My Favorite Café Is…La Belle Hortense

by Filly di Somma

I used to organize a literary evening at La Belle Hortense with an international writers group—a mixer for new authors where we’d discuss books and drink wine. Where better to host such an event than La Belle Hortense, because it’s not just a café; it’s a book store, too.

©Lisa Anselmo

Since 1997, this café, with its facade of electric blue, in the heart of the Marais on rue Vieille du Temple, is a literary oasis for all who pass in this trendy Paris neighborhood. On the facade is posted: Cave-Librairie-Bar Littéraire (Wine Shop-Book Shop-Literary Bar), and La Belle Hortense is all this, and more.

Every day from 17h to 2h (5pm-2am) you can stop by for a drink (there’s a good selection of French wines by the glass, or bottle), buy or browse something from their stock of beautiful novels and other books then sit, either at the bar or comfortably installed in the well-lit room at the back. The hours pass quickly in this timeless place— the sort you can only find in Paris.

The old zinc bar where you can have a glass and a read. There are tables, too. And if you’re hungry, they’ll order in from one of their cafés across the street. ©Lisa Anselmo
View toward the back room. Lots of little nooks where you can sit and read. ©Lisa Anselmo

From time to time, La Belle Hortense also offers readings associated with wine tastings . The wine producer and the author of the book are both present, and you can chat with these knowledgable people. What could be more Parisian? And if you’re hungry, you can visit, or order in from, one of their three other cafés across the street, all owned by restaurateur, Xavier Denamur: Les Philosophes, Au Petit Fer à Cheval, and L’Etoile Manquante. Xavier is a fascinating man, and has a few books of his own, which are also on sale at the café.

Books and booze happily reside together on the bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
The hostess pauses from serving her clients to stock the bookshelves. ©Lisa Anselmo

At this magical literary café you’re encouraged to consume both wine and books “without moderation,” either to stay, or to take away. But why not stay? La Belle Hortense is a beautiful combination of my two most favorite things: literature and oenology, and I highly recommend you explore it.

The eclectic selection of books, just across from the zinc-top bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
A whimsical chandelier hangs overhead while you read and sip. ©Lisa Anselmo
Detail of the back room. The building dates from the 17th Century. ©Lisa Anselmo

La Belle Hortense, 31, Rue Vieille du Temple, 4ème.
Métro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie, 01.48.04.71.60

FILLY di SOMMA is a hospitality professional who lives between Rome and Paris. She grew up in her family’s hotel business in Castellammare di Stabia, in Italy, and hospitality is in her blood. She has dedicated her career to bringing people of different cultures together via tourism, and organizes cultural events such as Paris Hospitality, Discovering Japan in Paris, Social Writing, and Paris Italian culture. Filly speaks five languages including Japanese, and is also a travel journalist, contributing regularly to Where Rome, among others. Discover her blog.

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