A Tour of Paris’s Legendary Cafés

This week’s post comes to you from freelance writer Laura Pellerine. I hope you enjoy her tour of some iconic Paris cafés.  It certainly brought back some wonderful memories for me.  In fact, I can almost taste that buttery, flaky croissant now.  (Did your favourite café make the list?)

Cafés in Paris have long been known as places to sip and be seen—even as early as the 1700s, when famous clientele like Benjamin Franklin and Voltaire would sit for coffee breaks. While there are many to choose from, here are a few beloved spots to get you started:

Breakfast in Paris | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Café de la Paix

Opened in 1862, this famous café was declared a historic site by the French government in 1975. Sitting across from the Paris Opera Garnier, expect a high-end atmosphere, classic interior décor, and formal wait staff, in other words, it’s not a place to head to in your jeans, or on a budget. The Prince of Wales Edward VII once visited its space, and the Café de la Paix was beloved by writers and artists like Guy de Maupassant, Emile Zola, Jules Massent and Robert Service.

Tip: If historic cafés piqué your interest, you may also like Le Procope. Founded in 1686, it is the oldest café in Paris and once hosted icons like Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.

Sidewalk Cafe in Paris | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Le Select

This classic Parisian café, originally established in 1923, offers a reasonably priced menu and a casual vibe, with worn wooden tables, wicker chairs and friendly servers. Legends like Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald would once take coffee breaks here, and you’ll find a nice selection of liqueurs as well as items like freshly shucked oysters.

Les Deux Magots

Though it originally started out as a drapery and then as a wine merchant, this famous café grew into its own in 1914, and quickly became a Paris hot spot.  Oscar Wilde was known to stop in for tea, and before WWII, it evolved into a hub for writers and artists. Philosopher, novelist and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir would meet here every morning, though these days it’s more of an upscale hangout for tourists and locals.

The Seine River in Paris | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

Le Café Tournon

Nestled close to the Luxembourg Gardens, this swanky café is known to attract celebrities, journalists and politicians. In the ’50s, African-American writers and artists like James Baldwin and Richard Wright were known to gather here, and Austrian writer Joseph Roth once lived above the café. It’s also famous for being home to jazz band Duke Ellington’s Paris début. Today Chef Patrick Canal’s menu incorporates local, fresh cuisine and features dishes like duck confit, a foie gras tasting plate and dry sausage.

Café des 2 Moulins

More of a recent legend, this corner café rose to fame after appearing in the 2001 movie Amélie (where the main character worked as a waitress). Tourists still seek out a chance to sip a coffee or one of its classic French dishes like warm goat cheese and calf liver, its main patrons are neighborhood locals. On a nice day, grab a seat outdoors and people watch.

Moulin Rouge, Paris | TheCulinaryTravelGuide.com

If you’re interested in cafés that specialize in coffee beans, check out:

Café Verlet: This coffee shop has been around for 100 years, and features more than 20 varieties of freshly roasted single-origin beans and house blends.

Merce and the Muse: A hip, New York City style café with lightly roasted beans, and a barista who trained with the famous Coffee Collective in Denmark.

Le Cafeotheque: Owner Gloria Montenegro gets beans through trading directly from small plantations around the world. Beans are roasted daily and brewed on the highly respected La Marzocco espresso machine.

Author Bio: Laura is a freelance writer who loves to travel and regularly writes for Luxury Retreats, the world leader in personalized vacations around the world, including prestigious villas in France, Hawaii and the Caribbean name a few. Laura’s favorite destinations include Maui, New Orléans, Dublin, Banff and anywhere in Atlantic Canada.

8 Comments

  1. I was in Paris for New Year’s Eve in 1997 and it was so cold we spent the time hopping from cafe to cafe. I would have no idea what they were, but I remember all the food we ate was delicious! These spots sure do look good…

    Reply
    • Now that’s a memorable way to spend New Year’s Eve! I’d love to do that.

      I have the same problem as you when it comes to remembering the names of the cafes – probably because there are so many of them. I remember where my favourites are and would recognize them as soon as I saw them, but that’s it :D

      Reply
  2. I’m with you guys and hopping from cafe to cafe.

    Reply
  3. I have yet to go to Paris and my new years resolution is to change that in 2013! Although I have heard of Les Deux Magots and plan to visit as many as I can. I especially love the spots that Hemingway visited and will most definitely compile a list before I go. Although this list really helps with my planning!

    Reply
    • Hi Murissa,

      Sorry for the slow reply. I was in Las Vegas until Christmas Eve and had a tough time finding free wifi.

      I’m also a big Hemingway fan and made a point to visit the Hemingway Bar in the Ritz when I was there (closed now until 2014 for a massive renovation). Best of the holidays to you and I hope you can make good on your resolution. Paris is amazing!

      Cheers,
      Laura

      Reply
      • Thanks so much Laura!
        Hope you had a great time in Vegas with some delicious food. We are thinking of going back in the new year but I have found that the last time I was there in September the economy has really effected the overall vibe of the casinos and such.

        Do you have a specific time of year you suggest I go to Paris/France in general? I love art, food and definitely hope to spend a day or two at Versailles. Right now I am thinking August-September.
        In Venice I made it to Harry’s Bar where Hemingway hung out. It was a fun experience.
        Hope you had a merry christmas and have a happy new year!

        Reply
        • Hi Murissa,

          Las Vegas was much busier than I expected it to be the week before Christmas but I loved the holiday displays – especially at The Venetian. And of course, I loved the food! (Stand-outs were the braised lamb shank at Mon Ami Gabi, Kobe beef sliders at The Fix, and truffle pizza at Mario Batali’s Otto.)

          I went to Paris in Sep-Oct. It was very busy and very HOT in Sep. Humidity was at 98% and temperatures were in the mid-30s. Lines at all of the major attractions were very long – we waited over 2 hours at The Eiffel Tower. The metro was stifling and most of the old churches and buildings don’t have a/c (including Versailles). I enjoyed the first 10 days of Oct more. The weather was cooler and the city was a little less busy. I was also there for Nuit Blanche (the first Sat in Oct), a once in a lifetime experience I’ll never forget!

          Happy New Year!
          Laura

          Reply

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