My mother, Jenny wrote this post about some of her favorite cafes in Paris, France.
Paris is the home of cafe culture, although in recent years many of the celebrated cafes have declined, unable to keep up with the changes that have taken place. The relatively recent ban on smoking along with a younger and more demanding clientele have forced many cafes to close their doors, but cafe culture is still alive and thriving.
Sitting in a cafe, whiling away the afternoon and watching people on the move, is still a pleasant experience. Perhaps the best suggestion to tourists concerning which cafe to frequent, is to have low expectations. This may sound a very negative viewpoint, but cafes are only as good as the people who work in them, and this can change on a regular basis. The location is perhaps more important, depending on whether you just want a coffee or whether you want a full dining experience.
Paris is an expensive city, so whatever you do regarding eating and drinking is not going to be cheap. The best thing to do is to get an idea of how much coffee or croissants cost in an average cafe and the price of the plat du jour, or menu of the day. That way, you can be a better judge of whether you are paying over the odds or not. That is fine if you think the location is worth it, but it still needs to be a good standard of food or drink and reasonably good service. Sometimes it seems that waiters have selective vision, they can spot a tourist a mile off, and will willingly serve the more local clientele first. Depending on how long before they actually take your order and how quickly it arrives, will give you an idea of the service performance. After that, it is the ambiance of the cafe, the price and of course the quality and taste of whatever you have ordered. Don’t be afraid to walk out if the service is too slow.
If you are going for location, the Brasserie Ile St. Louis, is one of my favourites. Located on the Ile St. Louis, it is just over the St. Louis bridge , which joins the Ile with the Left Bank. It is great place to sit and watch the world go by. The brasserie has an almost panoramic view of the Seine and the surrounding area of St Louis. The food is good, although a little expensive.
Just across the river on the Left bank of the Seine and situated on the very upmarket St. Germain des Pres, is the cafe Les Deux Magots. It was made famous as an intellectual haunt by the writer Jean Paul Sarte, his partner Simone de Beauvoir and other writers and artists such as Ernest Hemmingway, James Joyce and Picasso. The cafe is just across the road from the church and is in a very chic neighbourhood, with designer shops and small boutiques. The old fashioned hot chocolate served in pots is a speciality.
The name originally belonged to fabric and novelty shop, which also sold lingerie. The shop took its name from a play of the day (1800s) Les Deux Magots de la Chine, Two figurines from China. August Boulay bought the business in 1914 when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and his great great granddaughter is still the manager today.
Another great location is Focquet’s on the Champs Elysee. It is also a hotel and a brasserie, but it is still possible to have afternoon tea or a coffee there and watch the celebrity world go by. Again, this is expensive, but just for the experience of sitting on the Champs Elysee, it is worth a visit. For anything more than a coffee or tea or even a glass of wine or beer, prepare to pay dearly for the pleasure!
The Cafe des 2 Moulins in Montmartre was made famous by Jean Pierre-Jeunet’s classic film, Amelie. Ten years after the film’s release, it is still a popular haunt for tourists on a pilgrimage tour of Amelie’s Montmartre, but has largely gone back to being a local neighbourhood cafe. It is still a good place to stop off for breakfast or a coffee and has a great vantage point to watch the lively street market.
For a complete change, the Frog and Rosbif pub just off the rue Montorgueil is an interesting place to stop off for a drink. It is essentially an English pub, with a brewery in the cellar. It has a happy hour everyday, 5.30pm-8.pm and has a great brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, with a pub quiz on Sundays from 8.30 pm. The menu is mainly English with beer battered fish and chips a popular favourite along with the burgers.
The pub just around the corner from one of the oldest market streets in Paris and is a great location to go exploring and particularly at Christmas with a wide variety of stalls selling everything from food and wine to arts and crafts.