La Closerie des Lilas gets less attention today than nearby, equally historic Paris cafes such as Les Deux Magots or Le Select. But despite enjoying considerably less fame than these legendary places, it's just as important a literary and artistic landmark in the French capital, having served as a watering hole and office for the likes of writers including Ernest Hemingway, Paul Verlaine, and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Featuring a restaurant with a pleasant, leafy terrace for dining al fresco in the warmer months, a cafe-brasserie and live music most evenings, La Closerie retains the ambiance of old-world Paris with its red leather booths, zinc bar and soft candlelight. It's situated between the southern end of the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse-- perhaps helping to explain just why it's long been a preferred place for writers and artists to hole away and create.
A Little History: Key Dates and Famous Patrons
La Closerie des Lilas first opened its doors in 1847. For reasons that remain somewhat elusive, it has always been a preferred spot for working, thinking and arguing for writers and artists, beginning with late 19th-century French greats such as Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Both Romantic poets penned some of their tortured verses at tables here. Later, at the turn of the twentieth century, it was favored as a watering hole and literary salon for the likes of the celebrated French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
In the 1920's, American expatriate artists and writers hobnobbed here and affectionately wrote about La Closerie, including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and John Dos Passos. Hemingway wrote at length about the cafe in his tender Parisian memoir, A Moveable Feast (1964):
“Then as I was getting up to the Closerie des Lilas with the light on my old friend, the statue of Marshal Ney with his sword out and the shadows of the trees on the bronze, and he alone there and nobody behind him and what a fiasco he'd made of Waterloo, I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be and I stopped at the Lilas to keep the statue company and drank a cold beer before going home to the flat over the sawmill.”
La Closerie des Lilas - Location and Contact Info
Address: 171 Boulevard de Montparnasse, 6th arrondissement
Metro/RER: Port Royal (RER B), Vavin (Line 4)
Tel: +33 (0)140 513 450
The restaurant is open every day from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and from 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm. The cafe/brasserie is open every day from 12:00 pm to 1:00 am. For restaurant dining, it's recommended that you reserve two to three days in advance, as this is a popular spot-- especially in the summer when the green terrace is overcrowded.
Other Sights and Attractions Around La Closerie
Typical Menu Options and Average Prices
La Closerie des Lilas offers typical French brasserie fare for prices that have clearly been inflated "thanks" to the historical cachet of the location. Dishes such as Red turbot filet, veal with truffle sauce or a traditional shellfish platter will set you back from 30-60 Euros depending on whether you choose to dine in the restaurant or in the less expensive cafe-brasserie section.
Payment Options: All major credit cards are accepted at La Closerie. No foreign checks are accepted.
Please note that the prices as described here were accurate at the time this article was published but may change at any time.