Mlle. She Travels' Favorite Cafés in Paris
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to find a great café, grab a table outside, inside, or at a seat at the bar, order either a café crème, a glass of wine, or, my personal favorite in Paris, a Kir Royal, and watch the world pass by, literally. Café culture in Paris, and elsewhere throughout Europe, is something that we in America are sorely lacking. So, take some time out of sightseeing, museum going, or shopping and grab a seat! Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favorite cafés in Paris.
La Coupe d'Or
330 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001
Photo of La Coupe D'Or. Photo provided by Kathleen Harper of Kat's Fashion Fix (http://www.katsfashionfix.com/2017/06/paris-street-style-fashion-louvre-pics.html). Visit her blog here.
With 9 seats facing rue Saint-Honoré, one of the best shopping streets in Paris, this little café, which lacks the history and pedigree of some of the other cafés on this list, is nevertheless the perfect place to take a break during a day of retail therapy. Not only is La Coupe d'Or located on Rue Saint-Honoré, it sits diagonally across from the building that used to house Colette, the trendiest store in the world. Unfortunately, Colette closed its doors for good on December 20th, 2017, but with stores like Goyard, Moynat, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Chloé, Tom Ford, Cadolle, Fendi, Fauré Le Page, and the original Chanel boutique nearby, the people watching is top notch. Grab one of those seats outside, set your shopping bags down, order a glass of wine or even a bottle of champagne, relax and enjoy the show.
Enjoying a glass of rosé at La Coupe D'Or after one of shopping trips at Goyard.
Open Monday through Sunday; 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM (http://www.lacoupedor.fr/)
Face au, 16 Quai de Louvre, 75001
The kitchen/bar of Maison Maison.
Maison Maison's terrace along the Seine.
Maison Maison is technically not a traditional café. Rather, it is a shipping container that has been parked right by the Seine River and has been turned into a bar and restaurant with stunning views. The menu is different at lunch and dinner (prepared by different chefs even), and Le Fooding seems to hold it in high regard. I unfortunately have not had a chance to eat at Maison Maison, but I have been able to have a great Pet Nat or two there while I took up one of their 40-odd seats and watched the sun begin to set over the Eiffel Tower to the west.
A great glass of Pet Nat while enjoying a sunset over the Seine at Maison Maison.
Open Monday through Sunday; 12:00 PM to 11:45 PM (https://www.facebook.com/maisonmaisonresto/)
La Réserve de Quasimodo
4 Rue de la Colombe, 75004
The facade of La Réserve de Quasimodo.
On my first trip to Paris, I had spent the morning on the Île de la Cité visiting Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie, and Notre-Dame de Paris. It was about 2:00 pm (or 14:00 for those on military time), and I was parched and hungry, in that order. A couple of blocks away from Our Lady is this little restaurant/cave a vins (yet another entry on our list that is not a traditional café). A bottle of wine later and a small meal (I do not recall what I had), I rushed away to finish up my shopping before flying out the next day, but I remembered this place and returned just over a year later with my mom in tow.
On that day in late November, and after another day on the Île de la Cité, we stopped by for a late lunch. The French Onion soup is some of the best I have ever had, and the bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau (of which my mom even enjoyed a glass) hit the spot on a very cold afternoon. We sat with our backs to the wall looking out the window towards the Hôtel de Ville, passing a leisurely hour or two in this charming little place.
Hôtel de Ville from inside La Réserve de Quasimodo.
Open Tuesday through Saturday; 10:45 AM to 11:00 PM
22 Place des Vosges, 75004
Photo of Café Hugo. Photo submitted by marc849 at Tripadvisor.
Located in the 4th Arrondissement in the Place des Vosges, Café Hugo has a lot of outdoor seating facing the park, which is the oldest planned square in Paris. The park is exceptionally busy, and with significant outdoor seating, though covered under the archways, that makes this café a great place to relax after spending a day exploring the Marais, come rain or shine.
The buildings surrounding Place des Vosges from the Café Hugo patio.
Open Monday through Sunday; 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM
151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006
Facade of the Brasserie Lipp.
Inside the Brasserie Lipp.
Founded in 1880, the Brasserie Lipp became a place as famous as its neighbors across the street, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, under the stewardship of Monsieur Cazes and his son Roger.
Like its neighbors across Boulevard Saint-Germain, Brasserie Lipp awards a literary prize, the Prix Cazes, which was founded in 1935 and awarded to authors who have received no other literary prize. Also, like its neighbors, the Brasserie Lipp counted Hemingway as a regular and is prominently featured in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway's memoir.
The Brasserie Lipp also has some shared history with the Café de Flore (discussed just below) as both were settings of some of the earliest Chloé fashion shows. Brasserie Lipp was the location of the 1960 Chloé Spring/Summer fashion show.
The interior of Brasserie Lipp, still mirror lined and opulent, is a great place to grab an after-dinner wine and imagine the generations of Parisians who have walked those checked, tile floors before.
Various looks from the 1960 Spring/Summer Chloé show at Brasserie Lipp (Photo from The D'Vine).
A single look from Chloé Spring/Summer 1960 at the Brasserie Lipp (Photo from Vogue).
Open Monday through Sunday; 9:00 AM to 12:45 AM (https://www.brasserielipp.fr/en/)
Café de Flore
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006
Across the street from Brasserie Lipp and right down Boulevard Saint-Germain from Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore is another café célèbre. Opened during the Third Republic, Café de Flore has counted amongst its regulars writers, artists, and thinkers such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Lawrence Durrell, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, The Prix de Flore, a literary prize begun in 1994, is awarded each year at the café.
In 1956, the Café de Flore hosted its first Chloé fashion show. This was also the first fashion show ever by the French fashion house founded in 1952 by Gaby Aghion offering primarily luxury prêt-à-porter. In addition to hosting fashion shows, the café counted amongst its regulars some of the most celebrated designers in French fashion, including Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, and Hubert de Givenchy.
If you want to visit during the summer or when the weather is Paris is exceptionally good, expect to wait a while for an outside table to come free. If you are ok sitting inside, the wait will be much shorter, if there is even a wait at all.
Chanel Spring/Summer 2015 Ad Campaign (Photo found here).
Café de Flore by Vanessa Von Zitzewitz (Photo found here).
Open Monday through Sunday; 7:30 AM to 1:30 AM (http://www.cafedeflore.fr/)
18 rue de Tournon, 75006
View to the Sénat from the patio of Café Tournon.
Prior to one of my visits to Paris, I was reading David Downie's A Taste of Paris: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food. In this book, he discusses Café Tournon as a place you could get one of Louis XIV's favorite dishes, lièvre à la royale. After doing a little research, I discovered that this dish is not part of the normal menu but decided I would stop in on my next trip.
Located on Rue de Tournon, right across from the Sénat, this café is understandably a place where many members of the political classes would stop in while the Sénat is in session for lunch, an aperitif, or even dinner. Further, while not as well-known as the cafés on Boulevard Saint-Germain, the Café Tournon has an important place in Paris' literary history. Specifically, it was a frequent stop for African-American authors such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in the 1950's. Further, George Plimpton was a regular, as well as other editors of the Paris Review, so much so that it could be said that the Paris Review was basically founded in the Café Tournon.
My visit was on a Saturday in July for a leisurely lunch when the Senate is not in session, and the area was very quiet. Their special of the day was rouget, and that with the house made foie gras made for a great lunch.
The facade of Café Tournon (Photo found here).
Open Monday through Saturday; 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM (http://letournon.fr/fr)
La Closerie des Lilas
171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006
The front of La Closerie des Lilas (Photo found here).
The lilacs of La Closerie des Lilas which gives it its name (Photo found here).
The terrace and entrance of La Closerie des Lilas, a former coaching inn on the road to Fontainebleau, lies amongst the greenery and lilacs, (when in bloom), which is appropriate given that La Closerie des Lilas roughly translates to the guesthouse of the lilacs.
Because of its close proximity to the bal Bullier, arguably the most popular ballroom in Paris from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1940's when it closed its doors closed its doors, La Closerie des Lilas became the place for pre and post-bal carousing. Émile Zola brought his friend Paul Cézanne while Théophile Gautier and the Goncourt brothers were also regulars.
In the twentieth century, the American expat literati became regulars. Hemingway used to write at La Closerie des Lilas, writing most of A Sun Also Rises here. It is also rumored that F. Scott Fitzgerald gave Hemingway an early draft of The Great Gatsby here. Henry Miller and Ezra Pound were also known to patronize La Closerie des Lilas.
My visit to this landmark was after dinner on my latest trip to Paris. I went into the bar, met other Americans, and had three fantastic cocktails. The bartenders were talented and attentive on that Thursday night. On leaving, I was presented with a La Closerie des Lilas fan, which is a great little souvenir of my visit.
The bar inside La Closerie des Lilas (Photo found here).
The fan given to me at La Closerie des Lilas.
Cocktail Bar open Monday through Sunday; 11:00 AM to 1:30 AM; Brasserie open Monday through Sunday; 12:00 PM to 12:30 AM; Restaurant open Monday through Sunday; 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM and 7:00 PM to 11:00 AM (https://www.closeriedeslilas.fr/)