Before Jen and I went to the City of Light, I got it in my head that aside from hitting all the obvious sights in Paris, I really wanted to go to a live jazz club. Not being any sort of music aficionado, at some point years ago I discovered Django Reinhardt via Pandora and continued to cultivate my love for his style of jazz via Spotify.
We decided this seemed like a good low-key activity for our first night in Paris, but jetlagged beyond belief and without thinking, we chose a club from our Lonely Planet guide, hopped on the metro without said guide, and promptly wandered around the Latin Quarter looking for the club without even knowing what street it was on.
Shockingly, we did not find it.
Instead, we ate at a delicious restaurant by the Sorbonne and then crashed hard back at the hotel. A few days later though, we went on a bike tour at Versailles and asked our guide for a jazz club recommendation. He provided a great one, and at least one trip to a live music venue became a staple of each of our European adventures.
Even if you're not a big music nerd, I highly recommend this for a chill evening out. They tend to be fairly inexpensive (usually the price of a drink or two), easy to come by, and thus far, we haven't been disappointed in the entertainment. A sample:
PARIS: LE CAVEAU DE LA HUCHETTE
Easily one of the highlights of Paris for me, this place has been around since 1949 and has hosted famous musicians like Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. It's a really cool atmosphere even today. You walk down steps to this cozy but cavernous cellar, where seats surround a dance floor where people of all ages are giving zero fucks and getting down to whatever type of jazz the band is playing.
LONDON: 606 CLUB
Admittedly, I'm about to LOL @ this one a little bit. The 606 Club is tucked away in Chelsea on what felt like the outskirts of the city. Our cabbie could barely find it, and the streets around it were empty. The door is kind of hidden, which makes it seem pretty cool, and in a way it is. It's another basement venue, and you can get food here, which we did. But in keeping with London's culinary tradition, the food was kinda shitty. And while the cellar atmosphere was cool, the art on the wall of many well-known African American jazz musicians was, well, janky at best, racist at worst. All that said, the service was decent and the music was great.
LISBON: ADEGA DE SÃO ROQUE
OK, so Fado isn't jazz, but Lisbon has a proud tradition of this live music, which is kind of mournful, existential, bitter, and beautiful -- not unlike the people of Lisbon. Jen and I had a great time at Adega de São Roque, where we ate copious amounts of seafood while listening to a taxi driver who looked like he rolled out of bed sing operatically. Needless to say, it was completely bizarre. Picture the completely random Joe Shmoe with major talent in a seafood restaurant with tanks of live lobsters where every inch of the ceiling is covered with soccer flags and scarves, and this was our live music experience in Lisbon.
MADRID: CAFE POPULART
Not all of the jazz clubs in Madrid are free to get into, but Populart is. We reserved a table here ahead of time (just by walking in a few hours earlier), and I recommend doing this because about 15 minutes after the show started, it was completely packed and standing room-only. The night we were there, we saw the Downtown Alligators, an absurdly good blues band. The lead singer sounded so American covering American blues songs that I was completely thrown off when he started speaking Spanish in between songs. Highly recommend this place, especially since it's in Las Huertas, a neighborhood full of delicious restaurants and other cool bars.
What are your favorite spots for great live music?