There is an old adage that if you want to know what’s going on in the city, then go visit the local bar. That remains true to this day, and Paris’ timeless bars à vins, or wine bars, are testimony to this fact. Over the generations, they have remained a fixture of the Parisian landscape, serving as a meeting place for members of all social classes – aristocrats and proletarians, students and white collar workers. Every district of the city has its share of bars à vins, each with its own history and atmosphere. True, the wine bars of today do differ a bit from their predecessors. Yes, it is still possible to sit at a metal-clad counter, munch on a tasty snack and sip on a glass of red wine poured out from a wooden barrel – most likely from a small but first-rate producer selected by the owner. Yet lately, many of Paris’ wine bars have started placing more emphasis on the gastronomic experience, transforming themselves into a cross between a bar and a restaurant. Some have become acclaimed lunch and dinner spots. That means that the appetizers and the wine can be followed by an excellent three-course meal. The wine bars are frequently staffed by young chefs who like to experiment, often using locally grown and seasonal foods in attractive menus that are not overly extensive. Thus, Paris’ wine bars are serving as experimental laboratories, with the sommeliers and the chefs working together to find the best combinations of wine and food. The newer bars tend to offer organic and natural wines (without sulphites), as well as ecologically grown food. But of course, the main asset of any wine bar is its atmosphere – open, friendly and laid back. Following a dinner at a classical Paris restaurant, you will also be pleasantly surprised by the bill, which in most cases should be quite reasonable. Below are five inspiring and colourful bars à vins, each with its own character, story and atmosphere.