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/)
105 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006
Photo of La Rotonde. Photo submitted by Edgar H at Tripadvisor.
La Rotonde was opened in 1911 by Victor Libion. In its early days, Monsieur Libion would allow artists to while the day away in the café nursing a cup of coffee, look the other way when someone pinched the end off a baguette, and allow artists who were short of cash to leave a drawing until they could settle their tab. As a result, La Rotonde became a haven for artists, with its walls covered in drawings, which would make the curators of today's greatest museums drool.
Situated at the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail, the famous seafood restaurant Le Dôme is situated across Boulevard du Montparnasse from La Rotonde, and Le Select (also on this list) and La Coupole are also nearby. Further, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, Restaurant Montée, is a mere two blocks away. As a result, I have enjoyed heading over to La Rotonde after my amazing meal, when I am not quite ready to call it an evening.
I am not the only one who enjoys La Rotonde. Past patrons include Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway (who mentions La Rotonde in The Sun Also Rises), and Pablo Picasso. The glitterati still frequent La Rotonde. In April 2017, Emmanuel Macron celebrated his first-round victory here during the French Presidential election.
Enjoying the outdoor seating at La Rotonde.
Open Monday through Sunday; 7:15 AM to 1:00 AM
13 Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006
Photo of Le Procope. Photo submitted by Le Procope Management at Tripadvisor.
Founded in 1686 by Procopio Cuto, a Sicilian Chef, Le Procope claims its status as the oldest café in Paris, though its claim of oldest continuously operating café is dubious as it closed in 1872 reopening in the 1920's. Previously known only as the "boutique at the sign of the Holy Shroud of Turin", in 1702, Procopio changed his own name to something more French, and as a result changed the name of his establishment to Le Procope, which it is still known as to this day.
Fortuitously for Procopio and his café, in 1689, the Comédie-Française established its home across the street from the café soon to be known as Le Procope, giving its name to the modern street and bringing actors, writers, musicians, poets, philosophers, revolutionaries, statesmen, scientists, dramatists, stage artists, playwrights, and literary critics to the café. Famous patrons through the years have included Voltaire, Rousseau, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Victor Hugo, and Balzac. It is even rumored that Napoleon was known to be a patron.
I became a patron myself with my family when we stopped in to slake our thirst after a day wandering the chocolate and sweet shops in the 6th Arrondissement. The inside rooms are opulent, and for the time we were there, we felt transported back in time when either the Cordeliers Club would meet, or Rousseau would walk in before his play was even finished across the street.
The beautiful, colorful rear patio of Le Procope.
Open Sunday through Wednesday; 11:45 AM to 12:00 AM; Open Thursday through Saturday; 11:45 AM to 1:00 AM (https://www.procope.com/en/)
6 Place Edmond Rostand, 75006
The facade of Le Rostand across Rue de Médicis.
Located in the 6th Arrondissement, across the rue de Médicis from the Jardin du Luxembourg, Le Rostand has tons of outdoor seating, which makes it the perfect place to rest after a morning spent sightseeing in the Latin Quarter and shopping along Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets, and greatest market streets, in Paris. This cafe, named after the great French author Edmond Rostand, is a frequent haunt of students and professors from the nearby Sorbonne. I found that the patio of Le Rostand is the great place to try my hand at reading a French copy of A Moveable Feast while sipping on un café and an amazing tropical juice concoction.
View from the Le Rostand patio across Rue de Médicis.
Open Monday through Sunday; 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM
99 Boulevard Du Montparnasse, 75006
Le Select in its early days (Photo found here).
Founded in the 1920's, Le Select is right down the Boulevard du Montparnasse from La Rotonde. Originally, the location housed a furniture store. On opening, Le Select was originally opened 24 hours a day, which allowed it to amass quite the following. This is the cafe where Hemingway used to eat breakfast when he lived around the corner, including the cafe in The Sun Also Rises. Rumor has it that Henry Miller once spent the night in Le Select waiting for a train to Dijon (and trying to come up with the train fare). Other regulars in the early days of Le Select include Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Isadore Duncan.
When he lived in Paris in the mid 1980's, Bill Murray was a regular (he recommends the croque monsieur) and filmmaker Wes Anderson, who lived in Paris, is known to spend a Saturday afternoon there.
I last visited Le Select in late November 2017, while waiting for my family to return on the train from Nantes into Gare Montparnasse (which is a couple of blocks away), and the heating lamps made it pretty pleasant outside. However, the snow came, and while it was fun to sit outside and watch it for a bit, I scampered inside to finish up my wine. Once seated at the bar, it was easy to imagine Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley sipping on a drink nearby or their creator Ernest Hemingway stalking through the tables.
Facade of Le Select (Photo found here).
Open Monday through Sunday; 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM (https://www.leselectmontparnasse.fr/en/)
Les Deux Magots
6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006