The Tournesol is young, vibrant and the best of the cafés on rue de la Gaïté. There's outdoor seating in the shadow of the Tour Montparnasse, and an exposed brick interior with a soul, funk and electro soundtrack. A croque-monsieur will set you back €6, a steak €12.50, and a demi of Stella €3. An abstract tableau presides over a well-organised back space, where there's plenty of seating for groups.
Off the beaten tourist track, this multidisciplinary arts centre and cinema is known for its leftfield documentaries, shorts, gay repertoire and productions from developing nations. Regular debates, poetry nights and concerts complete the programme. There's also a restaurant with a coveted garden terrace. Sit here in the summer and you feel blissfully cut off from the rest of Paris.
For a decade between the wars, the junction of boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse was the centre of the known universe. Man Ray, Cocteau and Lost Generation Americans hung out at its vast glass-fronted cafés, socialising, snubbing and snogging. Le Select is the best of these inevitable tourist traps. Sure, its overpriced menu is big on historical detail, short on authenticity, but generally Le Select hangs onto its heyday with dignity.
Like other Left Bank institutions (namely Les Deux Magots and Le Café de Flore) the Cloiserie des Lilas was where the intelligentsia hung out in the early 20th century: A bust-up between André Breton and Tristan Tzara marked the end of the Dada movement here in 1922; then the Surrealist crowd moved in, along with literary expats like Miller, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who said that the Cloiserie was 'one of the best cafés in Paris'. A bronze plaque engraved with Hemingway’s name (in the piano bar) commemorates the author’s patronage. The literary flame is kept burning too, thanks to the Prix de la Cloiserie des Lilas – an award for 21st-century, French-language, female authors. If you're hungry, try the well-prepared fare like smoked haddock and spinach (€25), and rib-eye of steak (€30) – all served to well-heeled crowds throughout the day.
On the chic Left Bank, in the artistic centre of early twentieth century Paris is Charlie Birdy, a cool hangout which would no doubt have pleased the likes of Modigliani, Picasso and Matisse, as it does now today's equally hip locals . Sitting somewhere between New York loft and traditional London hotel, Charlie Birdy has that distinctive sprinkling of Parisian styling which makes it just that little more gorgeous. Sweeping pink banquettes lay underneath quaintly mixed and matched chandeliers, large Chesterfield sofas sit in a street-scene window and touches of black and velvet hint at a possible past life as a movie star's boudoir. With eclectic music playing, enjoy fabulous cocktails and simple European and American dishes in a bar giving new meaning to the words glam rock.
In case the giant Frank Zappa poster on the toilet door leaves any room for doubt, the Lock Groove is a rock bar through and through – the kind of place where only vinyls are played and the bartender will happily engage you in a half-hour chat about the relative merits of Captain Beefheart's late albums. Situated just off the lively Rue Daguerre, it makes for a pleasant alternative to the self-conscious bars that dot Montparnasse (Café Tournesol, we're looking at you). The pints are affordable (€3.50 between 6 and 9pm), the food passable (diner-inspired dishes, including decent burgers at €8-€12) and the décor genuinely antique – by which we mean dial phones grandma-friendly floral wallpaper, not expensive retro-kitsch crap. Word of advice: pass through the front area and plonk yourself down in the cosier back room.