“Bonjour. Un café, s’il vous plaît.”
If there is a single phrase that a tourist in Paris should make sure to store in even the most jetlagged of brains, this just might be it.
Coffee. Café. Espresso. Noisette. Café Crème. The French take their coffee breaks quite seriously, and I mean this in the best of ways. A Parisian work day usually starts between 8:30 and 9:30 AM and by about 10:15, most are more than ready for their first coffee break of the day (or to “prendre une pause”).
Outside of work, meeting a friend for a coffee at a corner cafe can easily turn into a three hour catch up session- and the waiters could care less (as long as it’s not prime lunch or dinner time). If I’m walking the city on my own, I LOVE “pausing” for a coffee and people watching session with a book in tow. After all, French cafés line chairs in their outdoor dining space to face the streets for this very reason- you take your drink as you take in the city around you- c’est la vie parisienne!
Your coffee breaks while in Paris should not just be a caffeine fix, but a cultural experience! Below are the best Paris cafes to grab a cup of coffee for a variety of reasons, and therefore fit a variety of visitors. Enjoy playing “Le Visitor” and check out a few when you can!
“Le People Watcher”
29 Rue Cler
75007 Paris, France
Park yourself in one of Le Petit Cler’s striped wicker benches or chairs, order a café latte “à la parisienne,” and sit back and watch the show that is Parisian daily life! The cafe’s terrace faces the treasured Rue Cler, a cobble stoned pedestrian street that remains one of the most beloved Parisian street markets where locals still flock to complete daily shopping. Expect a bustling crowd of shoppers any day of the week, but Sunday morning is especially popular among the locals, as many pick up their supplies to prepare a family meal following morning mass at the nearby St. Pierre du Gros Caillou. Get there early on a Sunday to beat the crowd, then reward yourself by ordering the cafe’s “petit dejeuner complet,” which comes with coffee, fresh squeezed juice, homemade bread, and eggs of your choice.
“Le Quintessentially Parisian”
2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir
75018 Paris, France
Up in the hills of the charming Montmartre neighborhood, an easy amble from Sacré-Cœur Basilica, lies a little pink house with green shutters nestled among vines and cobblestones. That pink maisonette is none other than La Maison Rose, a little cafe that has persevered since the early 1900s, regularly serving artists like Picasso and Dali, and being photographed or painted by many more. A staple and landmark of the Montmartre neighborhood for generations, you can still sit out on the patio sipping an espresso while watching the neighborhood locals (“des montmartrois”) greet each other with a fresh baguette or bag of vegetables in tow.
*One important thing to note is that this is a full restaurant, and proper French restaurant etiquette should be respected (in a nutshell, if you come during regular mealtime, it will be expected that you order a meal), but you can stop by for a coffee or snack between 3 and 6 PM (15h-18h) any day of the week!
“When You’re Doing it for the Gram”
39 Quai de la Loire
75019 Paris, France
Located in the trendy 19th arrondissement along the banks of the Bassin de la Villette, this quirky coffeehouse is in an old house, and every room will turn you into “that tourist” who needs to take a picture. It may even have you standing in line upstairs for a chance to enjoy your coffee IN the bathtub filled with eclectic pillows and surrounded by houseplants. The last time we were here I made my husband share some drinks in the retro kitchen upstairs, then go back to for some tapas on the whimsical outdoor patio because I couldn’t just pick one space! Le Pavillon des Canaux is truly a communal gathering place- you will see remote workers sitting next to families sitting next to businessmen. This coffeehouse is directly caddy corner to la base nautiques de la Vilette, one of the City’s two recreational water spots, where you can rent kayaks and canoes to take out onto the canal. Have a go then reward yourself with an artisanal beer from the neighboring Paname Brewing Co. (See, this could be an entirely gram-worthy DAY, not just coffee stop)!
“When You’re Feeling that Fancy French Life”
226 Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris, France
Today, there are Angelina tea rooms throughout Paris and around the world, but when you enter 226 Rue de Rivoli, you are stepping into the original Belle Epoque gourmet confectionery institution. Founded in 1903 and named after his daughter-in-law (in-law relationship GOALS), Anton Pumpelmayer opened Angelina’s in the heart of Paris, just north of the Louvre and Tuileries Garden, and it soon became the place to take your tea while rubbing shoulders with the Paris elite like Coco Chanel (ask for table 45 to see her old spot).
You can’t go to Angelina’s and not try their world famous hot chocolate- it is divine liquid heaven. However, it is also incredibly rich, so my personal tip is to go with someone else, and one person orders hot chocolate, the other orders a café creme, and you share. Trust me, that jolt of caffeine will be appreciated- especially if you also opt to share one of their signature Mont-Blanc pastries (you should!) or spring for the full afternoon tea spread (you should!). If you make it to Angelina’s be sure to have a wander in the neighboring Librairie Galignani bookstore.
“Le Coffee Snob”
52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville
Think the French are solely passionate about drinking good wine? Think again! La Caféothèque channels all the passion we associate with French wine production into the art of coffee (their coined term for it is “Caféology”). They opened up their first coffee lounge in 2005 and founded the School of Coffeeology, trainer of “coffee sommeliers,” in 2011. This multi-room cafe allows you to come sample coffees from around the world, and you can even sign up to take coffee roasting and barista classes. Although to be honest, my favorite menu item is their house affogato- a scoop of ice cream “noyée en espresso” (literally “drowned” in their espresso).Short on time? You can always order from their online coffee shop here.
“Le Coffee with a View”
Tour Maine Montparnasse, 56ème étage
Avenue du Maine
75015 Paris, France
Le Ciel de Paris (The Sky of Paris) is named quite appropriately as its located on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower in the 15th arrondissement. While the standalone black skyscraper is considered a Parisian eyesore, the view from the top is absolutely unparalleled. From 8-10:45 AM, you can enjoy a full continental breakfast for 15 euros or just get a coffee and pastry while watching the morning sun flood the City of Light with the Eiffel Tower front and center. You can also grab your coffee (or advance to a cocktail!) in the late afternoon before they begin serving dinner at 7 PM (19h). This is especially fantastic during the fall and winter months, when the sun sets early evening and you get to watch the entire city switch their lights on. Très lumineux!
“Just give me a full cup of black coffee, dammit”
35 Rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris, France
Yes, the French love their morning espresso, but sometimes I need something that lasts me more than three gulps. If you are like me, you can order “un café allongé” instead (literally a “long coffee”), where they use a larger cup and add hot water to the espresso. Yes, this is basically what we know as an americano, but they still only tend to fill up your cup half way. I quickly adjusted, as a good expat can and should, but sometimes head to the Shakespeare & Co. Café for a full cup of coffee, brewed the boring American way. The café is directly to the left of the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, brews local beans from Café Lomi of the 18th arrondissement, and offers fresh baked goods (I recommend George’s famous lemon pie), as well as vegan and gluten-free dishes.
Note- this is a busy, touristy hot spot- not really a place to bring your laptop and set up shop!
“When You Want to Sip with Parisians but Need Good Wifi”
53 Avenue Trudaine
75009 Paris, France
KB joined the “free wifi” revolution early and has since played a huge role in the specialty coffee revolution that has permeated the “new Paris” in recent years. Today, it’s hugely popular with Parisians and expats alike. Most tourists get off the Anvers metro stop and head north to climb the Montmartre steps, but head south away from the crowds and in a few blocks you’ll be in South Pigalle, where the locals of the 9th arrondissement do daily life and often stop for KB’s handcrafted coffee and sprawling outdoor patio. Order a flat white to match the white domes of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica popping over Rue Viollet-le-Duc
Hooked already? You can also find the same coffee and an even more extensive breakfast menu at their newer sister cafe, Back in Black, in the equally trendy Bastille neighborhood.
“Le Spoken English Guarantee”
17 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe
75004 Paris, France
Sometimes, after a bad bout with that big bully that we call the French language, you just need to be able to go somewhere and give your brain a break from exercising your foreign language skills. It’s fine, all of us lonely expats have been there. Le Peloton Café is run by a friendly group of Aussie expats who also run Bike About Tours and you can stop in for a quick cuppa or long conversation. Also, feel free to bring your laptop and work along the coffee bar or outside on their signature yellow chairs. Nestled in a small space along the darling Rue du Pont Louis Philippe in the chic Marais district, you can pop in for a flat white, craft beer, or one of their gourmet waffles after perusing the neighboring boutiques.
3, boulevard des Capucines
75002 Paris FR
You’re jet lagged, your feet are sore, and you need a pick-me-up in the form of your regular Starbucks order. Well folks, I hear you and I see you. Ok, ok, so I used to judge you, but I take it all back. Sometimes you just need a venti mocha and a place to charge your phone. But if you are going to spend time in a Starbucks in Paris, might as well make it a good one!
This is the most ornate Starbucks I’ve ever laid eyes upon! It is located just down the street from the Opéra metro stop and around the corner from the world famous Paris opera house, Palais Garnier (and furnished accordingly). The crystal chandeliers hanging from ornately painted ceilings, marble columns and mirrored walls will make you feel as if you are meeting Napoleon for tea instead of grabbing a venti soy latte with your travel buddy. There is a large, ornate room filled with leather couches, roundtables, and community tables with desk lamps- a fantastic spot to work on a paper or curl up with your favorite Sartre or Hemingway- you just might have to get there early to claim a spot.
“Le Late Night Sipper”
Le Café Marly at the Louvre
93 Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris, France
Curled up in one of Café Marly’s ornate booths facing the brilliantly illuminated Louvre Pyramids on a cold winter under a heater with a warm, comforting drink in hand is a wonderful way to end a relaxing night in the City of Light. Caffeine keep you up at night? Order le lait chaud vanille (hot vanilla milk) or a vin chaud instead and watch the stars twinkle above the fantastic Louvre architecture. If you play your cards right, you can score a seat under a heater outside that also gives you view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower.