The 15 Best Traditional Cafés and Brasseries in Paris

Young man photographing French breakfast with croissants on the table in sidewalk cafe with smartphone, Paris, France
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

There is perhaps nothing more Parisian than taking a few moments out of your day to sit with an espresso in one of the city's thousands of cafés. Whether you're nestled indoors on a cozy banquette or lounging out on a sunny terrace, drinking and people-watching is one of the most cherished past-times in France. The café-brasserie makes a great refuge on rainy days in Paris, too. While there are charming and unique spots dotted all over Paris, this list focuses on some of the classics. Celebrated artists, writers, and musicians have frequented many of these traditional Paris cafes, most of which have done their best to retain that old-Paris glamor.

At any one of these establishments, you can expect classic French fare—including duck foie gras and beef tartare—as well as coffee, wine, and a selection of cheeses and desserts. Read on to discover the best cafés in Paris.

01 of 15

Café de la Paix

Cafe de la Paix
michaelclarke/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Address
5 Pl. de l'Opéra, 75009 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 40 07 36 36

Declared a historic site by the French government in 1975, this iconic café in the 9th arrondissement is the setting for many a painting, film, and poem. The ornate frescoed interior and proximity to the Paris Opera Garnier make this classic look more like a museum than a simple watering hole. Once loved by French writers such as Guy de Maupassant and Émile Zola, Café de la Paix is so well-known that legend claims that you will surely run into a friend there.

02 of 15

Le Select

The Select "American bar" was a favorite hangout for Henry Miller and other writers.
Advencap
Address
99 Bd du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 45 48 38 24

One of the great, classic Parisian café-brasseries in bustling Montparnasse, this one gets bragging rights for its long list of past clients. Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all took their coffee breaks here as the sun draped over them on the terrace. Mosaic tiles line the floor and prop up the wicker chairs found in most traditional Parisian cafés. The one noticeable difference between the cafe's former and current guise is the lack of cigarette smoke trails swirling through the air: smoking has, contrary to popular belief, been banned indoors.

03 of 15

Les Deux Magots

Cafe Les Deux Magots, St Germain des Pres.

John Borthwick/Getty Images

Address
6 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 45 48 55 25

When Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir weren’t debating across the street at Cafe de Flore, they were lounging here. Established in 1812, Les Deux Magots prides itself as a now-upscale hangout for tourists and the Paris elite. Grab a newspaper and a café crème, and plant yourself on the sunny terrace while you imagine the days when Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, and Pablo Picasso rubbed elbows in this very spot.

04 of 15

Café de Flore

Cafe de Flore, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Left Bank, Paris, France, Europe

Stuart Dee/Getty Images

Address
172 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 45 48 55 26

Across the street from rival Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore has changed little since World War II, with its red booths, wide mirrors, and an enviable clientele. While it has become a hotspot for tourists and upwardly mobile types and no longer attracts as many students and artists, it still merits a visit for the ambiance. The café once hosted Sartre and de Beauvoir’s passionate discussions, among those of many others.

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05 of 15

Bar Hemingway

The Hemingway Bar in Paris is now a site that commemorates the famous American writer.

Pablo Sanchez/Creative Commons

Address
15 Pl. Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 16 33 74

Located within the Ritz Hotel in the 1st arrondissement, Bar Hemingway was a favorite haunt of Sartre and James Joyce and pays special tribute to the eponymous American author with a wall display of 25 of his original photos from "A Moveable Feast." Enjoy beers from around the world here, or Hemingway's old favorite, the single malt whiskey. The wood-paneling and cushy leather stools will make you feel like you've just stepped onto the set of "An American in Paris."

06 of 15

La Closerie des Lilas

La Closerie des Lilas

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Address
171 Bd du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 40 51 34 50

If not for the glass-roofed area and brass rails, stop by this revered Montparnasse haunt—open since 1847—for its tables, which are name-plated after the café's former regulars: Oscar Wilde, Paul Cézanne, Emile Zola, and Paul Verlaine, to name a few. (Fun fact: Hemingway is said to have written sections of "The Sun Also Rises" at this very café). Enjoy an afternoon coffee, or stop in for a drink at the piano bar followed by a candlelit dinner in one of the comfortable banquettes.

07 of 15

Le Procope

France, Paris, cour de l'Ancienne Com??die, Le Procope restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Paris opened in 1686

ESCUDERO Patrick/Getty Images

Address
13 Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 40 46 79 00

To visit this café is to step back in time. The oldest café in Paris, Le Procope was founded in 1686, and to this day maintains a sense of regality with its chandelier-clad high ceilings and walls lined with antique paintings. It was once frequented by such emblematic figures as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Benjamin Franklin, when he served as the ambassador to France. Come in for a coffee and stay for Le Procope's scrumptious traditional French dishes, including coq au vin, beef-braised cheek, and French onion soup. After your meal, head up the stairs for a glimpse at Napolean III's hat, which he reportedly left behind as collateral to pay off his meal.

08 of 15

Le Tournon

Address
18 Rue de Tournon, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 42 01 38 54

Two steps from the Luxembourg Gardens, this swanky spot—formerly known as Le Café Tournon—is filled with the city’s journalists, politicians, and celebrities. The Saint-Germain neighborhood’s jazz scene got its start here, where Duke Ellington used to play with his band. Other luminaries include American writer James Baldwin and painter Beauford Delaney. Known for its selection of regional wines and market-fresh cuisine, Le Café Tournon is great for a mid-afternoon cappuccino or an evening meal.

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09 of 15

Fouquet's

Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris

Bruno De Hogues/Getty Images

Address
99 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 40 69 60 50

Founded in 1899, this café, restaurant, and accompanying hotel is the quintessential spot for Parisian hobnobbing. Retired French President Nicolas Sarkozy himself celebrated his electoral victory here in 2007, and Fouquet's is also a top venue for Cesar Film Awards after-parties. After having your photo taken atop the gold-plated stars on the sidewalk entrance, slide into one of the plush leather chairs for a drink overlooking the Champs-Elysées.

10 of 15

Le Train Bleu

Le Train Bleu, a historic restaurant circa 1900 in Paris, located in the Gare de Lyon

Courtesy of Le Train Bleu 

Address
Pl. Louis-Armand, 75012 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 43 09 06

Care to enjoy a traditional French lunch or dinner while taking in the action of an old-world train station? Le Train Bleu is an elegant brasserie circa 1900, built to celebrate the Universal Exposition of the same year in Paris. It's situated inside the Gare de Lyon station, making it an ideal place to stop on the way to other destinations in France, or while visiting the area. With its regal blue and gold color code, opulently decorated ceilings, and decked-out tables, the restaurant certainly speaks of the grandeur of the "Belle Epoque" era. If you don't wish to partake of the fixed-price or a la carte menu focused on classic brasserie dishes, you can always enjoy a beer, glass of wine, or coffee in one of the bars and lounges, designed with train-station romance in mind.

11 of 15

La Coupole

Address
102 Bd du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 20 14 20

As much of an elegant diner as a stylish café, La Coupole can be equally enjoyed for its iced coffees and flutes of champagne as for its shrimp scampi and platters of oysters. The former wood and coal store was transformed in 1927 into the largest brasserie in Paris and welcomed many Left Bank artists, including Joseph Kessel and Hemingway. The basement dancehall is an after-hours treat and was once a favorite of Josephine Baker, de Beauvoir, and Sartre. The Tango and Jazz tunes of yesteryear have been replaced with salsa, house, and electro-soul beats.

12 of 15

Café de la Rotonde

La Rotonde is a legendary cafe-brasserie in Paris' Montparnasse district.
Courtesy of La Rotonde
Address
105 Bd du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 26 48 26

Located just steps from La Coupole is a second brasserie with a storied history. Back when Victor Libio opened this corner café in 1911, starving artists like Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani could spend hours nursing a 10-centime cup of joe, paying only with a drawing if they didn’t have the cash. These days, drinks at La Rotonde cost a bit more than your latest work of art, but the café is still worth visiting for its Art Deco elegance and Old Paris feel.

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13 of 15

Le Baron Rouge

The Baron Rouge wine bar is located in the midst of Paris' most lively market streets.

Le Baron Rouge

Address
1 Rue Théophile Roussel, 75012 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 43 14 32

If you’re all coffee-ed out, check out this hip wine bar in the 12th arrondissement. Tables are makeshift, constructed from stacked-up wine crates and slabs of redwood, and the alcohol flows aplenty. Here, you can rub elbows with real Parisians, mostly young, middle-class folks stopping in for an after-work tipple. You'll have your pick of French wines to choose from, plus freshly shucked oysters and charcuterie to pair with your drink.

14 of 15

Café des Deux Moulins

Address
15 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 42 54 90 50

While some Parisian cafés start out as classics, others acquire status through creative means. This local corner café was chosen by French Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet to play host to several scenes in the 2001 film "Amélie" and has since paid tribute to it by decking out the place with movie stills, photos, and ceramic dwarfs in the restroom. Prepare to sip your Kronenbourg amidst the incessant flashing of tourists' cameras.

15 of 15

Hotel Costes

The chic neo-Baroque courtyard at the Costes.
Jeremy/Creative Commons
Address
7 Rue de Castiglione, 75001 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 42 44 50 00

The Hotel Costes is a five-star hotel, bar, and lounge that opened in 1991 under the direction of designer Jacques Garcia. Situated right in the heart of the Rue Saint Honoré fashion district, the Costes is frequented by wealthy jet-setters and those curious to get a glimpse of the elite lifestyle. While not strictly a café in the most traditional sense, it made our list because it's become a contemporary favorite for sipping an espresso, lounging with your shopping bags, and people-watching.

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The 15 Best Traditional Cafés and Brasseries in Paris