The Best People-Watching Cafés in Paris

the best people watching cafés in Paris

The Best People-Watching Cafés in Paris

One of my favorite things in Paris is to grab a glass of wine or a café crème at a café and watch the world go by. In Paris, I am constantly walking and photographing Paris, and it is good to pause to let my body rest and soak up Paris. Below are some of my favorite Parisian terraces to people-watch. I also included Google Maps with the best cafés, so you can save these to your phone while you explore the city of light. Perhaps one is close to your apartment or hotel, and the other may be close to a museum or shop you visit. Don’t be shy about venturing out of your arrondissement comfort zone. It’s good to explore other neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a different feel and personality. These are some of the best people-watching cafés in Paris.

Before you visit cafés on this list, you might want to brush up on your Paris café etiquette. 

Paris Cafés for the Best People-Watching: Café Charlot

Café Charlot Paris

Located in Le Marais, Café Charlot is a hot spot for Sunday brunch. The terrace fills up fast for great people-watching on Rue de Bretagne. It is the perfect place to spend an afternoon on a sunny day. Order a glass of wine, cheese, and charcuterie board to share with friends. They also offer a classic chevre chaud salad, perfect for a lunchtime break during sightseeing. Close by, you will find Marché des Enfants Rouge, the oldest covered market in Paris. The Picasso museum and Place des Vosges are the big landmarks in the area. 

Is a rainy day on the agenda? It is also a cute and cozy spot to spend an afternoon.

Best Cafes in Paris with outdoor seating

Paris Cafés for People-Watching: Café Nemours

Café Nemours is tucked between Palais Royal and The Louvre. It has some of my favorite people-watching and is a great place to rest between museums and exploring Paris. Grab a drink here or a coffee and croissant in the morning. It is a prime location in the center of Paris, where you can start or end your day at a café. The terrace can be packed with Parisians and tourists, depending on the time of day. If you are looking to score a good seat, arrive early. 

café nemours Paris black and white

Paris Cafés for People- Watching: Café de Flore

Cafe de Flore is one of the most famous cafés in Paris, and you should try it at least once. I prefer to sit outside on the terrace, even on cold or rainy days. The inside has a different vibe, and the upstairs is a hot spot for locals. This is also where the bathroom is located, so you can sneak a look while you are there.

There is a covered terrace in the colder months, which you can try before heading inside. This is one of the most famous cafes in Saint Germain des Prés, and sadly now more famous due to Instagram. 

I wouldn’t necessarily come here for the food, but everyone has their own opinions. Stop here for a coffee and croissant in the morning and expect to pay more than other cafés. A chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), a glass of wine, or coffee is served in the afternoon. 

Tables outside can be hard to score, so come at an off time or test your patience. There is a newsstand across the street where you can pick up a newspaper or postcards to write home.

café de flore Paris the best people watching cafés paris

Les Deux Magots Paris Café

You will find Les Deux Magots next door to Café de Flore. This classic Parisian café is also on the must-visit once list. The menu is pricey, but you get prime seating and an experience. I would skip getting a meal here and stick to wine, coffee, or hot chocolate. Enjoy a coffee, croissant, and orange juice for breakfast if you want a classic Parisian experience. Hemingway, Julia Child, and Picasso all have a history of visiting Les Deux Magots. On weekends, you can find a jazz band just in front of the church across from the café.

Les Deux Magots

Les deux magots Paris café

Brasserie Lipp: Parisian Cafés

Brasserie Lipp is across the street from Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. There isn’t much of an outside as in other Paris cafes, but the inside is the typical decor you would expect from a French restaurant in a movie, and worth a drink and visit. 

Brasserie Lipp the best people watching cafés in Paris

Left Bank Café: Bar du Marché

For Left Bank lovers, drink at Bar du Marché on the corner of Rue de Seine and Rue de Bucci. It is great for an afternoon cocktail, soda, or wine. For the nondrinkers, I love citron pressé, the French version of lemonade. They will bring a pitcher of water, sugar, and a small container of fresh lemon juice. You mix your lemonade how you like it. 

Bar du Marché Paris cafés

I highly recommend bookmarking this post for tips on navigating a Parisian café

Le Saint Regis Île St. Louis Parisian Café

Rebecca Plotnick café st regis Paris

I fell in love with Le Saint Regis years ago while walking on Île St Louis. This café is located at the end of Île St Louis and is a great spot to view the sunset at Notre Dame. Outside tables are limited, but you can grab a seat at an off-hour and stay for a while. This café is a good spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, drinks, or dinner. I have a lot of fond memories here, solo and with friends. It would be hard to turn down an offer from a friend to meet at Saint Regis for a glass of wine and a catch-up.

Le Saint Regis Parisian café

Le Saint Regis Paris Cafe

Le Bonaparte Paris People Watching Café

Le Bonaparte is located on The Left Bank behind Les Deux Magots. I have only sat outside solo or with friends. The people-watching is fantastic, and you can eat or drink here. The menu is pricey, but you pay for the people-watching and prime location just off Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés on Paris’s Left Bank. Close by, you can explore Jardin du Luxembourg for an afternoon or stroll to Le Bon Marché for shopping. 

Parisian café culture is different. You can get one drink and spend an afternoon at the table without the waiter bringing you the bill. 

Le Bonaparte Cafe Paris

Au Petit Fer à Cheval

Au petit fer à cheval Paris café

Au Petit Fer à Cheval is a personal favorite of mine. I discovered this café in The Marais back in 2012. I took a photo of it but never went inside until I returned in 2013. It was one of my best-selling photographs in 2012, and I was curious why it was so popular. I made friends with the bartender, Didier, and have kept in touch ever since. He is always glad to see me every visit I am in for a coffee or glass of wine.

This is a gem of a place and a popular spot to people watch, especially on a Sunday or sunny afternoon. The outdoor seating is limited here. If you can’t find a spot here, head to Les Philosophes on the same street corner just a few doors down. 

Au Petit Fer à Cheval Paris Café Marais

Café Central Rue Cler Classic Parisian Café

Café Central The Best People-Watching Cafés in Paris

Café Central has been a staple on Rue Cler for as long as I can remember. Rue Cler is a classic food street close to the Eiffel Tower, with shops and cafés and a cobblestone street. The street has evolved from small shops to a few chain stores in Paris mixed in. I found a photograph from my first solo trip to Paris in 2010, and I captured Café Central’s rain-soaked café chairs on the terrace. I have only heard good things from readers and friends about Café Central, especially from solo female travelers. If you find yourself on Rue Cler, this is one of the best places to stop for lunch or a glass of red wine.

The menu combines classic French and modern items. You will find cheeseburgers and poke bowls alongside classic steak frites. 

La Palette Paris Café Left Bank

La Palette Paris

La Palette is just off of Rue de Seine on The Left Bank. I love passing by this classic Parisian café to see who sits outside. Do you see the men right out front to the left? Their table is reserved just for them. I have only seen them sitting there time after time. If they are not there, the table is reserved and empty. The inside is what you would expect of a Parisian café from the movies.

In the past, La Palette was visited by Picasso, Jim Morrison, and Ernest Hemingway. In recent years, celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, and Taylor Swift have been café patrons. 

La Palette Paris everyday parisian

Café de la Paix

Café de la Paix is a famous French cafe and has recently been renovated. It is located outside of Place de L’opéra and has excellent views of the Opéra from the terrace. You can sit outside along the terrace or inside. I recommend booking a table in advance if you plan on going, as they fill up quickly.

Close to Café de la Paix, you can shop at the famous Galeries Lafayette department store, which has a stained-glass ceiling and a rooftop overlooking the beautiful city of Paris. 

Café de la Paix The Best People-Watching Cafés in Paris

Café de la Paix The Best People-Watching Cafés in Paris

La Fontaine de Belleville

La Fontaine de Belleville Paris café

La Fontaine de Belleville is off the beaten path in central Paris. It is one of many specialty coffee shops offering flat whites, matcha latte, and avocado toast. It’s not like the other traditional cafés on my list, but it’s worth the visit. The terrace and indoor space are beautiful and prime locations to people-watch, and the food is excellent.

Le Fumoir Paris Café Close to the Louvre

Le Fumoir Paris Café

Le Fumoir is one of my favorites if I am in the first arrondissement. It is located on the side of the Louvre. The inside space is large and available for dining, not just drinks. There are many outdoor tables, and the space fills up on a sunny day with locals. Be patient while waiting for a table in the sun; it’s worth it and a great place to rest your feet in between exploring the city of lights.

Did your favorite café make the list? Comment and share below your favorite spot to people-watch in Paris.

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  1. We are in Paris now and learning to enjoy Paris on a leisurely pace now that we are retired …simply a sitting at a cafe and watch the world go by instead of planning our next stop. Sounds easy, but hard to undo years of itinerary packed vacationing. Thanks for this list. It’s exactly what we are looking for. Forecast is rain for the next 5 days until we leave though. Will try to hit some of the cafes and watch the October rain 😉

  2. I’d add – go to any of the cafes along Rue Montorgueil . Have been to many of the ones you listed – all are great

  3. My favorite morning and apero cafe (and other random meals or times) is right next door to Au Petit Fer a Cheval (and owned by the same people): Les Philosophes. I have been there so many times the staff all recognize me and it’s a nice way to feel like I am “home” again.

    Directly across the street they also own the wine bar/bookstore, too. I went inside that one for the first time on my last visit to Paris. I think it is only open at apero time and afterwards, so it was always dark in the mornings when I would walk by it.

    My forever hotel is around the corner and so I really do feel like I am going home when I am in this ‘hood.

  4. Café Nemours is one of my all time favourite people watching, cafe and wine drinking spots in Paris. It’s actually the spot I was sitting at when filming the little video I posted and tagged you in last week. I love happy coincidences.

  5. Lovely cafes. I’ve been to all but three of them. It’s one of my top favorite things to do in Paris!❤️

  6. We love Le Bonaparte! The people watching is so great. The last time we went there, we saw this elderly couple (very much still in love) flirting shamelessly and it was just the cutest and most romantic thing ever. We’ll remember them forever!