Although I can’t claim to be any kind of expert on the city, after five months living in Paris I’ve found some lovely little spots to while away the time sipping on an espresso with pals or treating yourself to a meal out when you really shouldn’t have. Hopefully if you’re reading this and are planning to go to Paris any time soon, this little list will come in handy – hopefully I’ll be able to expand on it when the year is up!
For a coffee with a twist, sip your espresso from a bath or in a stranger’s bedroom at Le Pavillon des Canaux in the 19e arrondissement, situated on the Canal Saint Martin. In this ‘micro-house,’ you buy your coffee and then wander upstairs to choose a room to settle in. It’s a bit of a surreal experience, but the atmosphere is extremely chilled out and the prices are lower than you’d find elsewhere in the centre of Paris.
If you want a cosy and uninterrupted afternoon, head to Le Used Book Café on boulevard beaumarchais. It’s not the cheapest, but I spent a lovely afternoon in a squidgy chair reading for a couple of hours without feeling pressured to leave, unlike other cafés which will try and usher you out the second you finish your drink.
If you’re hungover, sad, missing your pet or in need of general love, then be sure to go to Le Café des Chats in Bastille. Twelve cats live in the café, and it genuinely is as amazing as it sounds. I’ve even gone after work before with a book as it’s open until 10:30pm, and they are extremely careful about the wellbeing of the cats there (who were all previously abandoned). They do an absolutely delicious hot chocolate and café gourmand (trio of desserts).
Admittedly, this is by no means a ‘hidden gem’ as the famous Shakespeare & Company bookshop is a definitive tourist hotpot, but the café next door is definitely also worth a visit. It is pricey, but if you have a ticket resto it’s not so bad – the pecan pie, futomaki rolls, juices and coffees are all so tasty and if you sit outside, you have the perfect view of the notre-dame.
If you want a cosy, traditional bistro with plenty of choice, including for vegetarians (rare in Paris), Café des Anges near Bastille is really lovely – I’ve already taken three visitors here for dinner. It’s also extremely affordable for Paris, with big portions and a lively atmosphere.
I was lucky enough to be treated by Niall’s Mum to an absolutely amazing and frankly luxurious vegetarian meal at Sense Eat, an Italian restaurant in Odéon. Although it was a somewhat strange meal (the waiter put my plate in front of me and then proceeded to spritz it from bottle of ‘fennel fragrance’), the food was some of the best I’d ever eaten. If you’re a frustrated vegetarian visiting Paris, come here to restore your faith in the French doing veggie cuisine well.
In terms of decor, it doesn’t get more French than Le Bouillon Chartier. It’s over a hundred years old and is famous for being traditional but with unbeatable prices. Although when I went I think I ordered the wrong thing and was a little disappointed, other friends of mine have gone and loved it and it’s worth it for the feeling of being immersed in a little classic Parisian bubble.
Last but not least is Le Nouvel Institut in the 5th arrondissment, which is always heaving with students. I’m ashamed to say how often I go here and should probably branch out, but it is the perfect combination of cheap, tasty and fun. They have a super cheap and perfectly inoffensive student menu as well as a standard menu with the best burger I’ve ever had on it.
**I do not own any of the photos used in this blog post**