Two pictures from the famous Parisian café Le Nemours. Left: A close up to Le Nemours terrace after a brief spring rain. Right: A farther photo of Le Nemours with the photographer's shadow in the middle.
Top left: @andregarance / Top right: @hifromalix
Above left: @cestmaikka / Above right: @deci_dela

What’s it like being back on a café terrace in Paris?

It’s like being back in your lover’s arms after a long, hard trip.

It’s like being hugged by your gramma and smelling her pumpkin pie in the oven following a grueling car ride during which you fought with your sister in the back seat.

It’s like home.

Left: Parisians are seated in an outdoor terrace in a curved roman building with pillars. Right: A small café called Yellow Tucan is pictured with a bike parked in front of it.
Left: @hifromalix / Right: @jeuthem

Why? Because Paris cafés and restaurants are so many things.

They’re your living room where you entertain guests.

They’re your break room between gigs.

They’re your kitchen where you feed your loved ones.

They’re your safe space when you meet that Tinder guy.

Left: A shot of a healthy lunch with breakfast bowls, juice, and coffee with The New York Times newspaper laid in the table. Right: A photo of a Parisian café named Café de l'époque which is beside the Galerie Vero-Dodat.
Left: / Right: @clangart

They’re your buffer zone where you get your head together before going home after a bad day at work.

They’re your car where you’re hanging out waiting for your kid’s ballet class to end.

They’re your office when you’re sick of staring at your own four walls.

They’re your porch where you read a book and daydream.

Left: Parisians are dining in a terrace of a café lined with pink and green details. Right: a close up of a brunch table filled with cups of cappuccinos with coffee art.
Left: @maragrimm / Right: @lesparisdelaura

Not to be crude, but they’re also your bathroom. Paris is woefully short of toilets, and whether you sneak in or do the right thing and buy a drink, it’s going to happen sometime.

Why? Because cafés are plentiful and for the price of one drink you can sit there indefinitely, being productive or not, eating or not.

Paris cafés and restaurants aren’t just meal alternatives, they’re community. It’s not food we’ve been hungry for during Covid. It’s not coffee or wine. It’s each other, it’s people. We’ve all been eating just fine this year, what with baking sourdough bread and Googling recipes and spending way too much money on Deliveroo. Just ask my pants.

We needed people, and in Paris, with cafés and restaurants closed from October to May, that was hard.

Left: A picture of the iconic Vrai Paris restaurant in Montmartre. Right: Two typical Parisian terrace chairs and a table are pictured.
Right: @forever.fernweh / Left: @selintakesover

If you invite a friend to your house, and it’s all on you—the food, the atmosphere, the cost, the responsibility for everybody’s happiness and wellbeing. Conversation might lull. Your soufflé might fall. Your friend might spill red wine on your sofa, or be allergic to your main dish, or turn out to be a raw vegan. Disaster awaits. Your friend might not even want to come to your sixth-floor 100-square-foot walk-up. But meet that friend on a Paris terrace, and good things can happen. Everybody can order exactly what they want from the vaguely flirtatious server who somehow makes you feel great about your choice. They’ll clean up spills and bring more food and drinks if you need it. If conversation lags, somebody interesting will pass your by and topics will present themselves.

We need people, even strangers. Strangers who are relaxing with their own cups of coffee are kindred spirits. You might ignore one another, or cast a sympathetic glance when somebody drops their napkin, or have a low-commitment conversation about the weather. It’s up to you.

If you need me, you’ll find me on a terrace.

Left: A picture of a Parisian terrace set in a square. Right: A picture of the famous Parisian restaurant Café Saint Regis.

Related Links

Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.


  1. Fabulous, funny and heartwarming post! It gets to the essence of Paris and the deprivation of the pandemic, not only for the lucky residents of the City of Lights and Love, but for those of us longing to visit again. Merci!

Leave a Reply

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