The best cafés in Paris
What’s the vibe? Chris Nielson came to rue Dupetit-Thouars by way of Sydney’s Mecca Espresso, London’s Prufrock Coffee and Paris’s own Ten Belles. With that kind of CV, the coffee here is, of course, excellent. At a teensy 15m2, Fondation Café is only just bigger than the standard Parisian apartment, but space is made up for with a terrace seating sixteen, which is bathed in light for most of the day. Decorated with warm and stylish Swedish furnishings, the minimalist décor gives due attention to the brilliant coffee being made. No Australian flat whites here: Nielson keeps it French with espressos, café crèmes and filters – allowing for crucial iced lattes in summer.
What should I order? A slice of toasted banana bread and a flat white.
What’s the vibe? Make Fringe one of your must-hits: owner, photographer and coffee lover Jeff Hargrove frequently invites artists from all walks of life to exhibit their work and paint on the walls of his minuscule Scandi-chic joint. It features a series 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.
What's the vibe? The founders of the Brûlerie de Belleville restored this twenties bistro with immense care, preserving its imposing mirrors, gorgeous ceiling and paintings, while adding new 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 – best enjoyed on its sunny terrace, which dominates the crossroads between the rue la Grange aux Belles and Juliette Dodu. The gentle atmosphere of the area shines through at this little haven, making it the perfect place to enjoy a book and breakfast before work.
What should I order? A boiled egg, toast and a filter coffee.
What’s the vibe? Superior barista Thomas Lehoux’s café is perfectly located just off the funky Canal Saint-Martin. The discrete pinewood storefront is decorated with plants and herbs, a few rickety stools sit on the pavement for determined smokers, and it’s invariably packed, often with a long line queuing outside. The food is prepared in a shiny kitchen out at the back, and is handled by Le Bal Café, a cool address just off the Place de Clichy, one of the rare restaurants which takes its coffee as seriously as the wine list. Don’t be surprised to see sausage rolls, salt beef and cauliflower soup on the menu, as chef Anne Trattles is English and used to work at St John’s in London.
What should I order? One of the guest coffee blends and as many baked goods as your stomach can handle.
What’s the vibe? Looking out over Pigalle’s leafy Place Lino Ventura, KBCafeShop (which stands for Kooka Boora) 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 that are served all the year round. KB doesn’t roast its own beans, working with the dynamic team at Café Lomi, but they change the range every couple of months. They are also very keen on fresh milk for the lattes and cappuccinos, brought in from Normandy.
What should I order? A super smooth cappuccino and a slice of marble cake.
What’s the vibe? Formerly of two neighbouring bars in the 11th, Café Chilango and Chambre Noire, Mexican chef Mario Flores rustles up a weekly changing menu of burritoes, quesadillas and guacamole with seasonal organic fruit and veg. The interior is every Instagrammer’s dream – big glass windows, charming Parisian furnishings, white tiled walls, mirrored ceilings and flowers on each table. Coffee comes from excellent merchants The Beans on Fire, but expect regularly rotating blends and providers. The filter coffee is a very reasonable and a chai latte would go well with a pumpkin bread, cheesecake or cookie. There’s even viennoiserie, a rarity in third wave coffee shops.
What should I order? A €3.50 filter coffee and a freshly baked pastry.
What’s the vibe? From the outside, The Hood still echoes the junk shop it used to be. A bit of rusty metal and then the sign ‘Parfumerie – cadeaux – bazar – ménage,’ reminds us that rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud was a bustling street in the former working-class area. The Hood's offering is Brooklyn to the bone. From speciality coffee to their co-working space, right through to the folk music – they even host concerts. The coffee comes from the Brûlerie de Belleville – the hot ticket – and the banh mi, buddha bowls and pandan cakes prepared with love by the French-Vietnamese chef Khânh-Ly.
What should I order? A slice of pandan chiffon cake and an espresso.
What’s the vibe? This rue du Faubourg Poissonnière joint does delicious Coutume coffee and a wide range of freshly made, often organic food. Open from 6am to 6pm, they also do a brunch menu and sandwiches to go, such as the classic Prince de Paris ham and Comté. All dairy comes from the famous Fromagerie Beillevaire, suppliers to a handful of prestigious Paris establishments. Stick around for the homemade cakes too. It’s also worth noting that a filter coffee here costs €4, when many other cafés charge an unflinching €6.50.
What should I order? The almond financiers and a filter coffee.
What's the vibe? Hidden away in an unfashionable part of the 18th arrondissement, from the outside, Lomi looks like a bland modern building, but the café attracts a strong local following, with a colourful mix of mums and babies, building workers and students hunched over laptops, local businessmen and coffee fanatics making a pilgrimage: Lomi is also renowned in the coffee fraternity for its roasting. For a change, there are more women than men behind the bar, with a lady 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.
What’s the vibe? This contemporary cool museum cafe 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, with 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 excellent exhibitions and arty bookstore.
What should I order? The apfelstrüdel with apple confit and an espresso.
What’s the vibe? One of the city’s best all-day brunch spots, Holybelly attracts freelancers and foodies in their droves. The narrow area at the front gives way to a sober and elegant back room, dominated by a big leather sofa and a pinball machine. The management is a young couple fresh from Vancouver, intent on spreading some Canadian bonhomie through their hip little venue. Dishes are pimped-up brunch classics like fig and caramelised hazelnut pancakes and coffee come from a new local roaster in Belleville.
What should I order? The savoury stack of pancakes with fried eggs, The Beast’s bacon, homemade Bourbon butter and maple syrup.
What’s the vibe? Like the pullover you automatically reach for on grey days, Café de l’Industrie will always have a piece of our heart. There’s something about the immense high-ceilinged space with its neo-colonial décor, jazz manouche soundtrack and low-key bustle that is immensely comforting. Stick to the original space at no. 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 and you’re unlikely to have to battle for a table even at peak times, with waitstaff who wouldn’t dare hustle you out. Linger and enjoy.
What should I order? A Café Viennois: black coffee topped with a huge dollop of freshly whipped cream.
What’s the vibe? The Caféothèque was their birthplace of the city’s coffee revolution seven years ago, created by the doyenne of ‘coffeology’ Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador of Guatemala. At the moment, the Caféothèque stocks and roasts coffee from 23 different countries, but aims to go up to 31 so they can offer a different country every day of the month. It is next door to a vast artist’s residence, 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 as well.
What should I order? A single origin Ethiopian espresso and a slice of matcha cheesecake.
What's the vibe? In the heart of the chic Rive Gauche and few minutes walk from Le Bon Marché, Coutume was the original instigator of the Paris coffee revolution. Part café, part roastery, it supplies beans to over 60 bars, restaurants and hotels across the city. The industrial-style space features a ‘dining table’ made from a stainless steel sink unit, while hidden away at the back is a state-of-the-art roasting machine and beans imported from all over the world. The breakfast and lunch focus is on healthy organic products and includes plenty of veggie options. The ambience is like a wine bar, with the barista playing sommelier, explaining the bean plantations and proposing offbeat mixes like Ethiopian coffee with cardamom or even pepper sprinkled on an espresso.
What should I order? The Ethiopia Grande Réserve, extracted using a Synesso and avo toast.
What’s the vibe? This vast Hispano-Moorish mosque in the 5th is the spiritual heart of France's Algerian-dominated Muslim population. Take a spin around the stunning green-and-white tiled interior before settling down in the adorable courtyard cafe. It’s all mosaic-topped tables shaded beneath green foliage and scented with the sweet smell of shisha smoke.
What should I order? Hail a waiter for thé à la menthe (poured from high above) and a sweet sticky North African pastry.
What’s the vibe? Café Charlot is one of the most lovely old-school cafés in the Marais, thanks to its magnificent old-fashioned bakery shop front with intact wrought iron and its retro ambience. Located across from Marché des Enfants Rouges, the terrace is often packed with hipsters basking in the sun. Inside, large round leather benches match the old-fashioned counter, while wooden panelling and wine bottles in perfect alignment give it an authentic air.
What should I order? As many €1.10 espressos as your system can ingest – this is people watching par excellence.
What’s the vibe? There are literary winks and nudges a-plenty at this cosy spot, a 2015 addition to the celebrated Shakespeare and Company bookshop. The shelves are stocked with cookbooks, literary classics and second-hand novels, a loaf of Catcher in the Rye bread sits on the counter while a lattice-topped Love and Squalor fruit pie nudges up against a more prosaic lemon tart. Bob’s Bake Shop provides the short menu of soup, salads and sandwiches, and there’s smoothies, juices, Postcard Teas and Café Lomi coffees too. It’s not a place to linger, given the near-constant queue of customers angling for one of the few small tables inside. But on warmer days, the large sharing tables on the front terrace are a delight.
What should I order? A latte, a slice of pecan pie and a brand new book.
What's the vibe? In a quiet street just minutes from the Canal Saint-Martin, Café Craft is a refuge with high-speed Wi-Fi, studious atmosphere and minimalist yet welcoming design inherited from Brooklyn and Scandinavia. Café Craft trumpets its coffee credentials, claiming to serve the best in Paris – theirs is made from beans roasted by the famous Café Lomi. For blood sugar, there are sweet and savoury pastries.
What should I order? The red fruit crumble and a flat white.
What’s the vibe? 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, attracts tourists and, yes, celebrities 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.
What’s the vibe? If you stand outside Les Deux Magots, you have to be prepared to photograph tourists wanting proof of their encounter with French philosophy. The former haunt of Sartre and de Beauvoir now draws a less pensive 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, leaving enough elbow room to engage in some serious discussion.
What should I order? Not known for its affordability, stick to a €4.70 filter coffee and order milk on the side - some of the fancier coffees are up to €10.
What’s the vibe? Known more for its prime location than its fare, Café Beaubourg is right in front of the Centre Pompidou on the corner of this animated pedestrian area. The clientele is a mix of bright young things and tourists soaking on the rays on the fair-weathered days and nights. Décor is all white and red and even the outdoor sofas are very comfortable (a rarity even in cafe obsessed Paris).
What should I order? A glass of rosé at apero o’clock.
Hungry after all that coffee?
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