Taking a time-out at any of the historic Paris Cafés should be an integral part of your visit to Paris. These cafés in Paris are rich in history so I’ve shared just a bit of the history of each one.
Through the decades Parisians and non-Parisians alike have used cafés as an extension of their home, writing treatises, books and even postcards. Paris café culture dictates that one sips slowly on a beverage, ponders life and people watches.
People watching is great fun !
I’ve not had the chance (i.e. time) to visit all of these cafés in Paris but I want to share them with you as they have a history rich with literary giants and artists. These cafés are all located within walking distance of one another on the left bank, rive gauche, of Paris. You will find their location on the map below corresponding to their name color.
- Brasserie Balzar 49 rue des Ecoles, opened in the 1890s. James Thurber and Elliot Paul were regulars here. Balzar serves Alsatian food.
- Les Deux Magots, located at 6 Place St Germain des Près, was founded in 1812. If you take advantage of the outside tables, you will have a great view of the Church of St Germain des Près. As you write your postcards and sip on your drink, ponder the fact that the likes of Simon de Beauvoir, Picasso and Oscar Wilde (to name only a few) have also enjoyed this same view.
Les Deux Magots
- Café de Flore is just down the street from Les Deux Magots at 172 Boulevard St Germain. It was founded in 1865, being named for the Goddess of Flowers, Flore, whose statue used to grace the entry. Being at the intersection of two busy streets, its corner location makes it a wonderful Paris place for watching the world go by. It was once frequented by Picasso and Chagall, as well as Sartre and Beauvoir. Like many of his contemporaries, Sartre lived only a few blocks away.
Café de Flore
- Café de la Mairie on the quiet square at 8 Place St Sulpice has hosted Djuana Barnes, Hemmingway, Camus, Sartre and Beckett. Later, be sure to head on over to Galerie Commerciale Le Marché Saint-Germain on 14 rue Lobineau where you will find about 20 boutique shops. It’s only a 3 min walk in the direction of the Eiffel Tower.
- Café du Dôme, located at 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, this café in Paris dates from 1897. It is famous as a seafood restaurant. The Art Deco interior makes the inside as much a delight as the outside tables. Here you will find pictures of Beckett and other famous writers and brass plaques with the names of famous painters such as Modigliani.
- La Closerie des Lilas dates from the 19th century when it was a post stop on the way to Fontainebleau. Located at 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse (across from the Port Royal metro), this Paris café has hosted giants such as Modigliani, Picasso, Sartre, Gide, Wilde, Ezra Pound and others. Inside you will find little brass markers on the tables indicating these famous patrons.
La Closerie de Lilas
- Crémerie Restaurant Polidor at 41 rue Monsieur de Prince opened in 1845 as a crémerie and was a bistro by 1890. Close by is the Sorbonne. Patrons of this restaurant have included Kerouac, Joyce, Gide and Rimbaud.
- La Palette has the honor of repeatedly being named the best outdoor café in Paris. Located at 43 rue de Seine, on the corner of a tree lined square, it has been (and is) visited by the likes of Cezanne, Picasso, Hemmingway, Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts. You will find the Ecole des Beaux Arts just around the corner on rue Bonaparte.
- Le Petit St Benôit at 4 rue St Benoit has entertained Marguerite Dumas and François Mitterand. It is an inexpensive option and sure to please.
- La Procope, located at rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, opened in 1686 and is the oldest café in Paris. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Moliere, Voltaire, Zola, Rousseau and a host of others all came to this café. Don’t miss exploring Paris’ oldest passage Cour du Commerce Saint André while at the Procope.
- La Rotonde opened at 105 Boulevard du Montparnasse in 1911. Some of the famous people who have populated La Rotonde have been Lenin, Picasso, and Hemmingway. La Rotonde has the best sun at their outside tables so I’d head over to this historic Paris cafe if the day is on the chilly side!
Finding Historic Paris Cafes