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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Read more about the differences between London and Paris.
- Café or Caffè? French vs Italian coffee culture.
- For the best pubs in London, head to CN Traveller.