In Paris, Café Terraces Spill Into the Streets In Wake of Health Crisis

Last Updated on September 1, 2023

Cafe terraces in Paris have taken over streets and sidewalks in the summer of 2020. Image: Pola Henderson/All rights reserved
Café terraces in Paris took over streets and sidewalks in the summer of 2020. Image: Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

The outdoor café is part of what gives Paris its charm and energy. 

Whether it’s occupied for breakfast and morning coffee, pre-dinner apéritifs with friends, or late-evening discussions over a glass of wine, la terrasse has long been the preferred living room of Parisians. It’s a beloved institution that no one could ever imagine disappearing. 

A cafe terrace in Paris, Montmartre.
A café terrace in Paris’ Montmartre district/Courtney Traub/ All rights reserved

Then for a few months in early 2020, the patios were gone. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic forced cafés, bars, and bistros all over the city to shut their doors and put away the round tables for several months. The city looked like a ghost town. 

A Joyful Summer “Deconfinement”

But Paris will be Paris. When France entered the second phase of “deconfinement” in early summer of that year, outdoor spaces reopened. It felt like a New Year’s celebration after a strict two-month lockdown, followed by several weeks of takeout and then… curbside dining.

With parks and terraces initially closed, the curb was the trendiest spot in town. I enjoyed many lattes that way in my neighborhood, safely distanced from other sidewalk occupants. 

The iconic Café de Flore expanded seating onto the sidewalks. Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

Life post-lockdown was back to normal (sort of) while café owners had to get creative. To enable social distancing during the ongoing pandemic, the city loosened regulations to allow cafés to place additional seating in parking spaces.

Not only did existing patios get more real estate, but cafés that previously didn’t have any outdoor space created makeshift terraces in order to welcome customers. In total, thousands of additional terraces opened during the pandemic.

Image credit: The Beans on Fire coffeehouse in Paris/Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

While many pop-up sidewalk terraces have since closed since the pandemic’s acute phase ended, in numerous areas of the city, they’ve become permanent new fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at a few of the new and expanded terraces that have popped up around Paris– some of which have become a permanent part of local culture.


The Hood Paris 

A pleasantly uncrowded seating area at The Hood in Paris. Pola Henderson/All rights reserved
A pleasantly uncrowded seating area at The Hood in Paris. Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

The cozy coffee shop and Asian canteen in the 11th arrondissement, attracting an international crowd, used to offer exclusively indoor dining– with the exception of a couple of benches outside where you could sip your coffee.

Now the owners have added a few tables along the windows, plus a few more in a parking spot across the street.

Pâtisserie Emma Duvéré

Image: Courtesy of Patisserie Emma Duvéré

The small bakery and specialty cake shop between Metros Bastille and Voltaire not only added a small patio, but also expanded its menu beyond pastries to include hot meals for lunch (lasagne, quiche) and weekend brunch, all to be enjoyed on the quiet Rue Sedaine.

This is just one example of how businesses that have rarely boasted terraces are finding new ways to connect with customers during a period of economic challenges.

Candelaria

Located in the upper Marais district, the tiny Mexican taqueria and top-notch cocktail bar specializing in agave spirits is a hot ticket, but tables don’t come easily.

With the addition of a plant-lined terrace hugging the sidewalk, you may have more luck getting a seat to enjoy your tacos. 

Le Choupinet

Le Choupinet in Paris has gone viral with its "social distancing teddy bears". Pola Henderson/All rights reserved
Le Choupinet has gone viral with its “social distancing teddy bears”. Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

Some café owners went the extra mile during the pandemic to ensure social distancing. Le Choupinet, a cafe across from the Jardin du Luxembourg whose name meaning “sweetie” or “cuddle bear” in French, deployed giant teddy bears on the terrace in 2021 to help keep customers apart during busy times.

Café de Flore

Image: Pola Henderson/All rights reserved

The legendary café in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, celebrated for its famous clientele (Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, James Baldwin, and Pablo Picasso, to name a few) already boasted one of the city’s most-visited terraces.

{Related: A Few Work-Friendly Cafes in Paris Recommended by Writers}

But since the end of lockdown, it has added a dozen tables next to the neighboring bookshop L’Ecume des Pages. So very Latin Quarter! 

About the Author

Contributing Writer Pola Henderson/Courtesy of same
Contributing Writer Pola Henderson/Courtesy of same

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, and founder of Jetting Around. She has been featured in major media outlets including CNN, NPR, and Daily Express. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she works in communications and hosts monthly travel meetups. When she’s not writing, she’s out and about in Paris, looking for the next café to try out.

Find her on Facebook and Twitter. 

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