Parisian cafés serve as a center of social and culinary life in Paris. They have been around for centuries in one form or another, the oldest one still in operation is "Café Procope" at 13 rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, since 1686.
Paris cafés are the meeting place, the neighborhood hub, the conversation matrix, the rendez-vous spot, the networking source, a place to relax or to refuel - the social and political pulse of the city.
The café business sometimes doubles as a “bureau de tabac”, a tobacco shop that sells a wide variety of merchandise, including metro tickets and prepaid phone cards.
Typical Paris cafés are not “coffee shops”. They generally come with a complete kitchen offering a restaurant menu with meals for any time of the day, a full bar and even a wine selection. Among the drinks customarily served are the "grande crème" (large cup of white coffee), wine by the glass, beer ("un demi" i.e. half a litre, or "une pression" i.e. a glass of draught beer), "un pastis" (made with aniseed flavour spirit), and "un espresso" (a small cup of black coffee). Drinking at the bar is cheaper than doing so at one of the tables.
Paris cafés crystallize the quintessential Parisian way of sitting undisturbed for a couple of hours, delightfully watching the world go by. Some of the most recognizable Paris cafés include Café de la Paix, Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore, Café de la Rotonde, La Coupole, Le Fouquet’s, Le Deauville, as well as a new wave represented by Café Beaubourg and Drugstore Publicis.
"There is nothing about the Paris streets which more definitely strikes the British or American visitor than the café life on the pavements ... The Paris café remains in their minds as the typical café--something so foreign that there is no equivalent for its name in the English language. The old English coffee-house was not a café in the modern sense, and it has vanished now. So is also vanishing the Paris café in its most characteristic form. There was a time when the best thought of France, in the arts and in politics, was to be found round such and such tables in such and such a café. The Frenchman's café was his club... The cafés of Paris are no longer part of her intellectual life, but they are certainly the chief feature of her streets; on pavements hardly wide enough for a honeymoon couple to walk on, a flimsy chair and an oak-grained tin table will defend against all-comers the right of every good Frenchman to enjoy upon the very streets of the loved city his Byrrh--and Frankincense."--George and Pearl Adam A Book about Paris. London: Jonathan Cape, 1927.
- Bistro, a form of smaller, informal French restaurant
- Brasserie, a French restaurant which may brew its own beer
- Sidewalk cafe
- Viennese café, cafés and their culture in Vienna
- Café Parisien on the RMS Titanic
- Morris, Elisabeth (1999) Thomas Cook Travellers Paris; 4th ed. Basingstoke: AA Publishing ISBN 0-7495-2031-0; p. 153
- Boyer, Marie-France (1994) The French Café. London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 0-500-01622-4 (pp. 113-116 contain a list of 45 "cafés of character" in Paris, 2 in Saint-Ouen, and 8 "cafés within the great brasseries")
- Fitch, Noël Riley (2006) The Grand Literary Cafés of Europe. London: New Holland; 160 pp
- Fitch, Noël Riley (2005) Literary Cafés of Paris; new ed. River City Publications.
- Fitch, Noël Riley (2007) Paris Café: Sélect Crowd. New York: Soft Skull Press; 120 pp.
Media related to Cafés in Paris at Wikimedia Commons