For a city with a thriving population of students, academics, stressed freelancers and budding writers, Paris doesn't exactly abound in good public work spaces. Around the peak early-autumn period of la rentrée, the city's libraries tend to fill up quickly and sprout queues of frustrated scholars that snake around the block. Traditional cafés and brasseries don't exactly rise to the occasion, what with their lack of internet and unforgivingly small tables. So for the benefit of all those with a MacBook in hand, a deadline on the horizon and an urgent need for caffeine, we’ve rounded up the best cafés in Paris with free Wi-Fi and proper table space. Bring on the emails.
Got a favourite workplace-away-from-home that we've neglected? Let us know in the comments box below.
The Right Bank
Ever get nostalgic for 70s youth hostel decor? Look no further – the trappings of table football, board games and musty old books have all been slavishly recreated at the Pères Populaires. One of the cheapest bars in the city, it’s also a local canteen, complete with sticky table-tops and the tenacious smell of stale beer that bears witness to many a debauched evening. The décor is an incoherent mixture of second-hand furniture with some good pieces, and of bent wood hat stands with peeling wallpaper. One perches uncomfortably on chairs or on a knackered old sofa, knocking back jugs of beer or rum mixers and mopping it all up with a cheap charcuterie board (€5 to €8). During the day the place is tranquil and full of light, thanks to a huge picture window – and the area’s students flock to its free Wi-Fi. Always full in the evenings, it gets busiest when the gigs start at 8pm, mostly local groups playing jazz or cheesy hits. A decidedly blue collar French venue, but none the worse for that.
Les P'tites Indécises caters primarily to large appetites and pinched wallets. Set in the middle of a sunlit square near Parmentier, this brightly lit restaurant boasts a generous brunch that comes in two varieties: the ‘p’tit dej’ and the ‘complet’, both of which include freshly squeezed juice, your choice of hot drink and an unlimited bread basket with a selection of spreads. If you choose the 'p’tit dej' (reasonably priced at €14.50), you also get a choice of entrée and dessert: the entrée nearly always includes fried eggs and bacon to mop up your hangover, plus a seasonal treat like melon & ham or Italian mozzarella salad. For dessert, you can pick up a light option such as yoghurt with berries, or – if you’re feeling a bit more wicked – a decadent chocolate and hazelnut brownie. Got space for more? Take the complet for €23, which has an added main course, from a selection of good French bistro classics and Petites Indécises specialities. The décor is bright and cheerful and the menu is simple but solid. Ultra-affable waiters score bonus points for happily translating the menu if need be, but in a venue this popular they can be hard to pin down. This is the sort of place to head to with a crowd of friends to comb over last night's debauchery while gently nursing a hangover. If the weather's nice, choose one of the tables that snake around the outside of the conservatory to sip a café crème in the sun. It also has free Wi-Fi and so attracts students and freelancers durin
This is one of Time Out's 100 best bars in Paris. Click here to see the full list. Having fallen in love with Germany during a holiday to Berlin, the owners of this café began to import German products and traditions, creating a nice Franco-German ambiance. The success was immediate, attracting devotees of both classic Croque Monsieurs and traditional German currywurst, a German sausage in a curry sauce with crisps. During Oktoberfest, Café Titon becomes a fully-fledged biergarten. German beer aficionados will be ecstatic to find Paulaner, Erdinger, and even Franziskaner Dunkel. Outside of currywurst and bratwurst, the menu is mostly centred on French cuisine with tartares, large salads, steaks, and sandwiches. The café is also a light and airy place to work, with the free wifi and good grub providing enough sustenance to keep you going for an afternoon at the 'office'.
Hidden away in an unfashionable part of the 18th arrondissement, Lomi opened in October 2012. From the outside, this looks like a bland modern building, but Lomi’s architect has transformed a basic concrete space into a cool café that resembles an abandoned warehouse with rusty metal girders, peeling paint on the walls, simple wooden tables and old leather couches. The café has already attracted 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 Gallery restaurant. They prepare sandwiches, salads and quiches throughout the day, and although there isn’t a breakfast menu yet, they are already well known for their scones, chocolate cake and cheesecake. At the back of the café you can see a glass-walled laboratory filled with weird-looking coffee machines, filters and grinders. This is where Lomi test their prospective coffee beans, and out of sight is a vast coffee roaster and sacks of beans from as far afield as Salvador, Brazil and Ethiopia. Lomi is one of an increasing number of Franco-Australian collaborations, owned by Aleaume Paturle, who picked up the coffee bug making espressos in San Diego, and Aussie barista Paul Arnephy, who wo
This is a café for all those students and young professionals who’d rather do their emails and spreadsheets in the local Starbucks than at home. The concept here is that you pay per hour, not per drink: €4 for the first hour, and €2 for every hour thereafter. Furnished with everything your laptop needs - wi-fi, spacious tables, optimised lighting, peace and quiet – this is the place to go for those who, like us, need coffee to get their work done. The buffet also includes juice, biscuits, brioche and Nutella (with a few deluxe items, such as freshly pressed orange juice, available for a small extra fee). There’s even board games for when you get bored with the PowerPoints.
Paris is seeing a positive nouvelle vague of creative freelance Parisians keen to escape the confines of their apartments and find trendy cafés where they can work, get good coffee and look good all at the same time. More often than not they’re stuck with the local bar (because red wine and work go so well together…), so with Café Craft, Augustin Blanchard is filling a gap in the market.In a quiet street just minutes from the Canal Saint-Martin, this café is a refuge for the new breed of wireless creative who are flocking to the trendy outskirts of eastern and northern Paris. With its high speed WiFi, studious atmosphere and minimalist yet welcoming design inherited from Brooklyn and Scandinavia, Craft Café represents a kind of place that is still relatively unusual in Paris.And like its ancestors in London and New York, Café Craft trumpets its coffee credentials, claiming to serve the best in Paris (a bold challenge, non?) – theirs is made from beans roasted by the famous Café Lomi. For blood sugar, there are sweet and savoury pastries (we recommend the red fruit crumble).
Just a few steps away from Beaubourg, there’s a place you can park your books and your laptop and settle in for an afternoon. This petite café boasts free Wi-Fi, a mix of comfortable chairs and desk-like arrangements and a variety of different coffees and teas. The coffee menu caters to both anglophones and French, proven by the fact that they differentiate between a café crème, a café au lait and a cappuccino. They’ve also got an alcohol license so you can grab a beer if the work gets too much. If you come at lunchtime you can take your pick from one of the delicious salads (complete with homemade dressing) or homemade savoury tarts such as the leek and bacon, and later maybe a slice of their cheesecake or chocolate fondant for an afternoon pick-me-up. The clientele tend to be students and freelancers so the atmosphere is conducive to working, if you’re okay with the hum of traffic from outside and a constant soundtrack of indie music in the background. It’s a shame that there’s no outdoor seating, but the bilingual staff, great coffee and I-just-stumbled-upon-a-Paris-gem feeling makes up for it.
Loustic is a relatively new face on the Parisian coffee scene, but it’s already made its mark. Owner Channa Galhenage is a flat cap-wearing Londoner with a sharp eye for trends: his first masterstroke was to hire designer Dorothée Meilichzon (of hip design studio CHZON) to do up the place. Sexy design lamps, geometric patterns, huge cushions and deep bamboo chairs give the slightly poky venue a voguish coating. Throw in the arty Marais address, the eclectic international food on offer (if quiche represents France and kale chips America) and the mood jazz on the sound system, and you’ve got yourself a hipster hangout par excellence.The layout of the café is a bit awkward: the narrow front room squeezes in a row of seats along the bar, leaving about as much breathing space as a metro carriage in rush hour. But in the back the venue opens out into a snug space furnished with a large corner sofa and gentle yellow lighting – ideal for settling in with some friends or a laptop. If you’re here to work, there’s free Wi-Fi and tasty beverages aplenty – having done stints at KB and Alto Café, Galhenage knows how to serve a great cup of joe. 'Loustic' may mean 'smart alec' in Old Breton, but there's nothing smug about this warm, vibrant spot.
The Left Bank
We'd be lying if we said that we didn't fancy having our own trusted local coffee joint just like Central Perk in 'Friends'. Well, our wish has been granted (almost). Garden Perk, a New York-style coffee shop, is our new base on the Rue Cujas. Brick walls, soft sofas, low tables and a menu revolving around bagels and fruit smoothies: you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're in the Big Apple. But although the place is kitted out to look like the TV series' hangout spot, the atmosphere is altogether a bit more studious, as it's only steps away from the Sorbonne. The throngs of students squished together on the sofas, revising for whole afternoons at a stretch, can make it difficult to get a seat in this shoebox-sized café. The hardened cookies and multicoloured doughnuts (€2) – not to mention the sickly-sweet smoothies (€5) – are a far cry from the homemade treats on offer in other coffee shops. Consolation comes in the form of generous mugs of hot chocolate laden with whipped cream and the big comfy sofas. If you're itching to experience a bit of Brooklyn, you could do worse than this.
Some will come to the Finnish Cultural Centre’s Coutume Instituutti – sister branch of Le Coutume Café – with a burning desire to discover what actually constitutes Finnish cuisine. Others, because they need a cool, calm, open space in which to type their emails over a cup of coffee. Visitors of the first kind may come away disappointed: the menu is still very small (the venue had opened only one month prior to our visit), and of the fusion variety. We tasted nicely spiced Finnish meatballs on a bed of couscous and parsnips (not cheap at €12.50); but aside from a few other main courses of this sort (such as a chicken curry for €9.50), a soup of the day (€4.90), and a small range of cakes, the kitchen hasn’t got much to offer. The friendly staff inform us that things may expand in the future.Those visitors in the second category will have no such regrets, for this is one of the most pleasant cafés we’ve stumbled upon in a while. It’s sleek, quiet without disapproving of conversation (renowned Finnish actress Elina Salo was chatting away at the next table), and very spacious – in the evenings, the tables are packed away for concerts and ping-pong sessions. There’s something in the tastefully minimalist wooden furnishings that positively begs you to whip out your MacBook. And the coffee is made for people who love to drink it, by people who love to talk about it: we were served a wickedly strong latte (worth the €4 tag) that the staff informed us was an in-house blend of Guatema
Ideally located for students from the nearby Bibliothèque François Mitterand who’ve emerged to refuel, L’Arobase knows how to pander to its customer base. Very reasonable set lunches (such as the Formule Jaune: hot drink, salad or soup and slice of quiche for €7.70) and a great selection of cakes and patisseries make this a useful pit stop. If you’re the kind of person who cares about your coffee, it’s probably best to give the house brew a miss – but the excellent cheesecake (€3.60) is a great substitute. The bagels are the main offering, with some imaginative fillings such as the Queens (capers, ham, Emmental, cream cheese, tomatoes, salad) or the Soho (cream cheese, figs, goats cheese, honey and bacon). The spacious seating area has ample table space and comfy banquettes at the back to commandeer for an afternoon, though if you’re keen to get your nose back in the books you can also ask to take away. The long opening hours and internet café downstairs for those without their own laptop are useful extras. It’s the thoughtful details – the rack of today’s newspapers lined up against the wall, the plug sockets helpfully spaced around the room, the gentle lighting – that make this café worth a return visit.
The Paris coffee scene is coming alive: Time Out sips its way across town in pursuit of the finest roasts, blends and brews While Paris excels when it comes to café culture, from sitting out on the terrace of the historic Café de Flore to popping in to your favourite local bar for a classic grand crème and a croissant, until now that culture has not extended to the quality of the coffee itself. The French themselves do not even seem to care that their coffee is unanimously condemned as lousy, happily sipping an espresso made with bitter pre-ground beans, not bothering that the barman uses pasteurised long-life milk for the cappuccino. All that is changing fast though, with a new generation of coffee bars opening up all over the city, many run by Australian and American baristas who take their espresso-making skills very seriously, alongside French coffee enthusiasts who are travelling the world to visit plantations, then importing and roasting the fragrant Arabica beans themselves. These born-again cafés serve potent double espressos made with freshly ground beans from Ethiopia or Rwanda, Salvador or Guatemala. They are introducing the French to the subtleties of strong-tasting V60 filter coffee, flat white or the siphon Aeropress. Many are also gaining a reputation for their healthy food, from natural yoghurts at breakfast to grilled vegetables, crispy salads and organic grilled chicken at lunch, though don't count the calories too much when it comes to the chocolate cakes a
In the last few years there have been some sad casualties on the English bookshop scene in Paris, with much-loved outlets Tea and Tattered Pages, Village Voice and Red Wheelbarrow all closing their doors for the last time. But the city that nurtured Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Orwell and Beckett remains a major hub and an inspiration for English writers and readers, and there are still glossy emporiums, delightful second-hand treasure troves and plenty of mixed-language outlets to explore. They're also great places to find out about literary readings and events (particularly Shakespeare & Company), and invariably have a message board with postings for language classes, book exchanges, clubs and accommodation notices. Expats, tourists, language learners, lovers of English literature in Paris, read on... The Abbey Bookshop Celebrating 20 years in business, the tiny Abbey Bookshop is the domain of Canadian renaissance man Brian Spence, who organises weekend hikes as well as dressing up in doublet and hose for a spot of 17th-century dancing.The tiny, narrow shop stocks old and new works, a specialised Canadian section, and highbrow subjects down the rickety staircase. Several thousand more books are in storage, and he can normally order titles for collection within two days. Berkeley Books An offshoot of San Francisco Books in the next street over, Berkeley opened in 2006 and as well as the shop runs a well-organised website with an online catalogue and calls to buy, sell and excha
Explore the greats and discover hidden gems Philippe Ramette at Galeries Lafayette See the legendary store with new eyes during a gravity-defying installation under the famous dome, August 14-30 Museums by area Saint-Germain-des-Prés Espace Fondation EDF This former electric substation was constructed in 1910 under the guidance of architect Paul Friesé, known for his numerous industrial-style buildings around Paris. Reconverted by EDF, the building has been used for exhibitions since 1990. The subjects reflect the various patronages received by EDF and often deal with the environment, urbanism or sustainable development. Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine The history of medicine is the subject of the medical faculty collection. There are ancient Egyptian embalming tools, a 1960s electrocardiograph and a gruesome array of saws used for amputations. You'll also find the instruments of Dr Antommarchi, who performed the autopsy on Napoleon, and the scalpel of Dr Félix, who operated on Louis XIV. Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Ensba) The city's most prestigious fine arts school resides in what remains of the 17th-century Couvent des Petits-Augustins, the 18th-century Hôtel de Chimay, some 19th-century additions and some chunks of assorted French châteaux that were moved here after the Revolution (when the buildings briefly served as a museum of French monuments, before becoming the art school in 1816). The entrance is on quai Malaquais. Musée Maillol Dina Vierny was 15