Paris is officially back — and has been since aperitif hour on June 2, when the easing of déconfinement rules allowed the city’s cafés, bars and restaurants to reopen. These establishments were encouraged to expand too, spreading out on pavements and filling once-empty squares with improvised tables and chairs. The city temporarily blocked cars from parking in front of many places, allowing bistros to spill into streets with pop-up patios and al fresco seating areas.
Makeshift decks decorated with potted flowers and plywood planters have created oases of green across the city. Parisians, who had been cooped up for more than two months in one of Europe’s most stringent lockdowns, have embraced post-confinement with all the appetite you might expect from a café culture deprived of the prime months of outdoor drinking, dining and people-watching. The terrasses in the streets will last until September 30.
All of this is enhanced by one more unusual factor: there are almost no tourists in Paris. Americans remain barred from France, and borders with European countries have only recently reopened. Tourism and business travel will slowly start again, but for now, Parisian terrasses feel like a locals-only privilege, sometimes even with tables to spare.
From the 17th-century elegance of the Palais Royal to a hidden cocktail bar in the east of Paris, here are a few of my current favourite places in the French capital to eat and drink outside — and to appreciate what an enchanting warm-weather pleasure that is. One we’d perhaps taken for granted before a global pandemic took it away.
It should be noted that some establishments across the city are not adhering to the guidelines insisting that servers wear masks and indoor tables be spaced further apart. But sipping cocktails outdoors in that unique Parisian summer light that lasts late into the evening does seem like a civilised investment of one’s post-confinement risk capital.
1. Palais Royal
With its rows of arcades surrounding a vast and beautiful interior garden of flowers, lawns and manicured trees, the Palais Royal, just across from the Louvre, is all calm and elegance.
Many of the restaurants and cafés under its arcades have always offered tables in the garden — which used to be impossible to secure, especially on a summer’s evening. Most establishments have expanded their outdoor-seating areas, and with no tourists competing for this prime real estate, the Palais Royal now encapsulates the platonic ideal of the Parisian aperitif: a glass of Côte de Provence rosé in the shade of chic linden trees with a view of equally chic people strolling through the garden.
36 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
Good for: a house-made pâtisserie with a cheeky afternoon drink
Not so good for: straying beyond classic wines
FYI: for a less cheeky afternoon drink, try the Muscade: a non-alcoholic cocktail made with freshly squeezed juices
30 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
Good for: sitting right under the linden trees
Not so good for: the food — don’t linger for dinner
FYI: Villalys is the place to be for prime people-watching
Restaurant du Palais Royal
110 Galerie de Valois, 75001 Paris
Good for: absolute elegance
Not so good for: feeling peckish — the sophisticated cuisine is expensive
FYI: it has the fanciest deck-and-parasols set-up
2. Junction of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis and Rue du Château-d’Eau
Located at ground zero of Parisian hipsterdom in the 10th arrondissement, this buzzing intersection is the perfect place to sit back, sip and enjoy a little local anthropology.
Each corner is home to a different café, with a different tribe and vibe. The three spots below — now with extra pavement seating — offer a front-row view of the parade of local fauna in this creative quarter, with its eclectic mix of production companies, graphic designers, global eateries and restaurants at the forefront of foodie stylishness. A major advantage here is that, after a few drinks, when hunger strikes, the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis offers everything from trendy bistro dishes at Le 52 to sophisticated locavore tasting plates at L’Avant-Poste and authentic Middle Eastern at the Le Daily Syrien Veggie.
73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris
Good for: mingling with local film-industry creatives over a spritz and a cheese board
Not so good for: always getting a table at prime time
FYI: with the most spacious terrace, this is usually the preferred tourist spot
78 Rue du Château d'Eau, 75010 Paris
Good for: friendly vibe with good wines by the glass in the classic café tradition
Not so good for: Sunday drinks, as its popular brunch is often packed
FYI: it has spaced even its outdoor tables further apart than usual
Le Château d’Eau
67 Rue du Château-d'Eau, 75010 Paris
Good for: relaxed millennials or the young at heart
Not so good for: cocktails — it’s better for beer or house red
FYI: the velvet rope that used to appear on crowded, pre-pandemic Friday nights has disappeared
23 Villa Riberolle 75020 Paris
Good for: an intimate nightcap
Not so good for: it’s a long walk home for anyone staying on the Left Bank
FYI: all summer on Sundays a guest chef serves a pop-up tasting menu for brunch (follow @thesocialfood on Instagram to book on Wednesdays)
Its name means “hidden” in French, and this charming restaurant and bar is just that. An enclave of lush greenery with an intimate atmosphere, it is only a few minutes from Père Lachaise cemetery but somehow still a well-kept secret. You reach it via a small cobblestoned impasse (it feels like a village street) that unexpectedly winds into a courtyard shaded by large trees and filled with small marble tables and vintage chairs.
A former printing house with a large warehouse interior, green marble bar and brick-walled courtyard, Caché serves delicious, fresh Mediterranean sharing plates, creative cocktails and natural wines. Come late at the end of a hot day: it’s open until 2am (Tues-Sat) — a rarity in Paris — as there aren’t any neighbours to disturb.
Where are your favourite places for al fresco drinks in our cities? Tell us here — a selection of the best answers will be published
Get alerts on Eating and drinking in Paris when a new story is published