The Best Traditional French Cafes in Paris
Look, a traditional French cafe is not hard to find in Paris. They’re on every corner, and it’s very much the niche of the city (especially if you’re an influencer on social media)!
The best cafes are difficult to label, due to the myriad of options from street corner to street corner. These are a few that I love. I find the flair traditional, aesthetic and overall ambiance delightful at all times of the day… and night.
1. Le Select in Paris
Parisian nostalgia and Montparnasse go hand in hand with the creation of this classic 1920s brasserie that screams French comfort and lifestyle. I should also mention this was once the watering hole of choice for the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and even Fitzgerald… are your ears pricking up yet?
Serving a traditional array of dishes and pastries, le Select is worth a visit even if you’re just hankering for a glass of good Bordeaux. Back in the day, folks would spend hours in this cafe, hotboxing the interior with cigarette and cigar smoke. In the spirit of good health, smoking is no longer permitted indoors but can be enjoyed out on street level.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday — 7am to 2am
ADDRESS: 99 Bd du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, France
Metro STATION: Vavin
2. Les Deux Magots in Paris
Okay, so the aforementioned cafe wasn’t the only spot that Picasso and co would frequent in old Paree. This brasserie is of equal French charm, and opened its doors back in 1885.
It is though that a lot of modern thinking (French philosophy) occurred within the walls of les Deux Magots, as it attracted free-thinkers from far and wide, and gave them a safe space to express within, while ensuring bottomless absinthe and espresso.
Due to its increasing popularity and tourist recognition, there are now items on the menu that would make the old timers roll in their graves. Filter coffee and milk on the side is all you need for the true essence of les Deux Magots — don’t let anyone tell you different!
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday — 7:30am to 12am
ADDRESS: 6 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
Metro STATION: Saint-Germain-des-Prez
3. Cafe de Flore in Paris
Right across the road from les Deux Magots is this slightly more accessible establishment that holds an equivalent amount of French charm. The cafe is known for having changed very little since the war; the same red interior, mirrors and draping are still the first thing to greet new guests.
Despite having slowly morphed into an untenable tourist trap, the cafe is still wonderfully ambient and holds that traditional French feel regardless of the hype. Come for great coffee, fresh air, and the best French onion soup this side of the Seine.
For some reason, celebrities love coming here when they are in Paris. Keep an eye out — you never know who is on the wicker chair adjacent to you!
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday — 7:30am to 1:30am
ADDRESS: 172 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, France
Metro STATION: Saint-Germain-des-Prez
4. Cafe Charlot in Paris
If ever there were a spot to be seen in Paris, it’s got to be le Marias’ classic Cafe Charlot. Packed to the brim at the best of times, this cafe has established the perfect balance between traditional and modern, and it the one place where vegetarians actually have more than just salad to look forward to during their French dining experience.
Cafe Charlot is an institution, known for being the hangout spot of choice for Fashion Week’s rich and famous; think influencers, models and creative geniuses who bring the events to life.
It goes without saying this this is a 10/10 spot when it comes to people watching. Seriously, how did two hours just go by?
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday — 8am to 2am
ADDRESS: 38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris, France
Metro STATION: Filles du Calvarie
5. La Fontaine in Paris
This classic 1920s bistro was restored with the utmost attention to detail, and with intention to preserve the traditional charm that once saturated the place all those years ago.
Situated near the banks of the Canal Saint Martin, this is one of the most charming spots in Paris to spend an afternoon, and move swiftly into an evening of festivity.
On weekends, there are live jazz bands that really bring the history of the cafe back to life. Elegant it the right word for the vibe of the spot, so feel free to put on your good shoes and bring an attitude for mingling.
Due to the pandemic, ownership of the cafe recently changed and there has been a period of recalibration. Keep an on la Fontaine nonetheless; I have no doubt they will soon regain their footing.