The Parisian Cafe is an institution, functional, beautiful, iconic and intrinsic to city life here in Paris, the cafe is more than just a place to get a drink or a meal.
Once the chairs and tables that line the boulevards of France’s capital were the meeting places of the greatest minds of the world, where artists, writers, philosophers and poets would gather to share ideas and a drink or 9. To this day they are still the best place in town to catch a glimpse of real Paris life. Whether it’s over a morning coffee and croissant or to people-watch over an afternoon wine and nibble (not just for those on vacation).
While it is possible to soak up the cafe terrace atmosphere almost anywhere in this city, where every street has at least one and some are exclusively lined with cafes, where are the best in Paris? Here are the 10 best cafes in Paris as chosen by LivTours’ local guides. A mix of old and new, classic and innovative, beautiful and fun, to ensure you wherever you are in the city you can feel truly Parisian as you sit down for a drink.
Cafe de Flore
Ok, so Café de Flore is no hidden secret. A little expensive and often filled with first-time tourists to Paris, it’s on the list because, well, it is the archetypical Paris café. with an incredible history and an elegant charm, it may not be our everyday coffee spot but it is still well worth the visit, to sit in at what was once the headquarters of Paris’ literary and philosophical movements. Stay for one drink and imagine rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jean-Paul-Satre, Pablo Picasso, Simon de Beauvoir and the rest of the existentialists.
Equally famous as Café de Flore though just amongst Parisians. The name of this local working-class watering hole translates as “the crazies” and is a legend in Belleville. It was once the place to party for the winemakers and villagers before this working-class northeast district became part of the city of Paris. No longer a bucolic village, Belleville is the multicultural centre of Paris and Aux Follies, far from the tourist beaten path, is a cheap no-frills café, where the plastic chairs and tables spread out into the graffiti-filled eclectic streets of Belleville. Come for the cheap beer surrounded by the smell of Paris’ best Asian restaurants.
Le Petit Fer a Cheval
Slap bang in the must-see district of Le Marais, Le Petit Fer a Cheval or ‘The Little Horseshoe’ is a teeny tiny little café with an iconic and rare horseshoe-shaped ‘zinc’ (iconic metal countertop in Paris cafés). The perfect spot for a morning coffee or evening drink before checking out the bookshop-cum-wine bar Le Belle Hortense on the other side of the street!
Le Petit Café de Montmatre
While we might get into trouble with the local Montmatrois elite by sharing this place with the world, we think you’re worth it. Choc-a-bloc with local legends, this café is the place to be for those who consider themselves Montmatrois (from the neighbourhood of Montmartre) first, Parisian second. Presided over by the eternally glamorous matriarch Madame Danielle, your table is never without an array of ‘On the house nibbles’ from peanuts to cheese and saucisson tartines.
Café de la Paix
Another historic classic, Café de la Paix has been depicted in countless paintings and films and was the place to be seen in the Belle Epoque (end of the 19th century.) When they weren’t drinking champagne at the Moulin Rouge, rows of top-hatted gentleman would sit side-by-side over a morning café at this Paris institution. The likes of Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, King Edward VII of England, Tchaikovsky were all regulars. With its fame, it would, in later years attract more celebrities form Marline Dietrich, Yves Montand and Roman Polanski. While very classic and pricy, its a wonderfully glamorous option for a pre-opera drink!
Ok we cheated here as it’s not one cafe but an unbelievably charming open square full of many cafés. The beating heart of the Latin Quarter lined with market streets on either side, the fountain place of Contrescarpe is the place to grab a café and people-watch in Paris’ university district. Not to be missed!
Pavilion aux Canaux
Situated on the waterfront of Paris’ Northern Canal Ourq, this is one of the quirkiest spots in the city. Decked out like a real-life doll’s house, one can take their tea in a bathtub, meet friends and dance in the kitchen ,or lie down in one of the bedrooms. In summer the terrace is surrounded by people dipping their feet in the water or playing Petanque (Boules or Bochiball). Simply ask the staff at the bar, and they will loan you a set of balls to join in the incredibly french game.
Le Grande Mosquee de Paris
Ok, you’ll thank us later for this secret hidden gem. Just next to the botanical gardens is Paris’ grand mosque. While the beautiful place of worship has a fascinating history, incredible North African restaurant and SPA Hamman attached, it is worth stopping by just for a tea or a coffee. Nestled under olive trees, surrounded by blue and white tiles, the smell of mint tea and shisha fills the air as waiters bring around delicious pastries and sweet drinks. A slice of paradise in Paris.
More restaurant now than a café, this is the oldest café in the city. Full of oddities from Napoleon’s Hat to antique paintings, this 17th-century coffee house had the pleasure of serving the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire to Maxamillion Robespierre, leader of the bloody French Revolution. Step back in time here for a drink or dinner before meandering down Rue de Buci for more iconic Paris cafès.
Now for something completely different… Built-in an old train station that bordered the city, Le Recylerie is part farm, part café. With chairs and tables lining the disused train tracks, they grow and produce all the food they sell. Earthy vegetarian options are a great choice here or grab a coffee and while away the hours with a book in this modern, open space.
Which Paris cafes would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.