Starbucks and Pret may work in other cities, but it would be near sacrilege to enter either in Paris. For Parisians, cafés represent a way of life. An extension of the living room, they’re a place to read, write, gather, discuss. But from new roasting styles to ambiance and unexpected menus, Paris’s café scene has seen quite a few updates.
Still, the café is where you go to watch and be watched. It makes no difference if you like your café serréor or au lait, the ambiance is as important as the food and drink. Here’s a look at some of the best Paris cafés.
Decade-old La Caféothèque, or coffee library, played an integral role in Paris’s coffee revolution. One of the first in-café roasters, the buzzy spot serves coffee from more than 30 different countries and has a prime address on the banks of the Seine. Don’t leave without trying a slice of matcha cheesecake.
Fashion photographer cum barista Nicolas Clerc left Vogue and then Chanel in New York to bring quality coffee to his birthplace. His minimalist café near Palais Royal doesn’t have many tables or a wide selection of food, but it does offer incredible brews — straight from a La Marzocco espresso machine.
Café de Flore
One of two iconic institutions along the tiny Rue Saint-Benoît, Café de Flore is among the oldest coffeehouses in Paris. Mostly unchanged since World War II, it serves a dose of Saint-Germain’s bohemian spirit along with its potent cups. You can just imagine the days when Hemingway, Capote, de Beauvoir and Sartre camped out in the cafe’s red booths.
Just off the Canal Saint-Martin, Ten Belles’ discreet storefront is a secret door to deliciousness. The rickety stools and pine bar outside are great for a summer day and the upstairs loft offers the perfect escape from Paris’ rainy days. The notably attractive staff serves everything from espressos to crèmes, beet salads to sticky buns. If you’re a bread or confectionary lover, make sure to visit the team’s bakery in the 11th arrondissement.
Come to Oberkampf hungry. The coffee is undoubtedly tasty, but it’s best known for brunch, with standout dishes like shakshuka, grilled cheese, tartines, toasties, and avocado toast. As with many Parisian cafes, you’ll want to get there early to secure a table but if it’s packed, head to sister restaurant Café Méricourt around the corner.
Coutume is the ultimate destination for java nerds, complete with every coffee contraption you can imagine. The large, industrial-chic space in the Left Bank has a dining area where you can sit for hours, but also supplies beans for multiple restaurants, bars, and coffee shops throughout the city. Although the scene can be a bit intimidating, the friendly baristas are on hand to help you find your right brew.
Le Peloton Café
This expat-run spot between Rue de Rivoli and the Seine is a breath of fresh air among the other Marais coffee shops. Filled with wooden shelves, yellow chairs, and bike-themed illustrations, the space also serves as a base for Bike About tours. Coffee comes from the famous Belleville brûlerie, but it’s crafted with love and served with homemade waffles.
Café de la Nouvelle Mairie
We love a buzzy new cafe, but the 30-year-old Nouvelle Mairie, in the Latin Quarter, reminds us why tradition still reigns. The bistro is a local favorite and turns out classic French dishes all day and all night (order the charcuterie plate, with meats sourced from across France). The cafe also has a serious natural wine list you won’t want to miss.
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