The streets of Paris are lined with cafés that look practically identical. With their red and white wicker chairs, round tables, ashtrays, and people-watching wine-drinkers, it is nearly impossible to pick which one to visit. However, when you step off the main streets you quickly discover the wealth of precious cafés hiding along empty side streets. From walls lined with books to kitchens built in vans, these five Parisian cafés are that little something special that every traveler dreams of finding. Pick your favorite or visit all five and enjoy Paris the way locals do.
L’Improbable — 7 Rue des Guillemites
This old warehouse has been transformed into a hip and eclectic café you could get lost in. Their seating options range from bar stools to hanging wicker chairs to bean bags and vintage couches, so everyone is guaranteed to find a comfortable place to enjoy one of their mouth-watering sandwiches. One of their most popular varieties is the prosciutto, goat cheese, walnut, and honey masterpiece. Vegetarians, fear not, as they serve plenty of veg-friendly as well.
This is truly a place of oddities; when you stop by, take some time to explore the café. Little treasures await those who are willing to discover them. For example, see if you can my favorite sign hidden amongst the assorted décor, informing customers that “tout est normal ici” (everything is normal here).
Cafeotheque — 52 Rue de l'Hôtel de ville
This trendy café sits just around the corner from the Seine, but when you step into their overgrown shop, you’ll feel more like you’re in South America than Paris. They brew socially conscious coffee that they trace from plant-to-cup and take pride in their beans; they refuse to mix coffee beans from different regions for fear of losing the local flavor, so don’t ask. The time and care the staff puts into the drink is clear, as this was easily the best cup of coffee you’d find in Paris.
Coutume Café (Instituutti Finlandais) — 60 Rue des Ecoles
The Coutume Café tucked inside the Finish Institute of Paris has the friendliest, funniest employees in the city. Their coffee and tea menu is pretty traditional, but some of my favorites were their iced latte, cold brew, chai tea latte, and daily flavor of iced tea (clearly I went there too often). They serve a variety of salads and sandwiches, but their quiche is truly unforgettable; just make sure you ask them to heat it up.
Though one table is a laptop/tablet free zone, they do have free Wi-Fi and you will see students filling the rest of the tables, writing essays and staring at French textbooks. This café is in the heart of many popular Parisian destinations (the Notre Dame, Shakespeare & Co, Musée de Cluny, La Sarbonne, etc) and is worth a visit when you are in the area.
La Belle Hortense — 31 Rue Vieille du Temple
Paris is home to over 200 bookstores and hundreds of wine bars, but a bookstore and a wine bar combined? Of those I only found one. La Belle Hortense is a tiny cove tucked between restaurants in Le Marais, but it is well worth squeezing in. The wine list is multiple pages long and if you’re not well versed in varieties of wine, the bar staff will gladly help you out. All of the books on their shelves are for sale and though most of them are in French, they do have a small selection of English books for sale.
The bar itself is too small to fit a kitchen, but fear not; you will not go hungry. They serve an incredible selection of small plates from the always-crowded restaurant, Les Philosophes, across the street that will remind you why Paris is famous for its food. This spot is built for the literary dorks and wine aficionados out there, but every traveler will find something to love about this hideaway bar.
Used Book Café — 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais
This is another literary themed café that book lovers will love. Don’t be fooled by the oversized department store, Merci, just a few steps above the café; this is still a must-visit for any travelers in Paris. The book-lined walls and ornate chandeliers will cause you to pause and have that moment of “oh my gosh, I am actually in Paris right now, this is amazing.” The French woman that runs the café is constantly smiling ear to ear and will tell you her favorite items on the menu as soon as you sit down. They do serve coffee and wine, but I recommend trying one of their iced teas or fresh squeezed lemonade. Better yet, enjoy a proper afternoon tea with the day’s flavor of scones made earlier that morning.
In conclusion: Paris is full of surprises
Though you’re guaranteed to enjoy your trip in Paris for the sole reason that you will be in Paris, these cafés will add that extra umph that will make your time in Paris unforgettable. Who knows, maybe you’ll find some undiscovered cafés of your own! Be sure to tell us about any discoveries in the comments below. Bon voyage!
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