01 of 06
Best Spots to Lounge, People-Watch, and Drink Outside
Getting antsy for some sun, or enjoying a drink in the open air on a warm night? Yes, we are, too. In Paris, le soleil is notoriously hard to come by from October through March. Come springtime, though, and Parisians are so crazy from cabin fever that any glimpse of those glorious rays has them out by the thousands-- we're not actually kidding-- on every terrace in the city. Any hint of good weather and you can expect to wait in some serious lines to get a seat outside, and you’ll notice that cafes with no outdoor seating are left practically barren. Evenings are much the same: the promise of warm(ish) night air and cocktails out in the open air draws locals and tourists alike in droves.
If you don’t want to be left sulking in the shade and missing out on prime people-watching opportunities, read on for our picks of Parisian cafes with some of the best terraces. Some are classic haunts favored by writers and other famous figures, and some are a bit more off the beaten track. Remember to pack your sunscreen and most pretentious pair of sunglasses, and get there early to choose a choice spot.
One word of warning, however: smoking laws in Paris do allow patrons to smoke outside on the terraces, even when these are partially enclosed. So if you're smoke-shy, you might want to go earlier in the day, and avoid the evenings when nightlife-goers crowd the terraces in part to light up.
Click through for our shortlist of the city's best and coolest terraces.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Le Perchoir: Panoramic Views and Stylish Locals
Especially for the young and style-aspiring set, an evening/sundown perch at this it-bar in the east of Paris is de rigueur. Don't let the place intimidate you if you don't match the description, though-- it's well worth a visit no matter your profile. Since opening a year-and-a-half ago, Le Perchoir’s rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of the city has been almost consistently packed. White tent-like fabric drapes over the central bar, while plush cushions line the benches set up around the rooftop.
Read related: Best Panoramic Views of Paris
Cocktails are pricey here, but wine and beer remain reasonable. There’s also a restaurant if you don’t manage to find a seat on the roof. Le Perchoir is only open in the evening hours so if you’re looking to catch some rays or a glimpse of the sunset, get here early. And like so many good things in Paris, prepare to wait in line outside. Also, make sure to peek in to the bathroom – just trust us, it’s quite the experience!
Address: 14 rue Crespin Dugast, 11th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 48 06 18 48
Metro: Menilmontant, Rue Saint-Maur or Saint-Ambroise
Open: daily from 4pm to 1amContinue to 3 of 6 below.
03 of 06
Café de Flore: Classic Old Haunt of Writers and Artists in St-Germain
No ‘best-of’ cafe terrace list is complete without this iconic café, situated in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus once waxed philosophical here over endless cigarettes and bitter black coffees, making the café a hot spot for the literary community in the 1930s.
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Nowadays, "le Flor" operates largely as a place to “see and be seen,” where you can find many of the city’s best-dressed sipping expensive espresso behind a pair of oversized sunglasses, alongside crowds of tourists hoping to relive a bygone Paris. If you’re glamorous by nature or just want to pretend, this café is a fabulous place to plant yourself after a morning of sightseeing – the full sun that often covers the chic terrace is just a bonus. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself within earshot of the jazz band that often plays outside the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey right next door.
Address: 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 48 55 26
Open: daily from 7:30am to 1:30amContinue to 4 of 6 below.
04 of 06
Rosa Bonheur: A Much-Coveted Parkside Terrace
Nestled in the hilltops of the Buttes Chaumont Romantic-style park in the city's far northeast corner, this stylish café/bar not only has envious views of the city, but provides some peace and calm within bustling Paris.
You might be tempted to just sit out on the grass – and you’d be completely within your rights – but take it from us, those slanted hills get uncomfortable quickly! Opt for a coffee or beer on one of the terrace’s pinewood picnic benches, as the park stretches out before you, or some organic carrot or apple juice. While the glow of the afternoon sun is certainly something to admire, you’ll be in prime position for some fabulous views of the sunset if you come in the early evening. And if you’re a night owl, Rosa Bonheur is the place-to-be, when the café turns from chill terrace into bumping nightclub complete with (PG-rated) pole dancing, cocktails and oysters to munch on.
Read related: Paris for Nightowls
Address: Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 2 avenue des Cascades, 19th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 00 00 45
Open: Tuesday to Friday 12pm to 12am, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 12am. Closed Mondays.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Le Playtime, For Seine River-side Dreaming and Drinking
Docked on the edge of the Seine River, next to the Cite de la Mode et du Design (Design and Fashion Institute), Le Playtime is one of several boat-slash-bars finding its way to the edge of the Paris waters. But this boat has more than just a bar onboard. Le Playtime is more like a floating vacation home in the middle of the city.
There’s a small pool on deck, perfect for cooling off during Paris’s surprisingly hot summers, as well as cushy chairs and chaise longues to sit in while you sip a banana shake or root beer. Or pop under the shelter of the bamboo canopy to enjoy a lunch of spiced pigeon or homedried tomato if the sun gets too intense. If you’re still here after night falls, try one of the specialty cocktails or have a dabble of prosecco, and strut your stuff on the boat’s dance floor. And if you’re looking for an evening out with a large group, you can reserve Le Playtime all to yourself. The restaurant is re-opening at the end of April after some intensive restoration efforts, so it should be nicer than ever.
Read related: 10 Best Nightclubs in Paris
Address: 34 Quai d'Austerlitz, 75013
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 84 35 89
Metro: Gare d’Austerlitz
Open: Daily from noon until the wee hours (from April 30th, 2015)Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06 of 06
Le Georges, for Panoramic Views Over Central Paris
Are you a modern art lover with a particular affinity for spectacular views? Well, then Le Georges is the perfect place to have your afternoon café crème. Situated at the tip-top of the infamous Centre Pompidou modern art museum and cultural center, this café offers a panoramic vantage of the city as well as a variety of drink and dessert options. What could go better with your espresso than a chocolate fondant, bourbon vanilla ice cream or mille feuille? Or how about strawberry and vanilla gelato or delicate apple pie as you gaze out at the Sacré Coeur and Eiffel Tower looming on the horizon?
The terrace is definitely the place to find a seat in this popular café/restaurant, but if you’re all sunned-out, the interior is almost as fascinating as the museum itself – geometric baby pink chairs sit against a silver worm-like structure, that dips and flows along the length of the café. The interiors have been featured in many a film, including Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (2014), starring Helen Mirren.
Address: 19 rue Beaubourg, 4th arrondissement
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 78 47 99
Open: Monday 11am to 12am, Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 2am, closed Tuesday
Enjoy this? Want more ideas for where to sit out and people-watch in the city of light? Read our picks for the best 15 classic cafe-brasseries in Paris here-- many of these also boast fantastic terraces.