A Few Paris Cafés Coveted & Recommended by (Today’s) Writers

Au Chat Noir, one of the best work cafes in Paris/Illustration by Allison Iwata
Au Chat Noir, one of the author’s favorite work cafes in Paris/Illustration by Allison Iwata

Good Spots For Working, Thinking & World-Gazing

Generations of writers have elected Parisian cafés as ersatz offices, even second homes. How many novels, short stories and essays have come out of authors seated at rickety, rounded tables with golden trim, agonizing over syntax in notebooks and gazing through rain-splattered windows? Impossible to quantify. This has been a tradition in Paris for decades, long before anyone marketed the concept of the “co-working” café.

Of course, many of the most famous literary cafés — La Closerie des Lilas, Les Deux Magots, Le Select, and others once haunted by the likes of De Beauvoir, Hemingway, or Baldwin– have become tourist attractions that feel more frozen in time than “of the moment”.

Revered and historically important, in other words– but not especially vibrant. So I wanted to find out where writers of the present day like to settle in to work and think.

A cafe somewhere in Paris

I asked three Paris-based writers and bloggers to talk about the cafes that inspire and motivate them, day after day, notebook after notebook.

Toward the end, I chime in with slightly nostalgic accounts of a few of my own beloved work cafes in Paris, having spent too many days to comfortably count in them (often nursing café allongés that had long gone cold). Absorbing the clatter of silverware on plates and the comforting hum of conversation, writing ceases to be a solitary act.

Instead, it’s about being in the world and drawing from its noisy, vibrant input. That input is something I’ve genuinely pined for during the last year, as lockdowns have kept me (and other writers) inside, confined to our private offices, desks, and inner worlds.

Here’s to hoping we can get back to cafe writing life (and all its weird joys) sooner than later.

Dreamin Man

Dreamin man cafe/photo by Canyon Coffee
Dreamin Man cafe, Paris /photo by Canyon Coffee
Recommended by: Lindsey Tramuta, Author of The New Parisienne

Its name may or may not be a reference to the eponymous Neil Young song. But in just a few years, this tiny cafe on Rue Amelot has become a favorite among locals, prized for its coffee and homemade pastries, relaxed vibe, and writer-friendly space (that is, if you manage to snag one of the few seats indoors or out).

Tramuta, author of the aforementioned book (among others) and host of the New Paris podcast, has this to say about it:

“I ache to linger at Dreamin’ Man, a sliver of a coffee shop in the 11th arrondissement done up wabi-sari style, with a long bench, a few chairs and a couple of small tables. There’s often Bob Dylan on rotation and it’s a genuinely relaxing and peaceful place to read and write (by hand) — if you’re lucky enough to get a spot. And when it gets too hot or crowded, I move outside onto one of the chairs strategically placed in the sunshine. It’s the beauty of the ritual, as well as the familiarity of it all, that are so conducive to my own creative thinking.”

Getting There & Contact

Note: If you can’t find a seat at Dreamin Man, Lindsey also recommends two cafes nearby– Café Oberkampf (3 Rue Neuve Popincourt, 75011) and Back in Black (25 Rue Amelot, 75011).

Café Loustic

Recommended by Kasia Dietz, Editor of Love in the City of Light and handbag designer

Opened by London native Channa Galhenage a few years ago, this cafe in the Northern Marais is regularly cited as one of the best places for (truly) good coffee in Paris. But it’s also been claimed by writerly types, who appreciate the comfortable booths, elaborate latté art– and the pleasant sensation of drinking coffee that doesn’t taste miserably bitter and burned (as is too often the case in some traditional café-brasseries around the capital).

Dietz, a longtime Paris resident, handbag designer, and website editor, says this:

“When it comes to java joints, Loustic serves up some of the best brews in the rive droite. It’s also the ideal spot to hide away behind your laptop.

{Related: Best Places for Afternoon Tea in Paris}

Consider a stop to Loustic after visiting the nearby Centre Pompidou or the (always-fascinating) Musée des Arts et Métiers, with its steampunk-worthy collections of vintage machines, trains and other industrial objects.

Getting There & Contact

Latte art and tiled floors at Café Loustic, one of the best cafes for working and writing in Paris
Latte art, wood table and tiled floors at Café Loustic/Official Facebook page
  • Address: 40 Rue Chapon, 75003 (3rd arrondissement)
  • Metro: Arts et Métiers or Rambuteau
  • Visit the website

Treize au Jardin

Treize au Jardin/Official website
Recommended by Kasia Dietz

With its mint-green facade, warm wood tables, crystal chandelier, and large sign proclaiming “Bienvenue, Y’all!” hung right near the entrance, Treize au Jardin is a curiously refreshing mix of posh-meets-laid-back. It’s not exactly “bo-bo” (bourgeous-bohemien, the French term that roughly translates to “hipster”, and tends to refer to the upper-middle class professionals and their trendy haunts on the right bank.

This cafe has something different about it: maybe a bit of unabashed, left-bank elegance. It owns its slight poshness, you might say– but it’s also warm and welcoming.

{Quiz: Are You More Left-Bank or Right-Bank Paris?}

Kasia says this of the cafe (and adjoining bakery), which is right across from the Jardin du Luxembourg: and around the corner from the Odéon Theatre:

“There’s no more scenic terrace on the rive gauche than Treize au Jardin, from which you can watch passers-by over a fresh juice or café crème. With no wifi, it’s the perfect spot to detox both mind and body.”

Getting There & Contact

Treize au Jardin and its pleasant terrace/Official Facebook page, cafe near the Jardin du Luxembourg
Treize au Jardin and its pleasant terrace/Official Facebook page
  • Address: 5 Rue Medicis, 75006 (6th arrondissement)
  • Metro: Odéon (or RER Luxembourg)
  • Visit the website

Note: For working and writing, Kasia also recommends Café Kitsune at the Palais Royale (51 Galerie de Montpensier, 1st arrondissement) and Yumi café/juice bar (133 Rue Saint-Maur, 11th arrondissement).

La Fontaine de Belleville

La Fontaine de Belleville/Official Facebook page
Entrance to La Fontaine de Belleville/Official Facebook page
Recommended by Élodie Berta, Promotions Manager at the Paris Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and travel guide (tweeting @Paris_by_Elodie)

Nestled between the Canal Saint-Martin to the west and the arty, historically working-class Belleville neighborhood to the east, this is a more traditional Parisian café that’s been infused with a sense of contemporary savvy, as part of the Belleville Brulerie coffee roasting company that operates three cafes in the area. It’s friendly and rooted in local customs, but also forward-looking.

{Related: Why to Attend the Annual Belleville Open Artists’ Galleries Event}

Berta says it’s one of the best places in her neighborhood:

[This is] my former daily spot. The coffee is very good (and locally sourced); the food also when lunchtime comes around. The people are adorable there. A bonus : it’s around the corner from Hôpital Saint-Louis and its hidden garden, in the former historic section of the hospital (early 17th century). Sadly it’s only open on weekends. [The cafe] is also a block away from the canal Saint-Martin. The terrace [outside] is sunny and the traffic is light: a perfect combination.

Getting There & Contact

  • Address: 31-33 rue Juliette Dodu (10th arrondissement)
  • Metro: Belleville or Goncourt
  • Visit the website

Le Pavillon Puebla & the Pavillon du Lac (at the Parc Buttes-Chaumont)

A summer “guinguette” (outdoor café) area is set up for summer lounging at the Pavillon Puebla, Buttes Chaumont park/ Official Facebook page
Recommended by Élodie Berta

Tourists rarely venture to visit the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a sprawling, Romantic English-style green space in a remote corner of northeastern Paris. But the more intrepid and curious among you will find the (longish) Metro trip (or walk) well worthwhile– not least for the park’s idyllic, spacious cafes and bars, set within old-world pavilions built to resemble Swiss chalets or Northern Italian villas.

{Related: The Most Beautiful & Historic Parisian Parks}

According to Berta, two of the cafés and restaurants set within the park are worth an afternoon or morning with your notebook in tow– and, if desired, lunch or brunch.

She says she prefers the Pavillon du Lac for working, but “some may prefer the Puebla (owned by popular rooftop bar company Le Perchoir) because it is slightly away from the heart of the park and there are more tables outside.”

Inside Le Pavillon du Lac, Buttes-Chaumont

Asked why she recommend these spots over other, more central ones in Paris, Berta notes:

“I like that they are located in the most charming park in Paris, built in a late-19th-century style, and mostly frequented by locals. A walk in the park [before or after a work session] is perfect for inspiration, or just a shot of fresh air”.

For Élodie, the third (and best-known) café-bar in the park. Rosa Bonheur, isn’t as ideal for writing.

Rosa Bonheur, the third major café-bar in the Buttes-Chaumont, is best for an evening apéro or pizza. Official Facebook page

“It’s definitely harder to imagine getting any work done, since it’s so busy and lively all the time ! But I absolutely recommend it for a drink with friends, though, and appetizers or pizza.”

However, I can attest that if you manage to grab a seat outdoors on a sunny and warm morning, it can still be a good place to perch for an hour or two, even if you’ll have to head elsewehere for a longer writing session.

Getting There & Contact

Cannibale Café

Cannibale Cafe is one of my favorite work cafes in Paris/Courtesy of the official Facebook page
Cannibale Cafe in Paris/Official Facebook page

Now it’s time to share a few of my own beloved spots for wrangling with words and sentences. I’ll start with Cannibale Café, my office-away-from home when I lived just around the corner, smack between the Belleville and Oberkampf districts.

The Cannibale is cool without being too self-consciously so. It’s friendly (gruesome name aside, of course), but the servers give you space to think. You can sit there for hours (except for at tables designated for lunch and dinner– you’ll have to move to a coffee-only table inside or out, during meal service hours).

The mirrored walls, bright red booths, tables and chairs, free magazines, time-worn moldings, and poster-clad walls set the mood for a good work session. But it’s the people– troupes of aspiring screenwriters, artists, musicians setting up for an after-dark set, and bo-bo advertising execs who descend for lunch or after-work drinks– that make the place really interesting.

Café Cannibale/Official Facebook page
Café Cannibale/Official Facebook page

Long mornings and afternoons at the Cannibale have shaped too many of my thoughts to properly credit.. And retreating to its music and light and human noise-filled interiors helped keep me sane through some particularly tough times. I’ll always return to it, whenever I can, to get the words out of my brain and onto paper (or, more likely, onto screens).

Getting There & Contact Info

  • Address: 93 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (11th arrondissement)
  • Metro: Couronnes
  • Visit the website

La Fourmi

La Fourmi in Pigalle/Official Facebook page

While I haven’t spent nearly as much time at this beloved neighborhood bar in old Pigalle as I have at the aforementioned Belleville/Oberkampf cafés, it’s one I return to frequently whenever I’m in the area.

Less trendy than the newer cafés that have sprung up in past years in “South Pigalle”– the stretch of Rue des Martyrs that extends south of Boulevard de Rochechouart– La Fourmi (literally, “The Ant”) is right next to one of Pigalle’s oldest theatres and concert venues, La Cigale (“The Grasshopper”)– and has a vibe that’s both grittier and more relaxed. Together, they make a fabled pair (that cutely references the La Fontaine fable from which they take their names).

The enormous open dining room and bar is light and spacious, charmingly ramshackle and unpolished, with rough wooden tables and chairs and lamps fashioned from old bottles. I’ve often come for an afternoon work session here before meeting friends for drinks or live music nearby.

Around dusk, it fills up with drinkers and diners, but if you arrive at around 230 or 3pm, it can be an inspiring and relaxed place for a couple of hours of writing.

The brasserie-style food is decent and inexpensive, too, so consider coming for a late lunch or brunch, ordering coffee for dessert and keeping the table for a while.

Getting There & Contact Info

La Fourmi/Official Facebook page
La Fourmi/Official Facebook page
  • Address: 74 Rue des Martyrs, 75018 (18th arrondissement)
  • Metro: Pigalle
  • Visit the website

Mel, Mich & Martin

The cafe/boutique and gallery at Mel, Mich & Martin, one of my favorite working cafes in the right bank. Image: Official Facebook page

When I first stepped into this café, wedged between Bastille and the Marché Aligre market in the 11th known, I was expecting at least some fashionista posturing from staff or patrons.

Part gallery, part cantine-cafe, and part concept boutique, peddling vintage clothes, handmade goods from local artisans, books and other (ethically made) goods, Mel, Mich & Martin seems emblematic of the sort of gentrification that has radically transformed parts of eastern Paris in recent years.

Yet it fully won me over, including as a great space for writing and thinking (particularly in the early mornings). The servers are generally friendly and warm, the coffee is smoothly brewed, and the cakes are delicious. I felt no particular pressure to finish up my coffee and cake (read: you can stay as long as you like, outside of busy lunch hours).

The soundtrack, eclectic and inspiring, is never blasted too loudly to concentrate. And large windows offer plenty of distractions from the street. Sold (and possibly sold out).

Getting There & Contact Info

  • Address: 8 Rue Saint-Bernard (11th arrondissement)
  • Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny
  • Visit the website

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