You couldn’t come to Paris without sampling its world-famous café culture. After all, the quintessential City of Light experience involves espressos, pastries, red wine, bread and cheese – preferably all at once. Cafés have been a key part of the capital’s identity for centuries: they’re its nerve centres, the ideal place for debating, flirting and simply watching the world go by. You may be intent on dining in all the best restaurants in Paris, and visiting those innumerable iconic attractions, but don’t forget to make a pit stop at one of the city’s old-school coffee houses, with their steadfast menus and expansive terraces. Not even to mention the influx of world-beating third-wave coffee shops that have popped up around the Canal Saint-Martin over the past half decade. So pull up a chair and tuck in – these are the best cafés in Paris right now.
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Best cafés in Paris
What's the deal? The founders of the Brûlerie de Belleville restored this ’20s bistro with immense care, preserving its imposing mirrors, gorgeous ceiling and paintings – and adding hand-painted tables and Maison Gatti rattan chairs. No more crap beer, bitter coffee or subpar sandwiches: these are ethical, artisanal products at their best. Expect local craft beers and coffee from the Brûlerie itself.
What should I order? A boiled egg, toast and a filter coffee.
Where? 31-33 Rue Juliette Dodu, 10th
What’s the deal? Owner, photographer and coffee lover Jeff Hargrove regularly invites artists to exhibit their work and paint on the walls of this diminutive Scandi-chic joint. Fringe features a range of speciality Parisian roasters and is the perfect spot to hole up for a productive, caffeine-fuelled afternoon.
What should I order? A Kenyan espresso with a fruity-chocolatey aroma, and a traditional Danish open sandwich.
Where? 106 Rue de Turenne, 3rd
What’s the deal? Old-school Parisian café by day, cutting-edge cocktail bar by night, Cravan brings a spot of class to an out-of-the-way corner of the 16th. The striking art nouveau décor, with original counter, has led to its now being listed as a protected historic site. Order a sandwich and a milky coffee, and park yourself out on the terrace – you’ll feel like you’re in a scene straight out of ‘Midnight in Paris’.
What should I order? Any of the brews with beans from the Hexagone roastery, and the granola with yoghurt and fruit (€10).
Where? 17 Rue Jean de la Fontaine, 16th
What’s the deal? Superior barista Thomas Lehoux’s café is perfectly located just off the funky Canal Saint-Martin. The discreet pinewood storefront is decorated with plants and herbs, a few rickety stools perch on the pavement for determined smokers, and it’s invariably packed, often with a long queue outside. The food is prepared in a shiny kitchen out back, and is handled by Le Bal Café, one of the rare restaurants which takes its coffee as seriously as the wine list.
What should I order? One of the guest coffee blends and as many baked goods as your stomach can handle.
Where? 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 10th
What’s the deal? Looking out over Pigalle’s leafy Place Lino Ventura, KBCaféShop is modelled on speciality coffee bars in Australia, which is why you’ll see Antipodean favourites like a creamy flat white, long black and mochaccino on the menu, plus a whole host of iced coffees served all year round. KB doesn’t roast its own beans, instead working with the dynamic team at Café Lomi, but they change the range every couple of months.
What should I order? A super-smooth cappuccino and a slice of marble cake.
Where? 62 Rue des Martyrs, 18th
What’s the deal? Mexican chef Mario Flores rustles up a weekly changing menu of burritos and quesadillas packed with seasonal, organic veg. The interior is an Instagrammer’s dream – big glass windows, charming Parisian furnishings, white tiled walls, mirrored ceilings and flowers on each table. Coffee comes from The Beans on Fire, but expect regularly rotating blends and providers. The filter coffee is very reasonable and a chai latte would go well with pumpkin bread, cheesecake or a cookie.
What should I order? A €3.50 filter coffee and a freshly baked pastry.
Where? 2 Boulevard Saint-Martin, 10th
What’s the deal? The classic bistro décor, the laid-back atmosphere, the impeccably executed seasonal menu: it didn’t take long for Café du Coin to become our new go-to for when that caffeine craving strikes. From morning through to evening, you can both eat and drink incredibly well here. Start with a coffee, and segue into the excellent three-course lunch menu at €19 (and thoroughly decent accompanying wine list).
What should I order? If you’re here at the right time, one of the excessively cheesy homemade pizzette.
Where? 9 Rue Camille Desmoulins, 11th
What’s the deal? With its rusting metal and sign stating ‘Parfumerie – cadeaux – bazar – ménage’, The Hood still resembles the junk shop it used to be. Inside, the menu is Brooklyn to the bone, and the co-working space and occasional live folk only enhance the impression. Coffee comes from the Brûlerie de Belleville – the hot ticket – and the bánh mì, buddha bowls and pandan cakes are prepared with love by French-Vietnamese chef Khânh-Ly.
What should I order? A slice of pandan chiffon and an espresso.
Where? 80 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th
What’s the deal? The second permanent opening from the Brûlerie de Belleville can be found at – you guessed it – number 50, Rue de Belleville. There’s only a handful of small blue guéridon tables (seating 16) inside, so either get down early or order your coffee to take away. Our top tip? The nearby Parc de Belleville is filled with benches ripe for philosophical contemplation.
What should I order? Their jambon-beurre makes an ideal midday pick-me-up.
Where? 50 Rue de Belleville, 20th
What’s the deal? This Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière joint serves delicious Coutume coffee and a wide range of freshly made, often organic dishes. Open from 6am to 6pm, they also offer brunch and sandwiches to go, such as the classic Prince de Paris ham and comté. All dairy comes from the prestigious Fromagerie Beillevaire. Stick around for the homemade cakes.
What should I order? An almond financier and a filter coffee.
Where? 63 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 9th
What’s the deal? You’d struggle to find a homier spot than Café Mirabelle. With its pretty cake counter, quaint fireplace and hodgepodge vintage furnishings, this café-cum-restaurant-cum-patisserie is cuteness defined. Settle in from 8am with a cuppa and a gianduja brioche.
What should I order? One of the De Thé En Thé teas, and if you’re feeling particularly hungry at the weekend, the €29 brunch.
Where? 16 Rue la Vacquerie, 11th
What’s the deal? Tucked away in a démodé part of the 18th arrondissement, from the outside, Lomi looks a little bland, but the café attracts a vibrant mix of mums and babies, students hunched over laptops and local businessmen. Lomi is also renowned in the coffee fraternity for its roasting. For once, you’ll find more women than men behind the counter, including a female barista and a Japanese patisserie chef who trained at William Ledeuil’s Ze Kitchen Galerie restaurant.
What should I order? A latte – Aussie barista Paul Arnephy won the Latte Art award for best artistic use of milk in coffee designs.
Where? 3 ter Rue Marcadet, 18th
What’s the deal? This contemporary museum café in the 18th is run by Rose Bakery-trained chefs whipping up Franco-British classics and an excellent brunch. The space was once a cabaret and then became the largest PMU in France, but it’s now chic and airy, the walls adorned with documentary photography. It’s a no-reservations spot – so arrive early on weekends or kill time at one of the BAL’s first-rate exhibitions.
What should I order? The apfelstrüdel with apple confit and an espresso.
Where? 6 Impasse de la Défense, 18th
What’s the deal? Bourgeois locals crowd the terrace tables at lunch, eating pricey club sandwiches with knives and forks as anxious waiters frown at couples with pushchairs or single diners occupying tables for four. This historic café, former HQ of the Lost Generation intelligentsia, draws tourists and, yes, celebs from time to time. There are play readings on Mondays and philosophy debates on the first Wednesday of the month, at 8pm, in English.
What should I order? A classic hot chocolate: an intensely-flavoured jug of thick, warming cocoa. No fancy twists, no extra cream, it’s and worth every centime of the €7 price tag.
Where? 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6th
What’s the deal? One of the city’s best all-day brunch spots, Holybelly attracts freelancers and foodies in droves. The narrow seating space at the front gives way to a sober and elegant back room, dominated by a big leather sofa and a pinball machine. Expect pimped-up brunch classics like fig and caramelised hazelnut pancakes and tip-top coffee from a Belleville roaster.
What should I order? The savoury pancakes with fried eggs, bacon, homemade Bourbon butter and maple syrup.
Where? 19 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 10th
What’s the deal? Like the pullover we instinctively reach for on grey days, Café de l’Industrie will always have a piece of our heart. There’s something about the grandiose, high-ceilinged space with its jazz manouche soundtrack and low-key bustle that’s immensely comforting. Stick to the original space at number 16, rather than the newer extension opposite, and enjoy the dark wood décor, crocodile skins, oil paintings and gleaming houseplants. The menu comprises great-value classics.
What should I order? A Café Viennois – black coffee topped with a huge dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Where? 16 Rue Saint-Sabin, 11th
What’s the deal? The Caféothèque was founded seven years ago by ‘coffeology’ doyenne Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador of Guatemala in Paris. Right now, it stocks and roasts coffee from 23 different countries, but aims to go up to 31 so it can offer a different country every day of the month. It’s next door to a vast arts space, La Cité Internationale des Arts, which ensures a lively cosmopolitan clientele, while its picture-postcard location on the banks of the Seine means tourists are always dropping by, too.
What should I order? A single-origin Ethiopian espresso and a slice of matcha cheesecake.
Where? 52 Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4th
What’s the deal? This vast Hispano-Moorish mosque in the 5th is the spiritual heart of France’s Muslim population. Wander around the striking green-and-white tiled interior before settling down in its adorable courtyard café. It’s all mosaic-topped tables shaded by foliage and scented with sweet-smelling shisha.
What should I order? Hail a waiter for thé à la menthe and a gloriously sticky North African pastry.
Where? 2 Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 5th
What’s the deal? With its magnificent wrought iron shopfront and to-die-for retro interior, Café Charlot must be one of the Marais’s most charming old-school cafés. Just across from Marché des Enfants Rouges, the terrace often brims with bobo Parisians basking in the sun. Inside, large round leather benches, wooden panelling match the old-fashioned counter stacked with perfectly lined-up wine bottles.
What should I order? As many €1.10 espressos as your system can handle – this is the ultimate people-watching spot.
Where? 38 Rue de Bretagne, 3rd
What’s the deal? If you stand outside Les Deux Magots, you must be prepared to photograph tourists wanting proof of their encounter with the spiritual home of modern French philosophy. The former haunt of Sartre and de Beauvoir now draws a less raffiné crowd that can be all too m'as-tu vu, particularly at weekends. Visit on a weekday afternoon when the editors return, manuscripts in hand, to the inside tables.
What should I order? Stick to a €4.70 filter coffee and order milk on the side – some of the fancier coffees are up to €10.
Where? 6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 6th
What’s the deal? Tucked down a quiet street just minutes from the Canal Saint-Martin, Café Craft is a refuge with a studious atmosphere – there’s high-speed Wi-Fi – and a minimalist yet welcoming design inspired by both Brooklyn and Scandinavia. It claims to serve the best brews in all of Paris. The beans are roasted by Café Lomi.
What should I order? The red fruit crumble and a flat white.
Where? 24 Rue des Vinaigriers, 10th
And if it’s top-notch eggs you’re after?
Je brunche, tu brunches, il/elle brunche… Only a few years ago, no such verb existed in French, but now you’d be hard-pressed to walk down a street in Paris without spotting a sign advertising an indulgent mid-morning formule – that, or hordes of Parisians queueing for their shakshuka and flat whites.