Café de L'Enfer (aka Cabaret de L'Enfer)
If I had a date and a time machine, I'd take her and it to le Café de L'Enfer.
Le Café de L'Enfer was a Hell-themed café in Paris' red light district (aka Pigalle, the neighborhood of the Moulin Rouge), created in the late 19th century and operating up 'til sometime around the middle of the 20th. I first heard of this place years ago, before I ever lived in Paris. I was living in Philadelphia and my roommate knocked on my bedroom door one evening to show me the photo below in the latest issue of National Geographic. It sure is nice to have friends who know what you like. Incidentally, I just found the National Geographic writeup in their website archives here.
Why, just look at those old-timey folks enjoying a drink in Hell! What I wouldn't give to hang out there. I had no idea, staring at this picture in my bedroom in Philly, that I'd one day end up living right down the street from where this was taken; L'Enfer was located right on the Boulevard de Clichy, which was about fifty paces from the front door of my second apartment in Paris. I certainly wish the café were still there (and also that everyone still dressed like that).
Unfortunately, there's very, very little solid information to be found regarding Le Café de L'Enfer. In all my searching, I've only been able to nail down the fact that it was definitely on the Boulevard de Clichy, somewhere near Place Blanche, and a couple people online have recently told me it was in the space where there's now the Monoprix at 55, Boulevard de Clichy, which sounds perfectly plausible (one Twitter-er remarked, "Suspicion confirmed: Monoprix is Hell," haha) but I haven't been able verify this anywhere. I also haven't had any luck trying to track down L'Enfer's specific dates of operation, information about its design and construction, etc. I'll keep looking, and I'll certainly update this article if I find anything else.
Here are some other images from L'Enfer I've found from the around the web...
Some joker apparently got the idea to open up another café called Le Ciel (Heaven) next door. Tell me, which one looks like more fun to you?
Lastly, here's an amazing photo a friend of mine gave me which is now framed and hanging on my living room wall (below).
The fine print on the bottom says this photo was taken in 1952, and I have no idea if L'Enfer was still open at that time or not. The print itself is beautiful; about 8.5" x 11", and you can find it at lots of souvenir shops in Paris, at this size and also as a post card.
I no longer live in Pigalle (for better and/or for worse) and this photo is a great reminder of the wild and risqué atmosphere of the neighborhood that I called home for a little over a year.