Paris according to Lionel Nicaise, the busiest music journalist

We rediscovered the east of Paris’ right bank with Lionel Nicaise, a journalist specialized in music.


Lionel Nicaise is a music journalist and a singer-songwriter. It’s fair to say he’s quite busy. But that doesn’t stop him from making the most of his neighbourhood life. We met with him at the north-east of the River Seine and talked about his favourite spots in Paris.

Photo credit : @MarvinBonheur

> Real Parisian or just passing through?

I’ve been in Paris for seven years. I came here with two travel bags in 2013 for an internship at the end of my music studies… And I’ve never left since! I live in the 20th arrondissement, next to the 11th, clearly the city’s two best neighbourhoods to go out.

> What do you do for a living?

I work as a journalist in the music industry. I have quite a busy daily life, with festivals, about a hundred concerts per year, parties that I don’t even remember, artist interviews, press trips etc. When I can take a break in Paris, I do (more) music: I sing and write songs on the keyboard. Sometimes, in the evening, I treat myself to a karaoke singing Mariah Carey (ah ah).

> How would a perfect day in Paris for Lionel Nicaise go?

A Saturday where I’d wake up in good shape, without having been out the previous night. In the morning, I’d see an exhibition with my buddies, at the Musée national de l’Histoire de l’immigration (editor’s note: the French museum of immigration history) in the 12th arrondissement or at the Philarmonie de Paris, in the 19th. I’d then go to Arkose, a climbing gym next to my place that also has a restaurant with a menu full of fresh products. In the afternoon, I like hanging around the Buzenval neighbourhood, walking up to the Orteaux Street. Lots of cool shops are opening in the area. There’s also the best bakery in Paris: Le Bricheton. Back home, I’d chill for a bit, cook, play a little music, then I’d meet up with friends around metro Voltaire for drinks. There’d then be a fair bit of dancing involved.

> The shop where you could easily spend a fortune?

It’s hard to stay reasonable when you go to the Merci concept-store, on the Beaumarchais Boulevard near Bastille. It’s a real temple of cool with lots of designer objects and stylish clothes, with more or less affordable prices.

Photo credit : @MarvinBonheur

> If Paris was a person, who would it be?

Françoise Hardy. She perfectly represents a certain idea of the ’60s-’70s Parisian woman, of French charm, of the “yéyé” period that is still very much rooted in our culture, a glorified Paris… An icon.

> Where do you go when you need to sweat, to clear your mind?

If the weather is nice, I’ll head to the Bois de Vincennes (editor’s note: a public park in the east side of Paris) to chill in the grass next to the lake with some friends, or maybe go for a walk there. To sweat with music, I recommend the LAX Studio dance classes, metro Philippe Auguste. They’re perfect to empty your mind and dance like Britney Spears in her glory days.

Photo credit : @MarvinBonheur

> Which place inspires you?

When I return home after an evening out, I like strolling around my neighbourhood, or around the Porte de Bagnolet, with all those lights shining in the night and each building telling a different story. You sometimes come across unexpected places.

> A special place for a date?

There are two. I love Le Floréal, a bar next to Belleville Park. It’s very cute and typical of Paris. If the date goes well, you can also extend things by eating there.

There’s also the Moonshiner, in the Bastille neighbourhood. It’s supposed to be a 1920s illegal bar so it’s literally a hidden spot. It can really make an impression for a first date.

> Where would we find you on weekends?

Probably on a walk between Buzenval, Charonne and Voltaire, having drinks or eating. I like strolling along the greenway when the weather’s nice. As for bars, if I’m not at the Pères Pop, I’ll be at the Motel or the Comète near Bastille. When it comes to restaurants, I’ll be at the Italian Mio Posto, in Keller Street, or at the Vierge de la Réunion near Buzenval.

Photo credit : @MarvinBonheur

> The craziest thing about Parisians?

The way they walk super fast in the street, zigzagging between tourists as if their life depended on it. I’m often in a hurry during the week so I totally approve of that kind of high-performance walking (ah ah).

> The ultimate tip you’d give to someone visiting Paris?

Visit the city with someone who knows it well so you can get off the beaten tracks, wander around areas that catch your eye, and let yourself be carried along and live like a real Parisian. Book a room at JO&JOE Nation (2), and wake up feeling like a local living in a popular and trendy district, while having the privilege of sipping your drink on their 200 m2 rooftop!

> What’s next in store for you?

2020 is the year I officially launch my music project. My twenties are almost over so it’s now or never. My music is mostly pop, in English, with a heavy ’90s dance and house influence. Giving everything up to become a pop star, yeah that.

Our addresses

The Merci

  • Concept-store
  • Design
  • Clothes

Bois de Vincennes

  • Chill
  • Friends
  • Walk

The Floréal

  • Typical
  • Belleville
  • Food
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