Is there anything more stereotypically Parisian than sipping an espresso on a street-side terrace? Vive la France, where the national pastime is people watching, and the people passing by are well groomed and seductively uninterested if you’re watching them or not.
The café scene is a magical aspect of Parisian culture that has roots as far back as 1686. The burst in popularity of cafés in the 1940s mirrored the post-war burst of creativity in French literature. Today, the cafés in Paris mix past and present, romance and cynicism, energy and calm, pleasure and practicality. From Café des Chats, a popular lunch spot near the LGBT center that is filled with free-roaming cats to Anti-Cafe, where you pay by the hour for a clean work space, a functional printer, and a buffet of drinks and snacks—cafés in Paris are diversifying and adapting to the demands of a 21st-century clientele. Thankfully, some traditions have continued to be safeguarded. Where else, besides Les Deux Magots, can you indulge in a €3,200 bottle of Petrus 1999 Pomerol in the lingering presence of André Gide, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre? Yet even these famous institutional palimpsests have loosened their bow-ties over the years. The café scene in Paris today is modern, diverse, and casual.