Category Archives: Paris Cafés

Lily Heise’s Romantic Café Picks

Author Lily Heise (Je T’Aime, Me Neither; Je T’Aime…Maybe?) shares her favorite romantic spots to cozy up with your amour this Valentine’s Day—or any day.

Parisian cafés serve a variety of purposes. Regulars pop in for their morning petit café on the way to work. Some come mid morning to linger over un café crème. Le plat du jour satisfies busy office workers lunchtime hunger pains and there’s nothing quite as perfect as celebrating the end of the work day over a glass of le vin du mois. Cafés also serve as the ideal spot for dates in Paris. That said, your café du coin might not be the right place for some wooing. From historic to hidden, these cafés all offer the perfect setting for a romantic meet-up in the City of Love:

 Le Jardin du Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill, 8ème;

Courtesy of Jardin du Petit Palais

For a touch of elegant grandeur, rendezvous with your romantic interest in front of Le Petit Palais, the City of Paris Art Museum, where its glitzy facade will already set the tone for your chic date. Located overlooking an opulent, leafy courtyard is one of Paris’s most attractive museum cafés. If things are going well, you can suggest extending your date by perusing the museum’s collections ranging from Roman statues to Impressionist greats (and it’s free!).

Musée de la Vie Romantique
Hotel Scheffer-Renan, 16 Rue Chaptal, 9ème;

©Lily Heise

You can’t find a more suitable setting for a romantic meet-up then at the City of Paris Museum of the Romantic Era (Musée de la Vie Romantique). Built in 1830 for Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, the house became the hub of intellectual Paris of the Romantic Era of the first half of the 19th century. On a given soirée held at the house, you might have crossed paths with Georges Sand, Chopin, Eugène Delacroix, or Franz Liszt. The small museum houses art and artifacts linked to the period (also free), however, its equally romantic courtyard café, nestled within the greenery and flowers of the garden, is open to anyone, and is sublimely romantique.

Café Louis-Philippe
66 Quai de l’Hotel de Ville, 4ème;

©Lily Heise

This charming joint is a great choice for a classic café experience without having to take out a mortgage to pay for two coffees like at most historic cafés. With a simple old-school decor of wooden bistro tables and chairs, a beautiful iron spiral staircase, a wonderful sunroom and terrace looking towards one of the most alluring streets of Paris (Rue des Barres), your petit café or petit Chablis will be delivered by an aproned waiter who will leave you be, Parisian style, so you can take your time gazing into your chéri/e’s eyes from across the table. Afterwards, keep the romancing going by strolling up Rue des Barres and through the quiet streets of the lower Marais.

Le Zimmer
1 Place du Chatelet, 1ère;

Courtesy of Le Zimmer

If you’re looking to combine history with glamour, the centuries-old café of the Chatelet Theatre fits the bill perfectly. Opened in 1896 during the great brasserie craze of Paris, this café has had a makeover—relooking—by star interior designer Jacques Garcia who, thankfully, kept many of its historic features and seductive feel of La Belle Epoque—including gilded mirrors, painted wood ceilings, and velour drapery. It’s Paris romantic chic at its best—without too much of a fuss.

Hôtel des Marronniers
21 Rue Jacob, 6ème;

©Lily Heise

There are a few hidden cafés in Paris and the one located in this discreet hotel in the 6th arrondissement is one of the most romantic. Meet your date nearby, perhaps in front of Saint-Germain-dès-Pres church, and then lead around to this address, where she or he will be instantly enchanted by the peaceful courtyard of the hotel. Going inside, make your way to the back, and you’ll find a glassed-in sunroom behind which is a terrace with intimate seating amidst flowers and statues. It’s not so well known, so you might even have the café all the yourselves.

Le Lieu Secret
7 Rue Francis de Pressensé, 14ème;

©Lily Heise

Another hidden café, the “secret place” was formerly known as L’Entrepot, a historic cultural center that has recently been saved from closure. The building has already seen a few lives. Originally a textile warehouse (“entrepot” in French), in 1975 it became an important venue for the promotion of avant garde cinema. This “new” space hasn’t abandoned its roots, so after having a drink in its “secret” café—with soaring warehouse ceilings, a large glass atrium, and a quiet back courtyard—you could further your date with a play, film, or concert.

Pavillon des Canaux
39 Quai de la Loire, 19ème;

©Lily Heise

Perfect for dreamy romantics, this whimsical café is found at the end of the Basin de la Villette, where it becomes the Canal de l’Ourcq. This former lock-keeper’s home has been converted into an eclectic space where you can choose to sit in a plush sofa in the living room, around the retro table in the kitchen, in the bathtub in the bathroom…or on the bed in the bedroom. After your drink, you can extend your date with a stroll along the canal.

81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10ème

©Lily Heise

As you might guess from its name, this modern café doesn’t only offer up a good cup of coffee, it doubles as a flower shop. So before or after you’ve sipped your way through an excellent latte and nibbled on a piece of moist cake, you can surprise your date with one of their original flower bouquets. The café is small, so avoid taking a date here on weekend afternoons. If it’s full, you could always get your coffee and bouquet to go!

LILY HEISE is a Canadian travel writer, author, and romantic expert who has lived in Paris since 2000. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Frommer’s, (Travel), among others. She is also the author of two lively books on searching for love in Paris, Je T’Aime, Me Neitherand Je T’Aime…Maybe?. Lily shares tips on Paris date ideas and romantic travel on her website and leads romantic tours of Paris.
Discover her world at
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Cover photo courtesy of Pavillon des Canaux

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The Local Café: Where Everyone Can Belong

by Lisa Anselmo

I’m sitting in my local café at lunchtime, which I use as my office. The WiFi is excellent, the manager and wait staff are welcoming and accommodating. There are no rules, no restrictions here, no signs warning “Laptops Forbidden.” I’m able to adapt the café to suit my life as I need, and it’s as though that’s expected. No one is imposing an agenda on me; they want me to feel at home, to call this place my own. This is the beauty of the cafés and bistros of Paris: they are an extension of our homes, and an indispensable part of our lives.

The lunch crowd has arrived. Next to me is a young couple and their baby; across, sit three woman, one in a hijab; beside them, two men huddle over a laptop discussing what looks like architectural drawings. Just outside on the terrace, a small group of construction workers of various origin are no doubt taking a break from renovating a nearby apartment, their work togs covered in plaster dust and paint. 

The clientele at this café represents the makeup of the neighborhood: Jewish, Muslim, hipsters, Millennials, old-timers, and newcomers—all of us living in the same buildings together, our lives mingling on a daily basis.

Cafés are essential for local communities—inclusive public houses where everyone has a seat at the table. But Paris has lost 300 cafés since 2014.*

Cafés are a vital part of our diverse communities. ©Lisa Anselmo

This is what makes the local café so special—and so essential. It’s where the entire community gathers—regardless of income, origin, religion, education, political affiliation, or skin color. “The crucible of friendship,” says restaurateur Alain Fontaine of cafés and bistros. “The melting pot where everyone meets.” Fontaine is leading an initiative to attain UNESCO status for Paris’s beloved bistros. Cafés could use this boost as well.

Cafés are the ultimate democratizer, inclusive public houses where anyone can find their place at the table. It’s something we take for granted because they’ve always been here, serving our communities. But it’s changing. Cafés are closing, both in Paris, and in France at large.

Cafe closures have been making headlines for years. The French government is finally recognizing the problem.


Cafés in small towns across France have been the most hard-hit, mainly due to dwindling populations, not in small part precipitated by a massive reduction in national rail routes, cutting off these towns from the main artery, so they wither and die. The local businesses close—and worse, the café, often the only one in the village, leaving the residents with no common meeting place. In a country with a culture of socializing around food and drink, this loss is devastating to a community. The French government has recently understood the impact of this on the heart of the people, and is investing 150 million euros to launch an ambitious initiative that gives grants to anyone willing to open or preserve a café in a small town. It’s a start.

But in Paris, where money talks and international trends have a strong impact, cafés here are not getting the same kind of aid. The corporate chain is king, as is the foreign investor. Tech start-ups are the only small business ventures anyone wants to talk about these days. Longstanding locally owned businesses have little recourse if they’re struggling, and few resources, often shouldering the lion’s share of taxes, stymied by one-sided labor laws, and struggling to pay ever-rising rents. Cafés, too, are feeling this pressure, and in recent years, there has been a spate of closures, particularly in gentrifying or touristy areas. Paris has lost 300 cafés in just the last four years. And, like in small towns, the local Parisian café is also the center of neighborhood life, and the closure of a popular café has the same devastating impact on the residents, particularly if it’s replaced with an upscale restaurant or trendy specialty shop geared more to tourists than locals.

A Brooklyn-style coffee house just opened in our neighborhood. While French-owned, everything is in English (or a sort of English). Not sure about the coffee. ©Lisa Anselmo

Cafés are also facing competition, at least in the minds of some, with the rise of the Brooklyn-style coffee house: small establishments known for artisanal beans brewed by English-speaking baristas. Often, these are owned by Aussies or Americans who’ve imported this coffee culture to Paris—at first as a response to their own dislike of Parisian café coffee, which many find bitter and wanting. But the trend has caught on in a city where all things Brooklyn are highly prized. And, if you’re a coffee-lover, these are a welcomed addition to the Paris food scene. They’re often cozy and friendly, and along with impeccable coffee, serve tasty treats like brownies, and avocado toast. If that’s your thing.

But we shouldn’t mistake these places for the new Paris café. For starters, they’re technically not cafés—they don’t keep café hours, for example—and the vibe is completely different from a classic café. The coffee house is not a place where you can stay for hours gabbing, drinking, and eating until midnight. They often have only three or four tables (some don’t allow laptops for this reason), and are more tranquil and solitary. People tend to go alone or with one other person, have their coffee and a brief pause or business chat, then move on. It’s about the coffee, not the experience.

And there’s something else decidedly different about these places: the demographic. White, young, educated, middle- to upper-class. Period. The most diverse thing about these coffee houses is that they serve vegan milk options.


Why should we care? Because these kind of upscale businesses are a sign of the changes in our communities, thanks to gentrification and rising rents. Whole neighborhoods are going upmarket, transforming in a few short years; restaurants and shops serve a new moneyed clientele. The Saint-Ambroise district in the 11th arrondissement is a perfect example of this. Suddenly, the working class residents who have lived in these neighborhoods for decades can no longer afford to eat or shop in their own backyard, marginalized in the very quartier they call home.

I admit, as someone who blogs about Paris to an audience of a certain demographic, I have a nagging guilt about my own possible contribution to this change, real or imagined. Eight years ago, when I arrived in my sleepy neighborhood, a district somewhere between Charonne and Nation in the 11th, I was the only English-speaker around, and I liked it because I wanted to immerse myself in Paris life. I chose the area for it’s authentic local feel, something my New York neighborhood had long since lost. My Paris neighborhood was, and still is, home to a mix of young professionals, students, and families; the businesses are affordable and utilitarian. The cafés, if not always pretty, are welcoming and cheap. I’ve often called this area the last patch of real Paris.

Now I see signs of gentrification. The first giveaway: I hear and see English everywhere—even the servers at the cafés speak English now, menus are offered in English, perhaps catering to tourists encroaching on the district thanks to AirBnb. Prices are starting to rise. My nearby Leader Price grocery store, once frequented by the neighborhood’s working-class and elderly residents on pensions, has become an expensive organic shop with sparse, highly curated shelves. The old grocery store was packed with customers, and we all knew each other; the organic shop sits empty for now, confounding the locals who, when they do enter, wander the aisles slightly dazed then walk out with empty carts, shaking their heads. They’ve been abandoned.

Upscale overnight. A very pricey organic shop replaces an affordable grocery store that had served the working-class neighborhood for years. ©Lisa Anselmo


The next time you see a café close, take note. Because it marks more than a change in our way of commerce; it’s a change in how we relate to each other—or more accurately, how we are beginning to not relate. Gentrification is just that: creating a place for the gentry. A certain class of people. If we build coffee houses that exclude some of us, what does this say about who we are now? It concerns me, and it should you. There is a trend toward isolation that is sweeping the world, and this is affecting how we interact, vote and govern, and how we see the world. The local café is the opposite of isolation and segregation. In a fast-gentrifying city like Paris, our cafés remain a place of liberté, égalité, fraternité. A Utopia for a diverse and vital community.

It’s why, sitting in my café now, I cherish this place. Here, there is something for everyone, because everyone matters, equally. I can’t say that Paris is the most inclusive city I’ve ever lived in, or that I’ve never witnessed racism here, but for this hour or two in this wonderful place of food and drink, we are all one, united by the desire to share and connect with the world around us. We are the Paris café, and it is us.

Coffee houses are fine for some, but cafés are essential for all. This, more than any other reason, is why I fight for the survival of the Paris café. I want to be where everyone has a seat at the table. Where we all can belong.

Thanks for the memories. Chez Gladines was very popular, and served decent food to a mix of locals. “Coming Soon” as the sign touts—in English—is a Brooklyn-style craft beer bar. ©Lisa Anselmo

*Source: French National Statistics Office, 2014 – 2018

LISA ANSELMO is a writer, branding expert, speaker, and coach, and has worked at such iconic American magazines as Allure, InStyle, and People. She is the author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), and has been featured in New York magazine, Travel and Leisure, Bustle, House Hunters International, Expatriates Magazine among others.
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To Each His Own Café

by L. John Harris, excerpted from his new book Café French: A Flâneur’s Guide to the Language, Lore and Food of the Paris Café

I was trying to connect with my friend Leonard Pitt, the Berkeley-based author of Walks Through Lost Paris: A Journey Into the Heart of Historic Paris. I wanted to know Lenny’s views of Parisian café culture then—when he lived in Paris in the 1960s—and now. He was to respond from his computer at the café in Berkeley’s French Hotel (now the SenS Hotel).

Working from my computer at the dreaded Starbucks Odéon, the setup seemed a bit surreal. Conversing with Lenny via computer at an American-based French Hotel café, and me in Paris at an American-owned chain outlet (I just cannot label Starbucks a café) gave the exchange an absurd gravitas that makes me smile to this day.

Lenny is a passionate proponent of a café-centric lifestyle he posits against the Protestant work-ethic routines of a Puritanized America. He is also passionate about the almost eternal beauty of Paris and works closely with the International Coalition for the Preservation of Paris, an organization whose mission is to resist new developments that would dwarf the incomparable and relatively low Paris skyline with a ring of giant skyscrapers around the picturesque centre of Paris—the heart of Paris that gave rise to café culture in the first place, and to the flâneurs who have strolled there ever since.

Lenny emailed me that “Nothing better symbolizes the congeniality, the rhythm and sheer joie de vivre we ache to recapture in life than the café.” Well put, Pitt! But one man’s joie de vivre is another man’s (or woman’s) morning coffee ritual, writing or art studio, afternoon or evening gathering spot for conversation and nourishment, or flâneur’s solo observation post. And often, all the above and more. The traditional Parisian café is more than the sum of its parts.


Café napping is a bit of a stretch, but imagine cafés with cots paid for by the hour! Maybe there is a profit incentive for café owners. To my friends at Save The Paris Café, are you listening? Illustration: ©L. John Harris. Reprinted by permission.


When I go to a Paris café to wake up with a café crème, the least important criteria for me are the coffee’s origin, quality or even, I confess, taste. But at 7a.m. I don’t really care. My legs may get me to the café, but my critic’s brain is still on snooze. This particular summer I began most days at my café du coin (neighborhood café), Café Madame. There is nothing exceptional about Café Madame—they serve a typical petit déjeuner (passable coffee, acceptable croissant or buttered tartine, reasonably fresh orange juice)—except for its convenient proximity to my apartment and the Luxembourg Gardens nearby, a flaneur’s dreamscape.


Any café can be a working café, depending on one’s personal requirements. Kaaren Kitchell, an expat novelist, poet and blogger (Paris Play), combines her daily one-hour walk with her writing and editing projects, so her café must be at least a thirty-minute walk from home. Her other criteria include a quiet ambiance and, ergo, few tourists. “The French know how to modulate their voices,” says Kitchell.

On the other hand, expat author (Paris Par Hasard: From Bagels to Brioche), tour guide, and bon vivant Terrance Gelenter, prefers to work in crowded and noisy icons like Les Deux Magots and Café Montorgueil. Every Sunday from 11AM to 1PM, Gelenter holds “office hours” for his tour clients and visiting Anglophone writers, artists, filmmakers, and the like. It may not seem like work when you meet with him at his usual outdoor table, but he is definitely working the terrace.


Where better than at a café to have a conversation? Dating back to its origins in the late 17th century, the Paris café has inhabited a middle world between public and private space where, unlike at more food-focused bistros and brasseries, spirited inter-table discourse is welcome, if not required. This “free speech movement” was not invented in Berkeley in 1964. For 18th-century dramatists and philosophers and 19th-century Impressionists who broke with the stifling constraints of the Academy, the café became a salon where artists could engage freely in debates over aesthetic issues–with the help, of course, of sufficient, if not addictive, amounts of coffee, wine and, more euphorically, absinthe and even opium. Talk about Happy Hour (pronounced app-ee ower), which these days begins in cafés as early as mid-afternoon.


The café, invented in 16th-century Istanbul, was destined for “… the eminently Parisian compromise between laziness and activity known as flânerie!” This drollery by Victorien Sardou, quoted in Edmund White’s book, The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris (Writer and the City), sums up the high regard for lounging and loafing in a bygone era before commercial productivity became Western civilization’s highest value.

As for the café’s function as an urban resting place, it is a tourist’s necessity after days filled with shopping and sight-seeing. The café’s napping function is, I admit, a conceptual stretch. And although traditional café owners accept long patron visits and minimal consumption, I don’t think they would tolerate napping. Certainly not the high-end cafés, which drive off flâneurs as early as 11 a.m. under the pretext that the tables must be set for luncheon.


Summing up the functions of the Parisian café, and depending on one’s needs—whether tourist, artist, working professional, student studying for exams, mother with hungry children, or first-date flirters—the café is a home away from home, an office away from the office, a study hall, a restaurant for nourishment and celebration, a bar for drinks and flirtation, or just an observation post for thinking, dreaming, and resting. Napping is optional. À chacun son café!

© L. John Harris. Excerpted and reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Get your copy of Cafe French at Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5ème), and The Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop (9 Rue de Médicis, 6ème), or online, here.

L. JOHN HARRIS is an artist, food writer, publisher and filmmaker working in and around Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. While attending art school at UC Berkeley Harris enlisted in the California cuisine revolution of the 1970s, clerking at the Cheese Board and waiting tables at Chez Panisse. His The Book of Garlic (1974) launched another food revolution—the garlic revolution—and his organization, Lovers of the Stinking Rose, sponsored garlic festivals all across the United States, including the legendary Gilroy Garlic Festival. In the 1980s Harris’s Aris Books published cookbooks by many of the finest Bay Area cooks and food writers, including the legendary M.F.K. Fisher. Exploring the medium of documentary film in 1990s, Harris wrote and co-produced Divine Food: One Hundred Years in the Kosher Delicatessen Trade, which was featured on PBS and at Jewish film festivals internationally. Harris’s last book, Foodoodles: From the Museum of Culinary History (2010) features over 90 of his food cartoons and a foreword by the renowned chef, Jeremiah Tower. Harris lives in Berkeley and Paris and is the curator of the Harris Guitar Collection at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: La Tartine

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
Dorothy and her suitcase are waiting for me at La Tartine. Dorothy just arrived from Seattle. Once a year she makes her pilgrimage to Paris because “Paris is my only home in the world,” she says. She didn’t have to tell me where La Tartine is, because it’s a café I’ve known forever. What is a tartine? It’s a piece of bread with a bit of butter that most French people, like me, eat for breakfast. (Don’t assume I eat croissants full of butter every morning. If I did, my clothes would not fit me anymore.)

I greet my friend with a bonjour as I arrive. “Happy to see you again!” I say. “How are you ?” I give her a kiss (faire la bise) on both cheeks. 

Bonjour, ma chérie!” Dorothy is funny; she always calls me ma chérie (my darling). “I’m very happy to be in Paris, but I’m exhausted.”

The warm interior of La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

I laugh as I point out that we’re wearing the same exact outfit: a black dress with white polka dots.

“It’s my travel uniform when I come to Paris,” she says. Then she tells me to order what I want. “It’s my treat.”

It’s almost lunchtime, but Dorothy orders only a café-crème (coffee with milk). It’s two o’clock in the morning for her, so she’s not in the mood to eat, even though there are many different tartines on the menu: goat cheese, ham, duck. I’m in the mood for something exotic, so I choose the Scottish tartine with smoked salmon.

Everything in this café reminds the 1920s, from the gold, geometric Art Déco engravings on the wood bar, and on the wall to the old posters and the lamps that give off an amber glow.

Art Deco details at La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Sitting next to us, an old bearded man is writing. He closes his note book and takes a sip of his beverage, something topped with sweet whipped cream, or crème chantilly as we call it in French. It looks good. I ask what he’s drinking.

Un chocolat viennois,” he tells me, winking.

I explain that I was tempted to order one, but decided not to because the decadent Viennese hot chocolate would not go with my Scottish salmon. The gentleman agrees, nodding his head.

Our young waiter arrives with our orders, and I ask him how long the café has been around. “I like it very much.”

“Since 1924 ,” he answers with a smile. “We’re not allowed to move anything. The bar hasn’t changed since then.”

The bar at La Tartine hasn’t changed since 1924. ©Edith de Belleville

“Incredible! 1924!” I say.  “The same year as my perfume!”

I explain to Dorothy that the law forbids altering historic landmarks, like certain old buildings, even showcases of historic boutiques—and fortunately, vintage cafés like La Tartine.

I ask Dorothy if we should order dessert.

“Good idea!” She tells me to choose what I want.

But it takes me fifteen minutes to decide so I ask the waiter to help me make up my mind. Jérôme (I asked his name) recommends the homemade French toast. I tell Dorothy that in France we call French toast “pain perdu” (lost bread), because we use day-old bread in order not to waste—or “lose”—it.

Pain perdu at La Tartine. ©Edith de Belleville

Since Dorothy has to wait to check in to her hotel, we stay a long time in this charming café. The atmosphere is perfect for staying all day: no blaring TV, no radio with awful music—nothing too modern here. Just silence like in the good old days. We swap stores about what’s new in our lives since last year.

“You know, Edith, when I’m in Paris, I am reborn,” Dorothy tells me. “I become more feminine, more myself. I like everything here: the fabulous clothes of the Parisian women, the light, the smell of the food. And I really like the old cafés like this one.” Then she adds, “And this pain perdu.”

She’s right. The pain perdu (which I ate all by myself) was delicious. I thank Jérôme for his good advice, then point out that he has the same name as Napoléon’s youngest brother: Jerôme Bonaparte. (I can’t resist a teaching moment.)

But now it’s time to go; Dorothy needs to rest.  I apologize for talking too much with the waiter and the old man. “But when I’m in a café,” I say, “I like to learn about the lives of my fellow Parisians.” I thank her for inviting me to this lovely place.

“Oh you’re welcome, ma chérie!” she says. “I’m glad you chatted with the waiter. My hotel is just next door, so I know where I’ll be having my breakfast every day for the next two weeks.” She shoots me a big smile. “I’m so glad I invited you to lunch because, thanks to you, the waiter won’t treat me like a tourist. You gave me credibility here. You’re my credibility lunch date!”

I laugh, and faire la bise with Dorothy, bidding her “Au revoir.

As I walk away, I wonder if Dorothy was onto something. Maybe this could be my new career: Credibility Lunch Date for visitors to Paris. I’m available! —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 24 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 4ème
  • When? Monday to Saturday, 8:00am-11:30pm; Sunday : 11am – 11pm
  • What to drink? Happy hour 4:00-9:00pm; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails: 5 euros; Coffee (100% arabica): 2.50 euros; Café crème: 4 euros; Hot chocolate : 4 euros; Viennese  coffee or Viennese hot chocolate: 5.50 euros; Tea: 4.50 euros; Fruit juice: 4.50 euros
  • What to eat ? A tartine with a small salad (ham, goat cheese, smoked salmon ) from 10 to 12 euros; French fries: 4 euros; Desserts: brownie, French toast, apple pie, crêpes: from 7 to 8 euros
  • How to go?  Métro Saint Paul, line 1

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at and



La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Dorothy et sa valise m’attendent à La Tartine. Dorothy vient juste d’arriver de  Seattle. Une fois par an elle fait un pèlerinage à Paris car Paris est ma seule maison au monde dit-elle. Elle n’a pas eu besoin de me dire où se trouve La Tartine car c’est un café que je connais depuis toujours. Qu’est ce qu’une tartine? C’est un morceau de pain avec un peu de beurre que je mange, comme la plupart des Français, au petit-déjeuner. N’imaginez pas que je mange un croissant plein de beurre chaque matin. Si je faisais cela je ne pourrais plus rentrer dans mes vêtements. 

Bonjour Dorothy ! Je suis contente de te revoir. Comment vas-tu?  Bienvenue à la maison! lui dis- je tout en l’embrassant chaleureusement sur les deux joues pour lui faire la bise.

Bonjour ma chérie !  Dorothy est drôle, elle m’appelle tout le temps ma chérie. Je vais bien, très heureuse d’être à Paris mais je suis épuisée.

Regarde nous sommes habillées pareil ! lui dis-je en riant. Elle et moi portons la même robe noire à pois blancs.

C’est ma robe parisienne quand je voyage à Paris. Prends ce que tu veux c’est moi qui invite.

C’est presque l’heure du déjeuner mais Dorothy ne prend qu’un café-crème. Il est 2 heures du matin pour elle et elle n’est pas d’humeur à manger. Il y a plusieurs tartines différentes sur le menu:  Avec du fromage de chèvre, avec du jambon ou avec du canard. Comme je suis d’humeur exotique je choisis la tartine écossaise avec du saumon fumé écossais. Tout dans ce café rappelle les années 20 :  Les gravures dorées géométriques Art déco sur la bar en bois et sur le mur, les anciennes affiches et les lampes qui diffusent une lumière couleur d’ambre. Près de nous est assis un vieil homme avec une barbe qui écrit. Il ferme son cahier puis déguste sa boisson qui déborde de crème chantilly. Ça a l’air bon. Je lui demande ce qu’il boit: 

Un chocolat viennois me répond-il avec un clin d’oeil.

©Edith de Belleville

 Je lui explique que j’hésite à en prendre un. Finalement je lui dis que j’ai changé d’avis. Le chocolat chaud décadent autrichien se marie mal avec le saumon écossais. Le vieux monsieur m’approuve en faisant oui de la tête.

 —J’aime beaucoup ce café, depuis quand existe t-il? je demande au jeune serveur qui nous apporte nos commandes.

1924 me répond-il avec un sourire. Nous n’avons pas l’autorisation de bouger quoique ce soit ici. Le bar n’a pas changé vous savez.

Incroyable! 1924! La même année que mon parfum!

J’explique à Dorothy que la loi interdit de détruire le patrimoine parisien comme certains immeubles anciens, les devantures des vieilles boutiques et heureusement pour nous, les cafés vintage comme La Tartine. 

Un détail du bar. ©Edith de Belleville

 —On partage un dessert Dorothy?
Bonne idée! Choisis ce que tu veux.

Je prends quinze minutes pour décider ce que je veux. Je demande au gentil serveur de m’aider à faire mon choix. Jérôme (je lui ai demandé son prénom) me conseille de prendre le pain perdu maison. Je dis à Dorothy qu’en anglais on appelle cela le toast français mais qu’en France on l’appelle le pain perdu car on utilise le pain de la veille pour ne pas le perdre.

Dorothy doit attendre que sa chambre soit prête alors nous restons un long moment dans ce charmant café. L’ambiance est parfaite pour rester toute la journée:  pas de télé, pas de radio avec une musique horrible, rien de trop moderne ici, juste le silence comme au bon vieux temps. Nous échangeons des confidences sur ce qui est arrivé de nouveau dans nos vies depuis un an.

Tu sais Edith, quand je suis à Paris je revis. Je deviens plus féminine, plus moi-même. J’aime tout ici : Les fabuleux vêtements des Parisiennes, la lumière, l’odeur de la nourriture. Et surtout j’aime les vieux cafés comme celui-ci et ce pain perdu ajoute t-elle. 

Le pain perdu que j’ai mangé à moi à toute seule était délicieux. Je remercie Jérôme pour son choix judicieux et je lui apprend qu’il porte le même prénom que le plus jeune frère de Napoléon, Jérôme Bonaparte. C’est l’heure de partir maintenant, Dorothy doit se reposer. 

Désolée si j’ai tellement parlé à notre voisin et au serveur.  Quand je suis dans un café j’aime bien savoir comment les Parisiens vivent à Paris. Merci pour l’invitation. 

©Edith de Belleville

—Oh je t’en prie ma chérie. Au contraire, je suis contente que tu aies beaucoup parlé avec Jérôme. Mon hôtel est juste à coté de La Tartine alors je sais maintenant où je vais prendre mes petits-déjeuners chaque matin pendant deux semaines me dit -elle avec un grand sourire. Grâce à toi le serveur ne me verra pas comme une touriste. Tu es mon invitée car tu m’as aidée à obtenir de la crédibilité. Mon invitée en crédibilité. Cela valait la peine de t’inviter !

C’est peut-être une nouvelle carrière pour moi : Invitée en crédibilité pour les visiteurs à Paris je réponds en riant à Dorothy tout en l’embrassant sur les joues pour lui dire au-revoir. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 24, rue de Rivoli Metro Saint-Paul ligne 1.
  • Quand ? du lundi au dimanche: 8h-23h30 ; dimanche: 11h – 23h
  • Que boire? Happy hour 16h-21h ; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails 5 euros ; Café  100% arabicca : 2,50 euros ; Café crème: 4 euros ; Chocolat chaud : 4 euros ; Café et chocolat viennois : 5,50 euros  ; Thé: 4,50 euros ; Jus de fruits : 4,50 euros
  • Que manger? Tartine avec une salade (jambon, fromage de chèvre ou saumon fumé ) de  10 à 12 euros ; Frites : 4 euros ; Désserts: brownie, pain perdu, tarte, crêpe: de 7 à 8 euros
  • Comment s’y rendre?  Métro Saint Paul, ligne 1

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Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la et

5 Café Deco Trends We’re Over Already

by Lisa Anselmo

If someone were to say “Paris café style” to you, it would probably conjure up some immediate images: bentwood chairs, globe lights, wood paneling, maybe even a zinc bar. There’s a classic look to a café. A tad cliché, maybe, but it has stood the test of time, and somehow never looks dated, much like the American diner.

But even Paris cafés go through a relooking—makeover—every decade or so. Usually the changes stay somewhat within the vernacular: a new awning, a redux of their rattan Maison Gatti chairs, signage redesign. Mostly, it’s a much-needed refresh, yet it still feels Parisian: stylish, but not too trendy.

A Belle Epoque café captured by Ilya Repin in 1875. Wikimedia Commons


But we’re in a Pinterest world now, where design decisions are crowd-sourced. It’s not about creating a unique look based on your brand identity; it’s about fitting in. With cafés struggling to stay in business, they’re not just renovating, they are actually duplicating each other in a scramble to stay on the map. If one changes their red awning to blue, so does the next one down the street. Aided and inspired by social media, trends sweep the city from quartier to quartier like a contagion, stamping out the authentic and replacing it with the Instagram-able.

“Tropical Chic.” One of the hot trends on Pinterest right now that’s sweeping Paris cafés. Courtesy of Pinterest.

If you’re trying to attract customers, put that money into a good chef and better coffee, and keep the café as is.

Sure, you can argue that there’s a sameness to classic café style, but at least it’s timeless and uniquely Parisian, instead of this soulless caricature of Brooklyn that’s (super)imposing itself on the city. Everyone is conforming to the exact trends, churning them out with zero interpretation: the same industrial furniture, the same cold color palate, the same minimalist feel—like hipster McDonalds franchises—so the look is already played out, even before the paint is dry on that relooking.


No one is saying modern is bad. We’re talking about bad choices. When you design anything based solely on the trend of the day, you risk a result that might not resonate longterm. It’s just bad business. Cafés spend a lot to renovate—money they can ill afford in this economy—and it’s heartbreaking when they choose styles that will look dated in a year, especially after they’ve gutted their original 100-year-old interior to do it, one that still looked perfectly on brand, and would have for years to come.

Designer Matthew Waldman is famous for saying “the future should not look like the past.” You could add that it also shouldn’t look like the fleeting moment. If you must modernize, think about how your makeover design will look in five years’ time. If it won’t hold up like your current interior, scrap your plan. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to attract customers, put that same money into a good chef and better coffee, and keep the café as is.

Behold, the top 5 trends in café deco that we’re over already:


An obligatory element in any café makeover. A cool look…5 years ago. It’s a café, not a lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Put a lampshade on that thing; you’re burning our retinas.

And speaking of lampshades…


The first time we saw this it seemed sort of design-y, but after the 50th café, Paris is starting to look more like a cheap beach resort. Baskets are for bread.


About as comfortable as sitting on a barbed wire fence, mais non? We’re assuming you don’t want us stay long. Even more fun for your fanny after that thing has been baking in the hot sun all day. Youch!


Oh, sweetie, no. Do you really expect two people to eat at this flimsy little thing? There are limits to how far to take a trend. You may have reached it.


Giant palm fronds, pink flamingos—it’s so oddly specific, and so woefully out of place. Yet there it is, hopping from café to café, like a conga line. Even my local has gone Copa Cabana bananas.

My local. With basket lampshades for the full Tropicana effect. Babalu aye!

Top photo: Courtesy of Croco, formerly Café Cassis. Ironically, the idea for Save the Paris Café was born in the defuct Cassis. Croco is an entirely tropical-themed café…except for the food (though it’s pretty decent). But go figure.

Is anyone doing these trends right? Check out Mon Coco, at 6 Place de la Republique. The decor is more thoughtfully done: classic bentwood chairs are paired with the “Brooklyn-style” industrial table; a whimsical straw chandelier (instead of the ubiquitous basket lamp) hangs over a plush blue velvet booth; instead of tropical wallpaper, a mural by a street artist nods to the area’s gritty vibe. It makes a unique statement because it’s an extension of who they are, vs. what’s trendy, so it has a far better chance of holding up as time goes by.

Which Paris café has your favorite interior design? Let us know!

LISA ANSELMO is a writer, branding expert, speaker, and coach, and has worked at such iconic American magazines as Allure, InStyle, and People. She is the author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), and has been featured in New York magazine, Travel and Leisure, Bustle, House Hunters International, Expatriates Magazine among others.
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My Favorite Café Is…Le Nemours

Story and photography by Richard Nahem

I’m not sure exactly when Le Nemours became my favorite café but I think it’s when I moved here in 2005. Before that it was Café de Flore, when Saint Germain des Pres was my go-to neighborhood when I first started visiting Paris in the late 1970s.

I think part of the reason why I like Les Nemours so much is because it’s the gateway to my favorite place in Paris, the Palais Royal. Beyond the terrace of Le Nemours is a hidden world not known to most tourists, with magical gardens and almost infinity rows of symmetrically planted trees plus limestone passageways with mosaic tile floors inhabited by the chicest fashion and vintage shops in Paris.

Le Nemours sits on a plaza behind the Louvre, Place Colette, named after the infamous author Colette, who lived in the Palais Royal in the 1950s.

Waiters at Café Nemours still wear the classic uniform of a black vest and pants, white shirt, and a long, white apron.   ©Richard Nahem
The café enjoys a prime location in the elegant Galerie de Nemours. ©Richard Nahem

I had to do some preliminary research for this article, so, on a warm summer morning at about 11a.m., I planted myself on a French café chair of white rattan with a pattern of pale blue squares on the terrace of Le Nemours. My immediate view to my left was the Palais Royal Métro kiosk designed by artist Jean Michel Othoniel in 2000, a whimsical kaleidoscope made of gorgeous colored Murano glass spheres and brushed aluminum. On my right were the handsome limestone columns of La Comédie Francaise, a theater institution steeped in history from the time of France’s greatest playwright, Molière. What better view can one have at a Parisian café?

My view of La Comédie Française.  ©Richard Nahem
Classic rattan café chairs made by Maison Gatti, which has been making  café chairs for generations.  ©Richard Nahem
The whimsical Palais Royale-Musée du Louvre Métro kiosk by artist Jean Michel Othoniel. ©Richard Nahem

Waiters still wear the classic uniform of a black vest and pants, white shirt, and a starched white apron rolled at the waist, hanging down about mid-calf. I ordered a café noisette and a few moments later the waiter placed my coffee on the table with a glass of water. The coffee was typical Paris café coffee, at best on the lower scale of mediocre but that’s not the point. In case you didn’t know, it’s not about the actual coffee at French cafés; it’s about the ambience and the experience.

The ambiance at Le Nemours. ©Richard Nahem

While slowly sipping my noisette, I perused the crowd. It was unusually crowded for that time of the day considering the off hour—too early for lunch and too late for a morning croissant. It was an odd potpourri of businessmen in close-fitting summer suits; tourists wearing shorts, tank tops, and sandals having a late breakfast probably because of their jet lag; a punk-like couple looking hung over, donning all black with partially shaved heads and maroon-colored Doc Marten boots; a middle aged Parisian women in casual chic. Any student studying sociology could have written a graduate thesis by just observing.

It then suddenly dawned on me that there’s an unwritten democracy at a French café: Anyone can sit at a table as long as you can afford a mere 2.50€ for a noisette; no one will bother you.

There’s an unwritten democracy at a French café: Anyone can sit at a table as long as you can afford a mere 2.50€ for a noisette. ©Richard Nahem

Upon leaving, I stood up and took one last look at the bold gold letters spelling L-E-N-E-M-O-U-R-S, the tall columns with elegant lanterns hanging in between, and the white and pearl gray striped awnings, all which again confirmed why Le Nemours is my favorite Paris café.

©Richard Nahem

One last thing: a little movie trivia. Does anyone remember the opening scene from The Tourist, a silly, trifle of a film from 2010? It’s a shot of Angelina Jolie sitting at Le Nemours, while Johnny Depp is spying on her.

©Richard Nahem

Le Nemours, Galerie de Nemours, 2 Place Colette, 1st arr.

All photos this page: ©Richard Nahem

RICHARD NAHEM is the creator of the popular blog Eye Prefer Paris, with three weekly posts about art, history, fashion, food, shopping, architecture, and restaurant reviews. He also writes about Paris and European travel and his articles and photos have appeared in The Guardian, Romantic Paris, Passport Magazine, Travel Agent Central, Luxury Travel Advisor, France Today Magazine, and Bonjour Paris. He recently edited the National Geographic Walking Tours of Paris Guidebook. Richard also leads private insider tours of Paris via Eye Prefer Paris Tours, showing clients the Paris they never usually see on their own.

Return to the Saint-Régis

by Janice MacLeod

September in Paris is called “la rentrée“—or “the return.” It’s a return from a month-long vacation most Parisians take over August, as well as a return to school. September is like January in other places—when we launch it, enroll in it, and begin it. Having a long vacation seems to do what vacations are designed to do—first relax us, then reinvigorate us for the year ahead.

Photo: Janice MacLeod from her book, A Paris Year

Early in the mornings of September, I walk to the Saint-Régis Café on Île Saint-Louis—the island in the middle of the Seine and of Paris. I sit among the bronzed locals who are revisiting projects previously abandoned for the beach. We sit together in silence, staring at our screens or notepads. One gentleman is refining a menu, another is writing an essay, another is working out math problems, which doesn’t seem like a romantic notion until you see his numbers. They are so ornate that I want to frame the page. As for me, I sit with my journal and work out the next quarter—articles to be written, correspondence to organize, chapters to complete, and of course, dreams to pursue. It’s a full but quiet room. The most conversation you’ll get is a friendly nod of recognition. It’s like a library but with clinking glasses and a buzzing espresso machine. As the brunch crowd filters in, we filter out.

I saunter down the main street of this small island town and do some window-shopping. The French call this “lèche-vitrines,” or window licking, which is exactly what you want to do at the chocolatier, boulangerie, and at Berthillon—the ice-cream shop. I end my stroll at the tip of the island. Here, the river splits, giving you the illusion that you are steering your own ship, which is, I suppose how September itself feels. Summer is gone and you’re happy about it, delighted to get back to work.

As I turn to go, I notice the tops of the trees have begun to turn yellow. A new season has begun and I could not be more pleased. Let it begin!

Café Saint-Régis, 6 rue Jean du Bellay, 4th arr.,

Photos this page by Janice MacLeod, from her book, A Paris Year.

JANICE MacLEOD is the illustrator and author of the New York Times best-selling book Paris Letters, and her latest book, A Paris Year, part memoir / part visual journey through the streets of Paris.
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My Favorite Café Is…The Tournbride

by Janice MacLeod

In the second installment of our series, “My Favorite Café Is…” bestselling author and artist Janice MacLeod shares her perfect place with us.

For the first two years in Paris, I was like Goldilocks, traipsing all over the city in search of the best café. A place I could call my own. One café would have a cozy atmosphere but terrible coffee. Another would have great coffee but terrible food. Then I came upon the café that was just right: Café TournBride in the 5th arrondissement.

It had it all—great coffee, cozy atmosphere and delicious traditional French cuisine. Plus, it’s location on the pedestrian-friendly rue Mouffetard makes it the perfect perch for people catching. Being here makes me feel like I’m in a timeless Paris—the version you see on all those postcards. People still sit and write letters, read the paper, and catch up on the latest gossip. I often linger here with my journal—sipping, dreaming and listening to French words flutter by on the breeze.

I plan on putting in plenty of time here, and at the end of my days I’ll likely haunt it ever after. We all must find our place in this world. Here in Paris, I believe I have found mine.

Café TournBride, 104 Rue Mouffetard, Paris 5th arr.,

Photo: Janice MacLeod, from her book, A Paris Year

Photos this page by Janice MacLeod, from her book, A Paris Year.

JANICE MacLEOD is the illustrator and author of the New York Times best-selling book Paris Letters, and her latest book, A Paris Year, part memoir / part visual journey through the streets of Paris.
Discover her world at
Visit her Etsy shop
Like her Facebook page

Editor’s Note: Café TournBride has a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor for earning consistently high reviews.

Edith’s Café Spotlight: Le Castiglione

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
There are cafés in Paris where the mere sound of the name evokes an emotion before you’ve even taken a sip of your coffee. On a cold, rainy Sunday morning in May, I was desperately searching for an open café when I stumbled upon Le Castiglione just near the chic place Vendôme. Since I didn’t want to go broke for the price of a coffee, I decided to drink mine at the bar, which is usually less expensive. Comfortably seated at one of the plush red velvet stools, I mused about the name of the café. Castiglione, of course, takes its name from the nearby street, rue de Castiglione, which was named in honor of the battle won by a then young and dashing Napoléon during his military campaign in Italy.

But there is another Castiglione. Not the name of the besieged city this time, but of a beautiful, young Italian woman. Bonaparte may have won Castiglione the city in the name of France, but Castiglione, the woman, won Napoléon in the name of her own homeland, Italy. This was during the second empire of Napoléon III, nephew of the first Napoléon. Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione was much adored by all the men of Paris, and vanquished the heart of Napoléon III. Many say her influence over the emperor helped establish the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Such was the power of her beauty.

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, by Pierson

Like Narcissus, Castiglione was likewise obsessed with her own beauty, and had many hundreds of portraits taken of herself in various costumes and scenarios by court photographers Mayer and Pierson, photos which still survive today. But her beauty lost its own battle with time, and she lost her joie de vivre as a result. She would only go out at night, afraid people might recognize her, and veiled all her mirrors in black, so she would not have to witness her fading beauty and advancing age. She ended her years in a lonely basement apartment with her many dogs at 26 Place Vendôme, succumbing to madness in the end. Outward beauty is nothing it seems without inner beauty—that is to say a minimum of culture, an appreciation of the deeper things of life.

That brings to mind a third Castiglione: Balthazar Castiglione. He codified the “beauty inside/out” principle, and it was he who wrote the guide of the perfect gentleman, a bestseller in Europe in the 16th Century. He even had his portrait painted by Rafael, the artist whose many Madonnas defined beauty for the era.

This elegant café, awash in red, is the ideal place to think about the importance of beauty in your life. And speaking of the perfect gentlemen, Thierry my waiter is the real thing. Everything here is a notch above; there is even a “Happy Coffee Hour” where, if you take your coffee at the bar before noon, you’ll pay only 1.60 euros instead of 1.80 euros.

As I sipped my coffee, I was suddenly seized by a desire to say hello to Mr. Balthazar Castiglione. So, I quickly paid and dashed under the raindrops towards the Louvre museum, where his Raphael portrait hangs. Café Castiglione must be like a magic filter through which beauty shines and draws you in, because one minute I’m sipping an ordinary coffee, and the next, I’m strolling in one of the biggest museums in the world, surrounded by the most beautiful art in the world. That’s one special café! —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 235 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1st arr.
  • When? Open 7 days; 7am-11 :30pm
  • How to go? Métro Tuileries, Concorde line 1 or 12
  • When? from 7 to 2 oclock in the morning
  • What do drink/what to eat? Happy Coffee Hour: Coffee before noon at the bar is only 1.60 euros. View the menu. 

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at and


Il y a des cafés à Paris dont le nom seul vous donne déjà à réfléchir avant même d’avoir bu votre café. Un dimanche en mai alors qu’il pleuvait et qu’il faisait froid comme en hiver, je cherchais  désespérément un café encore ouvert. Le café Castiglione se trouve juste au coin de la chic place Vendôme. Ne voulant pas me ruiner pour un café,  je décidai donc de m’installer au comptoir. Assise confortablement sur mon tabouret recouvert de velours rouge, je me mis alors à rêver au nom de ce café. Castiglione, bien sûr, c’est le nom de la rue juste à coté. La rue Castiglione fut baptisée en l’honneur de la bataille gagnée par Napoléon Bonaparte lors de sa campagne militaire d’Italie quand il était jeune et beau.

Mais il y a une autre Castiglione. Elle est également italienne et ce n’est pas le nom d’une ville assiégée mais d’une femme jeune et belle dont le corps sculptural faisait fantasmer tous les mâles de Paris. Bonaparte a conquis la ville de Castiglione mais la Castiglione elle, a conquis Napoléon au nom de sa patrie, l’Italie.

C’était au temps du second Empire et l’empereur c’était Napoléon III, le neveu de Napoléon premier. Comme Narcisse, Virginia di Castiglione était folle de son corps et s’est fait prendre en photo des centaines de fois. Et puis elle a perdu sa bataille et s’est avouée vaincu quand sa beauté s’est flétrie. Elle est devenue vieille, pauvre et abandonné de tous. Enfin, abandonnée des humains car elle fini sa vie dans un soupirail avec ses nombreux chiens au 26 place Vendôme. Elle ne sortait que la nuit de peur qu’on la reconnaisse. Elle a recouvert tous ses miroirs d’un voile noir pour ne plus se voir. Elle est devenue véritablement folle. La beauté extérieure c’est bien mais cela n’est rien si on n’a pas aussi la beauté intérieure c’est à dire un minimum de culture.

Balthazar Castiglione par Raffael. Balthazar Castiglione by Raffael.

Ce café rouge et élégant est vraiment  le lieu idéal pour rêver de l’importance de la beauté dans votre vie. Thierry qui tient le bar lui aussi est un vrai gentleman. Il y a même un « happy coffee hour » et vous paierez seulement 1,60 euros votre café au bar au lieu de 1,80 euros si vous le buvez avant midi. Mais comment sont les toilettes me direz-vous ? Elle sont à l’image de ce café chic et elles ne vous décevront pas.

Et tout d’un coup un troisième Castiglione me vient à l’esprit: Balthazar Castiglione. Il fut le premier à codifier le principe “être beau à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur”. Castiglione a écrit le manuel du parfait gentleman et son livre est devenu un best seller au XVIème siècle dans toute l’Europe. Le peintre Rafael a même fait son portrait.

Et si j’allais dire bonjour à Monsieur Castiglione ? Sitôt mon café bu, d’un pas alerte et sous la pluie, je me dirige vers le musée du Louvre pour admirer le tableau de Rafael. La vie a Paris est vraiment extraordinaire. Le café ici est un philtre magique. Grâce à un simple café, vous vous retrouvez à déambuler dans le plus grand musée du monde. C’est ça l’effet fantastique des cafés de Paris !
—Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 235, rue Saint-Honoré 75001 Paris
  • Quand ? 7 jours sur 7 ; 12h00 à 23h30 (petit-déjeuner : 7h à 11h30)
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Tuileries, Concorde line 1 or 12
  • Que manger, que boire ? Happy Coffee Hour : 1,60 euros votre café au bar avant midi. Voir la carte

Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la et

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A Place to Be Alone, with Others

by Janet Hulstrand

When people ask me what they should be sure to do while they’re in Paris, I always say the same thing: “Just be sure you leave some time to simply wander—walk, sit in a park or café, and take some time to just watch the world go by.”

I say this even if the person asking me is only going to be in Paris for a day or two. It seems to me to be even more important if you only have a little bit of time in Paris to have this very Parisian, and most wonderful experience—that is, to take the time to do “nothing” and just enjoy the beauty and the inherent interest of the world surrounding you.

The French have a word for this kind of thing: flâner is the verb, and it is variously translated. Most often it is translated as “to stroll,” with secondary definitions including to lounge, dawdle, wander, or loiter. Harriet Welty Rochefort, in her book, Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French, has a chapter called “Hanging Out Without Feeling Guilty.” It seems to me that this is the best way to describe what it means to flâner that I have ever heard.

Each summer, I assign the American students in my literature class in Paris to find a café that looks sympa to them, and then to spend at least half an hour there. (“Longer is better,” I say.) I tell them they don’t have to order more than a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine if they don’t want to, or can’t afford to. Then they are to spend at least some of their time there writing about what they see, hear, observe, or think about. I give them this assignment fairly early in their month-long stay in Paris because I want them to know that this is something they can do in Paris even if they are there on a very tight budget. And I want them to understand through personal experience that it is indeed one of the most wonderful things Paris has to offer them—and everyone.

Watching the world go by. Photo: Patty Sadauskas

That is, to have a place to go where you can be alone with your thoughts, but surrounded by the interesting display of humanity around you. A place where you can take the time to relax—read, write, think, and watch the passing parade. Perhaps most importantly of all, to not be hurried away by anyone, but to feel truly welcome.

A café doesn’t have to be old in order to be a very pleasant place to pass the time, but sometimes that is part of the charm. My own favorite café in Paris is the Café Bullier, on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Avenue de l’Observatoire. This café has been there for a long time: Hemingway referred to it in A Moveable Feast (as the “Bal Bullier”). When I sit in the Café Bullier, I like to find a seat from which I can look across the boulevard to the Closeries des Lilas, now famous as one of the cafés in which Hemingway liked to work. But what I like most about the Café Bullier is the warm accueil I always experience when I am there, whether I’ve come for a leisurely cup of coffee or glass of wine, or a meal. (The service is always both professional and friendly, and the food is always good too.)

Because of my love for Parisian cafés, as well as cafés elsewhere in France, I avoid going to Starbucks when I am in France. I have nothing against Starbucks in general, but I do feel like there are plenty of Starbucks in the world, and that when in France, it’s better to support local, independently owned cafés.

After all, they have played such an important social function for such a long time—and to me, this being able to be both alone and surrounded by people, to do your work in peace and calm, and to not feel rushed about leaving is truly one of the greatest things about Paris.

Of course one of the reasons Parisian café owners are able to allow us this wonderful luxury is that there are so many of them—so many cafés, so many tables, so much space in which to do this. There is not the need to “turn tables” as there is in other places that are both more crowded and—let’s face it—more mercenary.

But Parisian café owners have to be able to earn a living too. So shouldn’t we all be helping them do that?

Because Paris just wouldn’t be the same without them.

JANET HULSTRAND is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher who divides her time between France and the United States. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and she writes frequently for Bonjour Paris, France Today, France Revisited, as well as for her blog Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road.