Cafés first appeared in Paris in 1672 with well-known French writers, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, frequently spotted honing their craft on terrasses around the city. Over the past 15 years, cafés have undergone a noticeable transformation as Paris started showing a preference for more dependable, casual places over the old haunts with mediocre service and quality. Cafés are where Parisians (both native and adopted) meet for drinks and dinner, have a work meeting or enjoy their morning coffee. They’re also a great spot to enjoy your latest read with a boozy drink. Here’s some tried and tested modern spots to savor a good book before enjoying some company.
When it’s raining non-stop then admit defeat and head inside to HOMADE, the food child of Gene Ho. The menu is built around seasonal produce for tasty and healthy food, inspired by California, which includes vegan and gluten-free options.
The atmosphere at Homade is super chill and low-key, and there’s a winning mix of natural textures, lots of natural light and window seating. The perfect accompaniment to your book is going to be a Homade spritz: rhubarb, turmeric, yuzu, whatever is seasonally appropriate (or your mood that particular day) just sit back and enjoy. — 20 Rue Jacques Louvel-Tessier, 75010
Book pairing: The Dud Avocado (Elaine Dundy) is an enjoyable romp through the romantic (and comedic) mishaps of a young American woman, Sally Jay Gorce, in Paris during the late 1950s.
2. Mozaic – Cave à Bières
Craft beer is having a (second) moment in the French capital. Mozaic opened its doors in January 2019, in the Miromesnil neighborhood, and is run by three women who are très passionate about beer. The owner, Dorothée Van Agt, has been active on the Paris beer scene for the past 10 years. It’s inside seating only at Mozaic, so save it for a rainy day. In addition to the standard cheese and charcuterie plates, there’s also a daily food menu and beer flights for the extra curious and thirsty. — 19 Rue de Penthièvre, 75008
Book pairing: Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (Johnny Pitts) This recently released title takes a look at parts of Europe where those of African descent are struggling with their identity. Paris features predominantly in the form of the eastern suburb Clichy Sous Bois, which saw massive riots in 2005, led by young, African Europeans. It also revisits the famous Avenue Champs-Elysées through an Afropean lens via a Parisian walking tour, designed to celebrate black Paris.
Combat is the go-to destination if you want to support female entrepreneurship. Located in the achingly hip Belleville district, this cocktail bar is so-named to reflect the general struggles faced by women, the hurdles faced by owner Margot Lecarpentier as she tried to get the project off the ground, as well as being a nod to the area’s former nickname.
Le Fooding named Combat the best bar in their prestigious 2018 awards. The cocktail menu changes seasonally and the atmosphere gets more electric as the hours pass. If you’re a classic cocktail type, order a Margarita, but if you want something adventurous for your reading session, try the Mauzac glacé or Perfect Serve. — 63, rue de Belleville, 75019
Book pairing: Lovers At The Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 / Deux amantes au Caméléon (Francine Prose) Paris in the 1920s is a place of ruthless ambition and heady passion. Our protagonist is the striking Lou Villars, a scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, who hangs out at infamous jazz venue Chameleon Club with a colorful collection of patrons. We follow her journey through queer love, betrayal and art.
4. La Belle Hortense
A welcome literary escape from the tourist-filled streets of the Marais, La Belle Hortense is a friendly pit-stop to settle down with a good book and a nice glass of French wine. (Bonus points for its gorgeous blue facade, which is practically begging to be posted on Instagram.) Don’t be overwhelmed by the never-ending wine list, which represents most of the country’s wine regions, but if you are just ask the friendly staff for some guidance.
La Belle Hortense also doubles as a bookshop, so once you’ve satisfied your reading itch you can browse their curated selection in French before heading to another Marais literary icon, Les Mots à la Bouche. It’s the city’s oldest LGBT+ bookshop (opened since 1980) with a diverse selection of queer literature (see if you can spot your favorite English titles en français. — 31 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004
Book pairing: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World / Culottées (Pénélope Bagieu) The French graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu brings to life the most feisty of female role models who have changed history, with her unique wit and dazzling drawings.
Bisou is a cocktail bar with a twist: there’s no menu! This cute and cozy spot is like going around to your friend’s for a drink (FYI, they embrace the color pink). You can choose between a twist on your favorite poison or a mystery drink, depending on how brave you’re feeling.
Another reason to love Bisou is that it’s eco-friendly: ingredients are seasonal and organic, and leftover ingredients are turned into syrup or used as a cocktail garnish in order to minimize waste. — 15 Boulevard du Temple, 75003
Book pairing: King Kong Theory / King Kong Théorie (Virginie Despentes) Familiarize yourself with French feminism thanks to this explosive account of being a woman, by the French feminist author Virginie Despentes. Weaving in her personal experience of rape, sex work and the porn industry into this memoir, KKT is for those who see right through modern beauty shackles and are allergic to patriarchal rules.
6. La Cave du Paul Bert
This wine bar is like the fun, younger sibling of the Paul Bert triumvirate (The Bistro Paul Bert, The 6 Paul Bert and L’Ecailler Bistrot) that has a tendency to get overlooked. It’s certainly intimate (re: a small space with not much elbow room) with lots of natural wood that is easy on the eye. Definitely the spot you get to early for a bit of reading before your friends join you at the bar counter. And it is a rite of passage to order a glass (or bottle, no judgement) of the Magic of Ju-Ju Chenin Blanc, which is a perfect balance of mineral and fruity. — 16 Rue Paul Bert, 75011
Book pairing: The Mental Load / Fallait Demander (Emma) What is the mental load? It’s all that invisible work that many women of all races and sexualities get lumped with, in addition to their everyday life. Through simple line drawings, the French illustrator Emma unpacks social and feminist issues such as maternity leave, domestic violence and immigrant rights, in a tongue-in-cheek way that is also deadly serious.
7. L’opium du peuple
Not to be mistaken as the meeting place for Marxists (“religion was the opium of the people”), L’ODP is a reader’s paradise with its sumptuous sofas and banquettes, located in the Arts et Métiers neighborhood. With plenty of beer, cocktails and wine on the menu, you’ll want to schedule your reading session for earlier rather than later — the place soon fills up with sociable French types, which could prove to be a serious book distraction. — 10 Rue Montgolfier, 75003
Book pairing:The Pure and the Impure / le pur et l’impur (Colette) Explore the erotic underbelly of Paris, a world in which the French author Colette was at ease. Having spent a significant amount of time in opium dens, Colette shares her sordid adventures, with both men and women who chose to succumb to the power of desire.