A cafe in Paris
At a café in Paris. (Photo by Fred Benenson)

Café au lait à Paris: The best of the great cafés in Paris

Many European cultures have a third place, between home and work, where citizens play out their lives. In Paris, it's the café, a sort of public extension of the living room. In the café intellectuals debate, businessmen make deals, politicians hold court, friends gather, and poets dream.

You can sit all day over a single cup of coffee, or order light meal or a flute of champagne. Ensconce yourself indoors or stand at the bar (where prices are cheaper than sitting at a table), but most people choose to sit outside—in a glassed-in porch in winter or on the sidewalk in summer—because one of the cafés biggest attractions is the people-watching.

Many Parisian cafés are legendary, immortalized by historical circumstances and Hemingway novels

Of the thousands of cafés from simple, tiny local's joints to cavernous glittering belle époque bastions, here are some classics.

Classic Parisian cafés

Les Deux Magots

Established in 1885, this indoor-outdoor corner cafe was once the haunt of Picasso, Hemingway, and Sartre.
tel. +33-(0)1-45-48-55-25
www.lesdeuxmagots.fr
6 place St-Germain-des-Pres

Café de Flore

Sartre wrote whole trilogies holed up at a table at this Left Bank café frequented by Camus and Picasso and featured in Gore Vidal novels.
tel. +33-(0)1-45-48-55-26
www.cafedeflore.fr
172 bd. St-Germain-des-Pres

Fouquet's

The Champs-Elysées may no longer be Paris' hot spot, but Fouquet's is still going strong based on its reputation, good food, and favorable reviews by Chaplin, Churchill, Jacqueline Onassis, and Roosevelt.
tel. +33-(0)1-40-69-60-50
www.fouquetsbarriere.com
99 Champs-Elysées

La Couple

Henry Miller took his morning porridge at this brassiere that also hosted the likes of Josephine Baker, John Dos Passos, Dalí, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
tel. +33-(0)1-43-20-14-20
www.lacoupole-paris.com
102 bd. du Montparnasse

La Rotonde

Hemingway fans make a pilgrimage to the art nouveau interiors of the new La Rotonde, risen like a phoenix from the ashes of its namesake that once stood here. In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway writes of the original "No matter what café in Montparnasse you ask a taxi driver to bring you to...they always take you to the Rotonde."
tel. +33-(0)1-43-26-48-26
www.rotondemontparnasse.com
105 bd. du Montparnasse

 

 

 



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Café des Deux Magots
Café des Deux Magots, by Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. (Photo by Moyan Brenn)

 

 

Inside a Parisian café.
Prices are posted inside most Parisian cafés. You'll notice it costs less to drink at the bar than it does to sit at a table. (Photo by Gideon)