapest would be similar, but would also miss the point! Getting off at Republique metro station you simply walk behind the immense statue in Place de la Republique until you hit the greenway and one of the starting points of the cool Canal St-Martin. Then you follow the canal taking in the street art dotted around and the Parisians that are eating or drinking in one of the many cool cafés on either side or who are just relaxing on the grass or banks of the canal. If the views and steel bridges look familiar to you, then you may be a fan of the beautiful French classic film - Amélie.
It would be very easy to miss the entrance to Le Comptoir Général if you didn't know where to look. You literally just have to look for the big green gates (unless it's a Friday or Saturday night, in which case look out for the queue to get in). When you first walk through you will think you're in the wrong place. But then it opens up a little to a neon arrow pointing to a door....you've found it!
Walking in, it feels like an old colonial embassy building with it's flooring, design and photo portraits on the wall of the corridor. It's after this that you start to realise that this place is a LOT bigger than the outside suggests.
They describe themselves as a temple of ghetto culture, a museum of 'Unusual Affairs, highlighting "off-the-track-exploration, exotic ventures, lost causes, all lttle-known, misinterpretated and unloved phenomena, all marginal cultures and artistic expressions that lurk in the shadows and are born out of privation". Le Comptoir Général has taken what aspects of various cultures it finds inspiring and shines a light on it so that we too can appreciate it.
On the left as you immediately walk in is a open floor area with a Tiki bar, hawker stands offering food and an open garden area for getting fresh air. In one corner there's even a board game area! Already in this first room, you can sense that it is different from the norm as you enter parts which looks like you are in an African travel agency...
The next room has small enclosures everywhere, each with different themes for you to relax in with your coffee, food or drink. Each has it's own quirks and even old 80's American film posters look classier with a French tag-line!
There is a dancefloor with DJ and glitter ball ready for the night time as well as a book shop stocked with French language books on its colonial past as well as other artsy ones.
On one end is another bar area and coffee stand where you will find stairs going up to the vintage shop. Here in the UK, there are vintage/retro shops in every city but this one has an emphasis on African design. From jackets, shirts and shoes for both guys and girls, you will want it all. Randomly, there were boxing gloves and old flip-flops here too!
Need a hair-cut? They can do this upstairs as well. While getting your hair cut, why not get your clothes altered, for they supply this service upstairs too...and they say the French don't do customer service!
Overall, this place is well worth a visit to see a different side of Paris, and life in general. Which I think is the whole point behind it all. Great walk, cool area and an amazing cultural centre.
Their website is here.
Why not visit Le Comptoir Général while on one of our immersive travel experiences? See what we offer in France here.