Cafes in Paris, as well as buvettes, restaurants and bars, are on almost every street corner, which just goes to show that food and drink is an essential part of Parisian culture. Finding the best from such a choice is a challenge, but those that are long-established may be a good indicator.
Coffee in Paris is different to elsewhere in the world. Instant coffee is a rarity here, and free refills are unheard of (as is the case in Europe generally). Traditional hot beverages in France also include tea (served without milk and sometimes with a slice of lemon), and hot chocolate. Incidentally cafes in France also serve alcohol including wine throughout the day.
Cafes in Paris traditionally have different scales for drinks depending on where you sit. The most expensive seats are out on the sidewalk and window seats, while the cheapest seats are at the rear of the cafe or standing at the bar.
A big part of the enjoyment of Paris cafes is to linger and people watch, and there is always so much to see.
Cafes in Paris are also a place to indulge in sweet treats. Behind chilled glass counters french pastries and fruit tarts are made with a skill and delicacy which is not found anywhere else in the world. Sweet pastries, tiny chocolate puffs, eclairs, mille-feuilles, custards and marzipan-wrapped sponges all slip down so easily between meals. The mystery is how french women manage to eat these rich treats and remain so petite!
Lunchtime favorites in Paris cafes include savory quiche, served warm or cold, or crusty baguettes filled with simple but delicious fare. Fresh runny Brie with grapes, rich meaty pate with onion, pastry-wrapped pies and sausages all fill the air with a delicious aroma. Plain fare never tastes as good as when bought fresh and eaten outdoors at a cafe table or on a park bench straight from the paper bag.
Famous French Cafes
One of the best cafes in Paris is…the Cafe le Paris, on the Champs-Elysees. Despite the uninspiring name, this non-touristy cafe is frequented by Parisians who work in the area. It is an ideal stop for a cafe au lait during a day of sightseeing.
Cafe Les Deux Magots fulfills a different role in french culture. This Paris institution is famous for being an intellectual center for debate and discussion. Once the meeting place for literature legends such as John Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and Simone de Beauvoir, this famous cafe is usually packed with people and the air is buzzing with serious debate. The freshly ground coffee and delicate china teacups add to the appeal.
Cafe Les Editeurs on Carrefour de l’Odeon is perhaps the best place to sample Paris’s cafe culture. It has an extensive menu of coffees, teas and light snacks; the wood lined walls and leather banquette seating is very typical of french cafe culture.