Paris, the city of light, is the perfect destination to find legendary restaurants and cafés rich in history, culture and glamour, places once frequented by celebrated artistic and literary figures and where one still feels the intense Parisian charm.
Here, three of those unique and unforgettable cafés that must be visited to realize that Paris is the heart of France … and the world.
18-16 Rue Gaillon
Photo: Courtesy Drouant.
Founded in 1880, this historic and very elegant Parisian restaurant has been, since 1914, the headquarters and venue of the prestigious Goncourt and Renaudot literary prizes. Antoine Westermann is the current proprietor and has been its chef since 2006. Located in the Opera District, it is open seven days a week. Its five rooms are gracefully decorated with black tables and chairs, golden walls and a beautiful terrace for sunny days. The menu offers something for every mood and appetite. Mini-portions allow guests to taste a little of everything: tomato gazpacho, lacquered prawns, foie of Corrèze lamb and grilled cabillaud, among other culinary niceties.
Café de Flore
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain
The most famous landmark of the great Parisian artists is Saint-Germain, the exclusive neighborhood where artistic and literary trends became legends. Café de Flore appeared at the beginning of the Third Republic, in 1887, and is named after a small sculpture of the deity located across the boulevard. One spring day in 1917, Philippe Soupault and André Breton sat at one of its tables. Later they were joined by Guillaume Apollinaire and Louis Aragon. It can be said that such a creative bunch created the Dada movement here. Throughout its 100-year history, its walls have been witness to other famous personalities, including Albert Camus, Tristan Tzara, Alberto Giacometti and Salvador Dalí. Later, it became the meeting place of high fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé, Marcel Rochas, Gunnar Larsen, Hubert de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld and Paco Rabanne.
3 Rue Royale
Photo: Courtesy Maxim’s Paris / Facebook.
The legend of Maxim’s begins in 1893, when Maxime Gaillard, a waiter, opened a small restaurant that soon would be highly regarded in the Paris of the Belle Époque. During the German occupation of World War II, it became the favorite restaurant of the German officers, and after the liberation it was the preferred place of the great movie stars of the time. Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas met there with Marlene Dietrich and Martine Carol. In the 1980s, the fashion designer Pierre Cardin bought Maxim’s and the place became a hotspot of millionaires and celebrities given to the idle and relaxed lifestyle that Italians call dolce far niente. Today it is a museum devoted to art nouveau, a cabaret, a restaurant and entertainment space for young people. ■