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. 

Café society in the French capital is back to its elegant, exuberant self © Alex Cretey Systermans

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. 

Muscade

36 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris

The pastries at Muscade are not to be missed © Alex Cretey Systermans
  • 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 

  • Website; Directions

Villalys

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 

  • Website; Directions

Restaurant du Palais Royal

110 Galerie de Valois, 75001 Paris

The Michelin-star Restaurant du Palais Royal serves French haute cuisine in a beautiful setting © Alex Cretey Systermans
  • 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 

  • Website; Directions

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

Le Napoléon

73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris

Le Napoléon is known for serving great cocktails © Alex Cretey Systermans
  • 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 

  • Website; Directions 

Le Mondial

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

  • Website; Directions

Le Château d’Eau

67 Rue du Château-d'Eau, 75010 Paris

Le Château d’Eau is open until 2am most nights of the week © Alex Cretey Systermans
  • 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 

  • Directions

3. Caché

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

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