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Oct 28, 2009 09:43 AM

Chilling out in Paris (café-ish type of places)...

Will be in Paris for the Christmas season; I will be staying with family, but will take a few days out by myself and "do Paris".

I don't expect to do a lot of mid to end-end-ish places, no money, but I'm looking for places where I can sit down and have a long drink/coffee and read and watch the world go by.

if service and view is good enough,I could manage more touristy or more expensive places.

Any suggestions ?


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  1. You're unlikely to have service and view and cheap. What neighborhood will you be in? Me, one place I love to hang out to read and write books is le Café de l'Industrie, by Bastille.

    1 Reply
    1. re: souphie

      Soup kinda implies it, but how about the cafe on the street outside your appt or rental?

      Me - I prefer to read in my own comfy IKEA chair with my own espresso that I make Italian-style.

      John Talbott

    2. Agreeing as usual with J and J, you will probably have more sympathy with a cafe in your neighborhood, a place that appeals to YOU, where you might want to hang out more than once or twice. You'll possibly find that if you return several times, you'll be a regular.

      Perhaps the worst experience you will contract is one of the big name cafes along one of the big name boulevards. You will find seats cheek-by-jowl with tourists, service will be disinterested or even rushed and you'll pay top euro.

      For instance, in our neighborhood, there is a quite decent cafe on our quai where we have great views of the river, can watch tourists and locals alike, service is there when you want it but no one pushes you to leave and prices are low,

      We also feel at home at a quite different cafe, "tables on the sidewalk" on a busy intersection of a non-descript boulevard, still professional service and pretty cheap coffee and drinks. Nothing distinctive, but it's ours.

      In other words, don't go a cafe that friends at home will recognize, just one where you find the atmosphere you are looking for.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mangeur

        I agree with fellow hounds.
        Get yourself "adopted" by one café, one that you like the looks of (plus you like the looks of the people there) in your neighborhood.

      2. I agree with many of the other posters that finding a nice local cafe is a great idea.

        However, it is also good to try some of the famous ones as well, good to compare and contrast, but also they can be good fun. OK they are very expensive, have lots of attitude (but doesn't that contribute to the experience?), and generally serve dire food. But they are usually in the best spots for people watching and/or have the best views.

        I used to love Deux Magots on Boulevard St Germain, get a corner table outside and make a coffee last an hour and watch the beautiful people of the 7eme. There is also quite a good spot on rue Saint-Honore, between rue de Castiglione and rue d'Agier (I am sorry I can't remember the name) here you can peruse the fashionistas as they stroll between Colette and Hermes.

        However, avoid any on the Champs-Elysées as all you will see are fellow tourists.

        6 Replies
        1. re: PhilD

          "However, avoid any on the Champs-Elysées…"
          Avoid Champs-Elysées period. I wish one could expell Champs-Elysées from Paris.
          Good cafés for people watching:
          - Café Charbon in Oberkampf
          - La Fourmi, on rue des Martyrs
          - Café de la Place, in front of the St Sulpice church
          - St Jean on rue des Abbesses, in front of the metro
          - A Priori Thé in galerie Vivienne (but eat before you go, as the food is dismal there)
          - and of course l'Industrie as cited above..

          1. re: Parigi

            I disagree. Champs Elysées rock -- they have a variety of neighborhoods all around, it's a shopping and fine dining paradise, and they have cinema theaters everywhere. Not to mention MacDonalds with free wifi. They even have some relaxed typical neighborhood café on the North side. But it sure is more like Balzac than Amélie Poulain.

            1. re: souphie

              Of course in the streets and neighbourhoods around the Champs Elysees you can find some great cafes and food. But on the Champs Elysees between Etoile and Concorde? i.e. the bit every tourist heads for.

              1. re: PhilD

                Ledoyen, Copenhague, Ladurée, Paul -- and less than 100m away, the list gets much better. I haven't tried the Marriott.

                1. re: souphie

                  Soup, I would say the inclusion of Paul and the Marriott makes my point. And even though Laduree has their "flagship" store there, IMO the shop/cafe on rue Royale or even the one in Printemps (for tea) are better bets for a good Parisian experience. Yes, Ledoyen, is a great 3 star restaurant, but maybe not to read a book and relax over a coffee as the OP wanted?

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Of course you're right. My point was just that the Champ Elysées neighborhood has its charms, which in general are not very book-reading and chill'out oriented. For instance, when I lived in that neighborhood, one place to kinda "chill out" was the salon Baba, a shoeshine where the men of the neighborhood would meet, talk about women and oil trafficking. As I said, it was infinitely Balzacian, full of social passions and compromissions, and nothing like cutesy Amélie Poulain.

        2. While mangeur is probably right, last weekend got a front table outside near Odeon at the lousy Indiana, a brutal chain. Beers were 2.20 for .25 litre and service was wonderful and for sitting Blvd St Germain that is free. Sat for one and one half hours with three beers apiece for a total of 13 euros. Again staff young cute, friendly, and competent with no push to flip table.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            I find the Café de l'Industrie and the Charbon formulaic. They have a theme-bar quality to them and both of them are in neighborhoods which were once thriving and interesting, but which today are a little sad.

            Saying that, and as stated above, you're not going to cross the city for your morning coffee or evening glass of whatever if you're staying in the Bastille or Oberkampf areas, so it depends on where you're located.

            Two bars I'd recommend are both in the same street: they've buggered around with the decor, and it becomes a bit too hip in the evenings and weekends, but Chez Jeanette on the rue du Faubourg St Denis is still a good place to waste an afternoon whilst looking at the weird mix of pretty girls, Turks, hip guys with difficult glasses, gambling (in both senses of the word) Africans, and old-school Parisians that you get these days in the Strasbourg St Denis area. In the same street, and with a cheaper (but these days perhaps more authentic (?) decor), and they often bring you a shot of free calvados with the bill, Café Sully.

          2. Am currently living only an hour from Paris,so have had much time to eat and explore the city of light.

            "Rose Bakery" is great for a quiche, "Angelina's" is great for a macaroon and "La Charlotte de L'Isle" is magic for hot chocolate and Cake.

            Check out the post I just did on our blog, it's a 12 hour food itinerary for Paris :-)