When it comes to exploring new cities, some people make a beeline for the best restaurants; others head to art galleries, museums, or historical monuments. For me, there’s no better way to get the feel of a place than simply walking—and sitting in cafes.
In fact, I used to have a whole blog about cafes, my version of a travelogue that spanned 13 countries. It started four years ago in Paris, because I wanted to capture all the beautifully French cafes I was visiting on the weekends. Back then, I was in it more for the ambiance than the refreshments; more often than not, I ordered steamed milk with cinnamon or hot wine.
For my trip to Paris this summer, though, I came armed with a taste for espresso drinks—and a whole list of places to visit. Recent years have seen the emergence of more and more “coffee shops” (yes, that’s what they call it in French—the word “cafe” is already taken). Rather than settling for an unremarkable coffee at your local bistro, you can now get a decent filtered coffee, latte, or even a flat white in a setting New York hipsters would be proud of.
Though I was only in Paris for two weeks, I managed to hit these nine stellar cafes, all of which I’d highly recommend.
After dropping off my bags at an Airbnb, I dragged my jet-lagged self out of the apartment and toward caffeine. I was greeted at Le Peloton by a familiar coffee-shop vibe and the sounds of English all around.
Run by Christian Osburn and Paul Barron from Bike About Tours, the cafe doubles as a dropoff point for people who have rented bikes. I sipped my strong flat white and listened to one renter rave about the experience of biking around the city and how much he would miss it.
Besides artisan coffee, the small and homey cafe offers craft beer and fresh, local food—including, apparently, some amazing waffles.
Ten Belles Bread
Just the sight of my bread from Ten Belles brings back delicious memories: that crispy crust, that sour fermentedness. The only thing that would have made it better is more butter!
Founded by Alice Quillet, Anselme Blayney, and Anna Trattles, Ten Belles specializes in bread: chocolate bread, sourdough bread, focaccia, you name it. You’ll also find tarts, muffins, and financiers to go with your coffee à la Belleville Brûlerie. Throw in a large back terrasse, and this was the perfect spot for my Saturday morning.
Founded by couple Daniel Warburton and Angelle Boucher in 2017, Neighbours offers up brunch, lunch, and snacks in a small, sleek space (complete with a dumbwaiter for transporting food and shiny copper pipes that dispense water).
My Neighbours flat white gave me insomnia, but I don’t blame them—it’s my fault for stopping for a second coffee that day. But what else was I supposed to do, when it looked so beautiful?
Coutume is the only cafe on this list that I visited twice—maybe because it’s the only one on the Left Bank. My friend Faiza and I cooled off at Coutume on her first day, and I had my last Parisian latte here before departing.
Founded in 2010 by Antoine Nétien and Tom Clark, Coutume is a roaster—they have an atelier in the 10th arrondissement, as well as a shop in Tokyo. They travel the world sourcing the best beans, some of which they supply to other coffee shops in Paris.
Although there’s no terrasse, Coutume has lots of indoor space where you can enjoy their seasonal breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
Founded in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Nico Alary and Sarah Mouchot, Holybelly is a Melbourne-style cafe that offers local and seasonal food inspired by flavors from Australia, America, France, and more.
Luckily, we chose to go for brunch on a Friday rather than a Saturday, so we didn’t have to wait in a huge line. The big space feels like a diner and they had pancakes, so I was sold. I later discovered that one of the “waiters” who helped us was Alary himself, who really does seem to put a lot of “care” into the business.
Fondation is the tiniest coffee shop on my list, but Faiza and I still managed to snag a seat on its mini-terrasse to enjoy our iced drinks.
By the time I got to Lomi, I had realized that flat whites were too strong for me—much stronger than they are in Canada. So I opted for that latte you see there, and it was probably the best of my trip.
Founded in 2010 by Aleaume Paturle and Paul Arnephy, Lomi is another famous roaster in Paris. Arnephy sources beans from around the world, particularly South America and Africa. In addition to coffee and cold brew, customers can enjoy organic vegetable plates and a variety of rice dishes from Cantine Le Myrha.
Lomi is pretty far from the center of Paris, but that means more space both inside and outside, including a long table that you can work at. If you want to learn more about the art of coffee, you can also take workshops there in roasting, brewing, barista skills, and more.
Brunch, I am told, can be hit-or-miss in Paris: Sometimes you pay a fortune and get a basket of pastries and some undercooked bacon. But other times you get ONI: €20 for a multi-course brunch complete with fresh vegetable juice, coffee, and so much more.
ONI was founded in 2017 by French-Italian couple Damiano and Claire, who used to live in London and Australia. In addition to brunch, their small, seasonal menu features coffee from Lomi, pastries from Utopie, and beer from BAPBAP.
After yogurts, salads, and sandwiches (eggplant/sundried tomato/cheese for me, bacon/egg/avocado for Faiza), we thought brunch was over—but no, we had forgotten about the pancakes. Definitely a hit.
After dropping my friend off at the Gare du Nord, I stumbled upon Léandrés and was delighted by their slogan: “happy food & coffee.” Inside, I was greeted with a familiar coffee-shop feel: eclectic furniture, Singer sewing tables, and a ’70s color scheme.
Founded in 2017, Léandrés specializes in Colombian food like arepas and empanadas, which they make in-house. The coffee is also (often) Colombian.
A quick Google search told me that the cafe was founded by French Léa and Colombian Andrés, so I asked the waitress if she was Léa. She wasn’t, but minutes later Léa emerged from the kitchen to see how I was doing! Happy, indeed.