Parisian Café Culture: A Guide to Cafés and Coffeehouses

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Parisian Café Culture: A Guide to Cafés and Coffeehouses

Café culture in Paris has its roots in the Enlightenment period, when intellectuals, writers, and artists gathered at coffee houses across the capital to exchange ideas. Cafés such as Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Le Procope have played host to a wide range of influential historic figures such as Voltaire, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Benjamin Franklin.

The French are known for placing high value on their leisure and work-life balance, meaning that cafés in Paris offer a space for relaxation, socializing, and enjoying one another’s company. They often have outdoor seating on sidewalks, creating a lively atmosphere and a buzzing scene.

It’s this romantic image of Parisian culture that adds to the city’s global appeal and attracts tourists seeking the café experience: sitting to enjoy a coffee and a croissant, while soaking up the ambiance. 

Recently, the Paris coffee scene has been revolutionized by a new generation of independent cafés serving specialty coffee. Although the country has always been synonymous with café culture, international visitors have long complained about the coffee itself as bitter and uninspired. Now, the city is full to the brim with specialty coffee shops that have become the go-to spot for a rendezvous with friends.

Check out these 20 cafés, from timeless classics to trendy spots that double as flower shops. 

Les Deux Magots, photo by Robyn Lee/ Public domain

The Parisian Classics 

These classic Parisian cafes exude timeless charm with their historic ambiance, artistic connections, and intellectual legacy. From Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, frequented by luminaries, to Le Procope, dating back to 1686, each café transports visitors to a bygone era of French culture and intellectual discourse.  

Les Deux Magots 

6 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés, 6th

Les Deux Magots, a café tucked away in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, is more than a coffee house – it’s a piece of history. Often visited by luminaries in the likes of Simone de Beauvoir and Hemingway, this place is a cultural landmark due to its Art Deco appeal and bohemian atmosphere. This legendary venue continues to draw locals and tourists from around the world because of its literary heritage and the coveted “Prix des Deux Magots” prize. Explore this revered quarter and enjoy a Parisian experience that combines old-world charm with modern sophistication.

Café de Flore. Photo credit: Arnaud 25/ Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Café de Flore 

172 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris 

Situated next door to Le Deux Magots, Café de Flore is also a legendary attraction. This famous café, known for having hosted prominent figures such as Picasso and Sartre, is a living example of the exchange of ideas and artistic expression. Café de Flore is more than just a coffee shop; with its curbside appeal, it’s a cultural landmark.

Café Procope. Photo credit: Jean-Marie Hullot / Wikimedia Commons

Le Procope 

13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 6th

Le Procope, also known as Café Procope, was founded in 1686 by Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, an Italian chef. It is regarded as the oldest café in Paris, and it’s said to be the city’s oldest restaurant that’s been continuously operational. Many people also believe that Le Procope was the first coffee shop in Europe, giving rise to modern café culture. During its early years, Le Procope was frequently visited by renowned French writers including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. Voltaire cherished Le Procope so much that a memorial to the writer now stands on his favorite table. A must-visit, the café transports guests to a bygone era.

Place des Vosges. Photo: Renata Haidle

Carette 

25 Pl. des Vosges, 3rd

Place des Vosges in Paris is a beautiful square with elegant red-brick buildings and arcades. It features harmonious architecture, serene gardens, and Victor Hugo’s residence, making it a quintessential Parisian experience. Carette is built into the arches, offering a flamboyant patisserie fit for the nobility. The café is known for its rich, indulgent hot chocolate, sourced from top chocolatiers, and its thick and velvety texture. Carette’s attention to the finest ingredients and preparation methods make the hot chocolate a sought-after treat in the city.

Angelina 

226 Rue de Rivoli, 1st

Paris’s Angelina Cafe is well-known for its scrumptious pastries, sophisticated teas, and— most importantly — the “Mont-Blanc” dessert. Since its establishment in 1903, it’s been a go-to rendezvous for both tourists and Parisians. There are a number of outlets around the city, but the original rue de Rivoli location is the best. The Belle Époque décor adds even more flair to an already delicious experience. For those looking for a taste of Parisian grandeur, Angelina is a must.

Angelina. Photo credit: Fen Labalme/ Flickr

Café Marly 

93 Rue de Rivoli, 1st

This renowned French café is known for its prime location, historical setting, and outdoor terrace with a view of the Louvre. The café caters to a diverse clientele, including artists, actors, and fashion industry personalities thanks to its upscale ambiance, gourmet menu, not to mention the location. For those wishing to explore the world’s most popular museum, there’s no better café break.

Cafe Marly, overlooking the Louvre. Photo credit: Joe deSousa/ Wikimedia commons

Speciality Coffee Shops

Specialty coffee is gaining popularity in France as people become more aware of the flavor variety and the importance of sustainability within the world of coffee. Whether enjoying a cup from a cozy independent cafe or exploring the goodness of single-origin beans, there’s a shift toward quality and diverse taste experiences, all while making environmentally conscious choices. Cheers to enjoying a cup that’s not only delicious but good for the planet!

Ten Belles 

10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 10th

Paris’s Ten Belles Cafe is well-known for its wonderful coffee and welcoming atmosphere. With its original branch located in the fashionable Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood, this café has earned an impeccable track record for providing excellent coffee that’s sourced from ethical suppliers. For the coffee lovers of Paris looking for a cafe with a warm environment, helpful personnel, and dedication to a sustainable coffee experience, then a trip to Ten Belles will go down a treat. 

 

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Coutume 

47 Rue de Babylone, 7th

Paris’s Coutume Cafe is well-known for its expertly brewed coffee and well-roasted beans. Their coffee is so good it’s sourced by restaurants all across France. In their 7th arrondissement flagship, enjoy creative coffee in a vibrant setting with minimalist decor and an easy-going vibe. Given its dedication to excellence, Coutume Cafe has become a highly sought-after location for travelers looking for a real coffee connoisseur’s hideaway in Paris. Their brunch menu is just as tempting as their coffee menu – their weekly plat du moment is a dish not to miss!

courtesy of Coutume cafe

Belleville Brulerie  

14b Rue Lally-Tollendal, 19th

Visit Belleville Brulerie in the 19th arrondissement and understand why this humble cafe has such a loyal following. This roastery, which also has a designated tasting area, is the definition of coffee craftsmanship. The skilled staff has impeccable attention to detail, and there is no doubt that the warm and cozy ambiance will provide the perfect caffeine pit stop. The site features a wonderfully eclectic shop, selling everything a coffee lover could dream of – from the beans themselves to sleek electric kettles and dainty filtration sets. Their subscription delivers a selection of freshly roasted coffees to your door each month along with each roast’s discovery sheets and tasting tips. Workshops and tastings with Belleville are entertaining activities for all javaphiles. 

 

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Terres de Cafe 

36 Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 4th

At Terres de Cafe, coffee is treated with the utmost respect at all levels. Their cafes provide a chance to genuinely savor the outcome of an exceptionally skilled crew of roasting to brewing perfection. Using their Loring roasters, they roast all of their coffees on Île de France with no carbon emissions, and their beans are ethically sourced from all over the world – from Latin America to Africa. Their cafes are small, so you may not always find a seat right away, but that is testimony to their popularity and skill. 

Recto Verso 

6 rue Portefoin, 3rd

One of the newest and trendiest coffee shops in the North Marais, RECTO VERSO is sure to have been featured somewhere on your Instagram feed over this past year. The cafe’s tempting sweet treats menu includes cookies, biscoitos, cakes, and scones. Hip and stylish decor inside an endearing stone-faced exterior. But what really sets this cafe apart is the atmosphere; with loyal fans lining the curb, chatting, sipping coffee, and sharing gateau, the lively buzz will get you hooked. 

 

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Quirky Cafes 

Paris is lucky to have many quirky and unusual coffee shops across the city, from a florist-cum-coffee shop to cycling-themed cafes.

Peloton Cafe 

17 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 4th

Peloton – the exercise bike company that has taken the world by storm – has now smoothly ridden into the hospitality lane thanks to their new cafe on Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe. Coffee, cycling, and community. Beginning with a pick-me-up coffee from Le Peloton, the cycling club embarks on rides and maintenance courses. Le Peleton Cafe’s sister company, Bike About Tours, can also provide both short- and long-term bike rentals. This is a great way to visit the entire city of Paris, equipped with a comfortable city bike for touring the city’s plethora of delightful streets, bike lanes, and riverfront areas. 

Désirée Fleurs 

96 rue de Meaux, 19th

Désirée is an eco-responsible café-fleuriste founded by Audrey Venant and Mathilde Bignon which focuses on preserving France’s declining horticultural sector. The company uses fresh flowers sourced exclusively from French producers, offering majestic seasonal bouquets and friendly customer service. Their original concept of combining coffee with flowers is testimony to the mission of Désirée – to inspire conviviality and offer a space for the community to share in their passion for nature. 

Le Café des Chats 

9 Rue Sedaine, 11th

Originating in Japan, Cat Cafés have gained immense popularity across the world. Cats are excellent support animals and their therapeutic presence can provide relaxation and companionship. The interaction with playful felines, along with the added joy of coffee, make this a truly unique and restorative experience. Le Café des Chats in Bastille has a warm and homey atmosphere that makes this a wonderful stop for a coffee and a cake. 

courtesy of Le café des chats

Café Libraries 

Paris has an incredible array of cafés, but my favorite type is a café-librairie. The combination of a café with a bookshop is unparalleled and provides the perfect setting for reading, studying, or remote working. 

TRAM 

47 Rue de la Montagne Ste Geneviève, 5th

TRAM Libro-Café, located on Rue de la Montagne Ste Geneviève, is a café in the 5th arrondissement near the Pantheon and the Sorbonne. The café offers a variety of food, drinks, and a variety of beverages, including a lunch menu featuring (in my opinion!) the best croque-monsieur in Paris. The café is a great place to enjoy a coffee and patisserie, and the well-stocked bookshop also hosts regular book signings with authors like Sophie Galabru and Rodney Saint-Éloi. The café also offers an early apéro in the evenings – the perfect spot for a well-deserved drink after work. 

 

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Shakespeare & Company Cafe 

35 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5th

This English-language bookshop was founded by American George Whitman in 1951. The store, originally a monastery, has become a center for expat literary life in the city. Since then, it has hosted an estimated 30,000 young and young-at-heart writers and artists. The shop has staged literary festivals, launched the Paris Literary Prize, and hosted several free literary events. In 2015, Shakespeare and Company Café opened, serving specialty coffee, vegan and vegetarian meals, and cakes. The café collaborates with local producers to bring the highest quality Parisian produce.  

Shakespeare and Company book shop

Bonjour Jacob 

 28 Rue Yves Toudic, 10th

Bonjour Jacob is a concept store that combines three of life’s simple pleasures; books, music, and coffee. They choose for you the world’s greatest coffees, independent books and magazines, and vinyl records that you simply have to include in your library. Their four venues across Paris attract a hip and youthful crowd that enjoys sharing in the brand’s creativity and passion for coffee. 

 

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Halle Saint-Pierre 

2 Rue Ronsard, 18th

Halle Saint-Pierre, located at Montmartre’s foot, houses a museum, gallery, book shop, auditorium, and cafe. It showcases unconventional art and design, including art brut, naïve, outsider, and other unique forms. Once a covered market, the building was designed in the style of Victor Baltard, the architect who built the original Les Halles in Paris. The cafe within offers light catering and organic teas, coffees, and drinks, making it a unique and lively space in Paris.

Halle Saint Pierre. Photo: Theadora Brack

Maison Fleuret 

30 Rue des Saints-Pères, 6th

Maison Fleuret is a literary coffee shop in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, residing within an old bookstore dating back to 1872. The shop aims to preserve its charm and timeless values while offering a space for relaxation and connection. The on-site and takeaway offerings are diverse, responsibly sourced, and prepared on-site, with a focus on a healthy, vegetarian approach. The menu changes with the seasons, reflecting Marcel Proust’s teachings of: “Dishes are read, and books are eaten.” The maison also offers culinary classes.

Lead photo credit : Cafe on the Rue des Abbesses. Photo: Mig Gilbert/ Wikimedia Commons

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Inspired by the rich culture that France has to offer, Poppy Pearce moved to Paris as an au pair in August 2022. Having gained a degree in Theology and Religion with Arabic from the University of Exeter, Poppy has a passion for languages and experiencing new cultures. When she’s not working, Poppy loves to explore everything that Paris has to offer, from exhibitions and museums, to restaurants and second-hand clothing stores.