When it comes to meeting up with friends for a drink, Parisians and Londoners have slightly different expectations—a manifestation of the particular cultures of these two cities. So what makes these experiences so unique?

A sunny street in central London with people walking home from work.
Top: Jonathan Nguyen. Above: David Marcu

For afternoon meet-ups, French urbanites will usually head to a café whereas the London equivalent is a pub. This choice of venue itself is emblematic of these cities’ social lives. There are few places in the world that boast a more relaxed social experiment than the French café culture.

A barista making coffee in Paris, with a latte coffee with heart motif set down on a raw timber table.
Raw Pixel

Groups can meet for hours over a single espresso in any of Paris’ wide café terraces, which are heated throughout the winter. Several hours into their café meet-up, groups pay for their 2€-or-so coffee and part ways.

The Café Nemours in Paris, where Mr and Mrs Smith was filmed.
Joshua Humphrey

Meanwhile, across the channel, Londoners tend to intentionally or coincidently assemble at the local pub, where they pay their pints as they go and end up drinking until the late hours of the day; or until the last order, announced by a resounding bell. In London, any afternoon catch-up can turn into a fun-filled pub extravaganza. 

A group of friends having a beer at a London pub.
Raw Pixel

Happy hour is happening for everyone, and in Paris the lines between café and bar are blurred, whereas the pub is invariably the safest bet in London (unless it is one of those rare sunny days where locals head to the shop for some tinnies—or cans of beer—and overpopulate London’s many green parks until the very last ray is gone).

What's the difference between Paris cafe culture and London's pub culture?
Charles Loyer / Hugo Sousa

In Paris, so long as you are sitting on a terrasse, the inside life of whatever establishment you are at is irrelevant, so whether you head to a café or a bar matters only in terms of the “Happy Hour” on offer.

Paris at sunset, a stone bridge straddling the River Seine (left). London's Millenium Bridge with Saint Paul's Cathedral in the background (right).
Anthony Delanoix

Parisians do tend to opt for bars around 6pm as there are great deals to be found for le after-work. Look out for helpful chalkboard signs guiding your decision, though even if there are great cocktails for 7€, the likelihood of sacking Happy Hour for a good bottle of red is always high. In London, locals are usually content with their go-to choice of pints or a large glass of the house wine (yes, in London you can choose what size you want!) and try to find the best 2-for-1 options. However, Londoners do have the option to head to some great cocktail bars for their Happy Hour. We recommend locating one of the many London Cocktail Clubs throughout the city. 

London's pubs are a key part of the city's culture. Pubs are great for beers, wine and Sunday roast dinners.
Raw Pixel

Evening drinks are also slightly different in these two cities. For the French, many are content to order a planche of cheese and charcuterie to accompany their drinks; vast amounts of bread and cheese absolutely qualify as a meal.

After work in Paris, locals like to enjoy ham and cheese with wine at home (left) whereas in London, people tend to head out for a drink at a bar (right).
Raw Pixel / Clem Onojeghuo

In Paris, depending on where you go, you may be asked to leave after a few drinks to make room for new clients. In London, people are more likely to stay put. Londoners are keen on entering an unspoken contest over who can go to work the following day with the least amount of sleep.

Clincking glasses with friends at a pub after work in London.
Raw Pixel

As the drinks multiply, it is often necessary to order a burger or fish and chips to keep you going— just remember to check your table number to give to the bar, as if you expect someone to come wait on you, your stomach will be greatly disappointed. It’s an asset in the UK to know when to call it a night, which is where the pay-as-you-go system comes in handy and you can eclipse yourself discreetly.

Regent's street in London and its white stone buildings (left). The Big Ben in London close to the Thames River (right).
Luke Stackpoole

Whether you’re relishing the slow-paced café culture of Paris or laughing over some pints in London’s lively pubs, you are sure to enjoy. What remains most impressive is how these large, global cities have managed to retain their unique charm and idiosyncratic lifestyles, which you can appreciate no matter where you go. 

The Eiffel Tower on the Paris skyline (left). A busy street in London (right).
Augustin de Montesquiou / Laurenz Kleinheider

Related Links

Written by Maya Rose for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation, or long term, rental in Paris, Italy, France or elsewhere in Europe.


Maya Rose

Born in California and raised in Paris, Maya has just returned from studying Russian in London. A faithful global citizen, Maya is passionate about travelling, learning new languages, and sharing these adventures with friends and family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *