23 inspiring places in Paris for writing your book
There’s no doubt that Paris is a writer-friendly city–probably the friendliest in the world. They’re proud of their literary history and happy to leave you be as you work.
A few places have stood out over the years, either as a resident, or on various visits, for being welcoming, inspirational, or because they have that timeless Parisian flair. Sometimes they come with the price tag you’d expect of that, although others are remarkably well-priced. And some listed are on the itinerary for our June 2021 retreat, because I love sharing Paris with other writers.
A few notes:
- the info is up-to date as of October 1st, 2020, but check for COVID-19 closures/hours
- some places will close for public holidays; check their site before finalizing your plans
- download the Affluences app to your smart phone–it tells you in real-time how busy libraries, etc, are
- use your discretion about whether a laptop or a notepad is best for the venue and your fellow travelers
Covered in this post:
- Classic cafés
- Cafés + quirks
- Quintessentially Paris
- Libraries & museums
- Let’s go outside
- The world’s most beautiful Starbucks
1. Le Pure Café
Just off Rue Faidherbe, in the up-and-coming-but-still-unpretentious 11th arrondissement, is Le Pure, one of the most Parisian of cafés.
These days there are plenty of laptops plonked on the marble and wooden tabletops, and the management posts the daily menu on their Facebook page, but it maintains its authenticity with its original horseshoe-shaped zinc bar, red velvet banquettes, and a rotation of regulars reminding you that this really is a valued neighborhood hangout–even if it was featured in “Before Sunset.”
Fire up the free WiFi and get comfy in one of those banquettes, or sit on the terrace and watch the world go by.
Le Pure Café
14 rue Jean-Macé, 75011
Métro : Charonne (Line 9)
Mon – Fri: 7AM – 1AM
Sat: 8AM – 1AM>
Sun: 9AM – 12AM
2. Café Panis
Although smack-dab in Tourist Central (and just two steps from Shakespeare & Co bookstore), Café Panis manages to feel not too much of a trap. Maybe it’s the très Parisian waitstaff, who some reviewers have griped about, but who we’ve always found to be welcoming, just very, very busy.
For that reason, go early or late and nab the little two-top tucked into a nook at the front, with the direct view of Notre Dame (blessée mais vivant). The view is particularly atmospheric in the winter—don’t worry about the cold, you’re right next to a very pretty radiator–and the table’s so tiny that it has pull-outs for your flatware. That’s enough to house you, your laptop, and a generously poured glass of red. Added bonus: a complimentary gougère to nibble on as you write.
1 quai de Montebello, 75005
Métro: Cité (Line 4), Cluny La Sorbonne (Line 10)
Mon – Fri: 7AM – 1AM
Sat – Sun: 8AM – 1AM
3. Le Nemours
If you can’t draw inspiration from a café on the Place Colette, named after Nobel-prize-winning author and controversial cat lady Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, well then, we don’t know where you can.
Fabulous long before it was Insta-fabulous, Le Nemours’ huge terrace is often filled with interesting people having interesting conversations, including some of the troupe from the world’s oldest active theatre company, the Comédie Française, right next door.
Read why Le Nemours is Richard Nahem’s favorite cafe at Save The Paris Café.
2 Place Colette, 75001
Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
Mon – Fri: 7AM – 1AM
Sat: 8AM – 1AM
Sun: 9AM – 9PM
4. Hardware Société
Forgive me a little local pride*, but thank God for Australians livening up the Paris coffee scene—and, in the case of Hardware Société, making it charming in the process. There’s the very real chance that, if they’d opened just around the corner from my place in Montmartre 5 years earlier, I wouldn’t have moved back to Melbourne.
Tucked behind Sacré-Couer, HS is a busy spot, serving up Padre coffee beans from Melbourne and La Chambre aux Confitures jams (the apricot-lavender!) on its gluten-free bread, as well as many other treats. Head upstairs to the window seat, where you can write while gazing out at the Basilica’s dome. There’s only one drawback to this as a writer’s lair: it closes too early to really enjoy how wonderfully atmospheric Montmartre is on winter nights, when the tourists have left and its just you, your characters, and–if you’re lucky–snow.
*And a little cheek, by calling this newcomer a “classic,” but it has the feel of one.
10 Rue Lamarck, 75018
Metro: Chateau Rouge (Line 4) and walk 10 minutes, or Abbesses (Line 12) then take the 40 bus (formerly called the Montmartrobus) to the Place du Tertre stop and walk 5 minutes.
Mon – Fri: 9AM – 4PM
Sat – Sun: 9:30AM – 4:30PM
Café + Quirk
5. Le Pavillon des Canaux
Ever had the urge to, oh, I don’t know, write your book in a bathtub whilst overlooking a canal? Then Le Pavillon des Canaux is the spot for you!
This “coffice” might seem too heep-ster for some, but I love the vibe, the location, and the fact that you can find a writing spot to suit any mood in this former canal lock keeper’s house. The comfy furniture and friendly people make it feel like you’re hanging out at a friend’s place, except you have to pay for the coffee.
There’s one house rule: laptops are only allowed during the week, and from 10AM – 12 noon, then 2:30PM – 7PM. Bring a book to read in the off hours, or connect with the world around you. Once you’re done writing, stay for one of the many cultural events held here or, if you’re not there already, head out onto the terrace for a glass of wine or a beer from the brewery next door.
Coffee: average €4
Wine: average €5
6. Le Café des Chats
Traveling and desperately missing your cat’s tail between your face and the laptop screen? There’s a café for that.
This second Café des Chats is a short walk from Bastille (the first, in the Marais, has closed) and is just as you would expect: the cats do what they want. What’s unexpected is the quality of the food, all made in-house, how good the coffee is, and how peaceful the café is.
Bookings are not required and no, you can’t adopt the cats.
Coffee: average €5
Le Café des Chats
9 rue Sedaine, 75011
Métro: Bréguet-Sabin (Line 5), Bastille (Lines 1, 5 & 8)
Tue-Sun: 12PM – 10:30PM
7. L’Oisive Thé et Tricot
Back in 2008, American ex-pat Aimee Gille realized a dream when she opened the first tricot in Paris, where people could come to read and knit between cups of tea. 12 years later, not only is L’Oisive Thé thriving, with a range of yarns for sale in store, but Aimee opened La Bien Aimée in 2015, where you can buy hand-dyed luxury yarns.
Inside, the original café is warm and welcoming, but you might not want to go past the calm terrace. Choose from an impressive range of teas (which you can also buy in bulk), and stick around for a delicious light lunch or even a knitting lessons.
Coffee: average €4
Wine: average €5
8 bis Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, 75013
Métro: Corsivart (Line 6), Place d’Italie (Lines 5 & 7)
Tue-Fri: 12PM – 6PM
Sat-Sun: 11AM – 6PM
Hidden in the heart of the Marais, right across from the National Archives and the Picasso Museum, this café/bar only opened a week ago, but we’ve already got our eye on its 80m terrace for summer. Look closely enough and you can see faint vestiges of Philippe-Auguste’s 13th-century wall built to keep the city safe from attack. These days, things are more genteel, with the tea from Marriage Frères and fresh soups and sandwiches made on site. (Takeout also available.)
Griffon takes its name from the porte-bonheur (good luck charm) of Théophraste Renaudot, in whose former home the café/bar now resides. Renaudot had a lot going on–as well as being Louis XIII’s physician, he opened Paris’s first pawnshop* and is also considered to be France’s first journalist, after launching its first newspaper, La Gazette, on this site.
*The pawnshop (crédit municipal) is still in operation at the front of the building. Run by the city of Paris, it goes by the name Chez Ma Tante, from the French expression “we got some money from my aunt” to avoid the stigma of borrowing money. The sentiment of that heritage lives on in the café’s vintage record collection and the big armchairs that invite you to read–when you’re not writing, of course.
Coffee: average €4
Wine: average €5
55 bis Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75004
Métro: Rambuteau (Line 11), Hotel de Ville (Lines 1 & 11)<
Wed-Sun: 10AM – 12AM
9. Used Book Café @ Merci
Again with the Marais, but this time near Oberkampf, in the converted 19th-century fabric and wallpaper factory that has housed concept store Merci since 2009. Enjoy tasty meals and herbal teas, then plonk yourself down on a sofa or stool and get those words down.
Coffee: average €5
Tea: average €6
Wine: average €7
Used Book Café @ Merci
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003
Métro: Saint-Sébastien Froissart
Mon-Sat: 10AM – 6:30PM
Sun: closed (the store is open)
10. La Belle Hortense
You had us at “Literary bar.” And then there’s that beautiful cobalt blue shopfront, that sings to us on cold evenings. It’s unfortunate that La Belle Hortense only opens at 5PM, or we might spend the whole day there. (Hmmm….) Sit up at the bar and, once your head has stopped reeling from just browsing the extensive wine list, scribble away in your notebook while totally faking not eavesdropping on the animated chats going on around you.
When the place gets crowded, as it will by 9PM, claim a seat in the back room and order in from one of the local restaurants also owned by La Belle Hortense’s owner, including Les Philosophes. Words done? Great! Settle in for a literary book reading or art exhibition. Or, Sundays from 8PM, maybe even a tarot card reading? (You’ll need to book.)
La Belle Hortense
31 rue Vieille du Temple, 75004
Métro: Hotel de Ville Saint-Paul
Mon-Sun: 5PM – 2AM
11. Nuage Café & Coworking space
1. was not only a church but also Cyrano de Bergerac’s college?
2. and delivers Coutume coffee at the click of a laptop key?
3. and (don’t tell the purists) makes a mean Pumpkin Spice Latte?
COUNT. US. IN!
The coworking concept has exploded in Paris over the past few years, and you can write at all of them, but Nuage (“cloud” in English) really is one of those special places. Sure, you pay for the facility (€5/hour, €25/day, cheaper for members, students and jobseekers) but you get a lot for your €: Nutella shots (uh, yes, you read that right), coffee delivered at the click of a button, kitchen facilities, high-speed WiFi, printing, games, and a variety of places to work, either calm or convivial. You can also rent meeting spaces, and the café part of this coffice has a good range of drinks and snacks.
Coffee: average €4
Nuage Café & Coworking space
14 rue des Carmes, 75005
Mon-Fri: 9AM – 7PM
Sat-Sun: 11AM – 8PM
12. La REcyclerie
From the same people behind Le Pavillon des Canaux and one of my favorite bars, Le Comptoir Général, this former train station on the Clignancourt side of the 18th arrondissement has multiple purposes, all eco-responsible. Just about everything here has been repurposed, there are workshops on how to re-use everyday goods, and there’s even a repair service for your clothing and furniture. Oh, and there’s an urban farm on the tracks of what was once the Petite Ceinture (Little Belt), a rail network that circled Paris back in the 1930s that’s gradually being transformed into biodiverse walking tracks.
Pick up a filtered coffee (€1!) and find a seat overlooking the tracks while you write, then either stick around for a workshop or a visit to the chickens, or head across the road to the world- famous Marché aux Puces (flea market).
60 rue Belliard, 75018
Métro: Porte de Clignancourt (Line 4)
Mon-Sun: 8AM – 10:30PM (different areas are open at different times of the day; check their site for full details)
I have a soft spot for Carette. It’s the first salon de thé I visited in France, on one hot August day two decades ago, and just seeing its signature china with the delicate floral pattern makes me smile.
It’s also an excellent place to people watch, either from its original 1927 spot on the Place du Trocadéro or this new outlet, opened in 2010. The best spot is a tiny alcove that holds about 6 people, with a view onto the iconic Place des Vosges–perfect for writing and daydreaming.
Carette isn’t the cheapest pâtisserie in town, but it’s one of the best. Indulge in some chocolate chaud à l’ancienne on a silver platter, as well as a tarte aux figues in the fall, or a macaron at other times of the year, and you’ll always remember it.
25 Place des Vosges, 75003
Métro: Saint Paul
Tue: 7:30AM – 7:30PM
Wed-Mon: 7:30AM – 11PM
14. Nina’s Marie-Antionette
Stepping into this bijoux salon de thé just off the Place Vendôme is like being in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette,” when everything was dreamy. It’s bright and pink and scrumptious, and the cake is divine. And the tea crafted from the fruits and roses of the Chateau de Versailles garden since 1672? Also divine.
Thanks to the hostesses (as sweet as the cake), the salon is calm. A few of the Queen’s personal items are on display in the salon, and you can purchase some of the rose tea (and other flavors) to take home while you keep writing.
29 rue Danielle Casanova, 75001
Métro: Opéra (Lines 3, 7 & 8)
Mon-Sat: 12:00PM – 7:00PM
Libraries & Museums
15. Bibliothèque Mazarine
Swoon! If I were writing a historical, this library, located within the Palais de l’institut de France, at the opposite end of the Pont des Arts from the Louvre, is where I’d set up camp. Once the personal library of the Cardinal Mazarin, it’s France’s oldest public library and has one of the country’s largest collection of rare books and manuscripts.
It’s been open to the public since 1643, and all you need to gain access to the reading room is valid ID and €15 for an annual pass; passes for up to 5 days within one year are free. The library also conducts free, 90-minute tours for individual visitors; just register on their site. (This is where we say “Vive la France !”)
23 Quai de Conti, 75006
Métro: Pont-Neuf (Line 7), Louvre Rivoli (Line 1), Odéon (Lines 4 & 10).
Mon – Sat: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
16. Bibliotheque Sainte-Geneviève
No, this isn’t a Harry Potter set. Yes, it’s open to the public. And yes, it’s free.
The Bibliothèque Saint-Genevieve (BSG) is deceptively austere on the outside; in fact, you might have walked straight by it on your way to the Panthéon or the Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. But it’s neo-Gothic interior, completed in 1851, is the stuff that fantasy worlds are made of.
And then there’s its collections of letters, arts, and human and social sciences: over 1.5 million documents, periodicals and databases available to scholars.
Entry is free with a valid form of ID. 10-minute tours for individuals or groups of up to 5 people are held Monday to Saturday, from 2 to 6PM; just go to the reception area in the main hall.
10 Place du Panthéon, 75005
Métro: Maubert-Mutualité (Line 10), Luxembourg (RER B)
Bus : 84, 89, 82, 38, 27, 21, 85
Mon: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Tue-Fri: 10:00AM – 10:00PM
Sat: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
17. Petit Palais
One of the true joys of Paris is its hidden gardens. Who knew there was a little oasis sitting right in the heart of the Champs-Elysées? And that you could access it for free?
The Petit Palais was built in 1900 as part of the Paris Expo, and houses the city’s collection of Beaux Arts masterpieces in its permanent collection. Works by Renoir, Rodin, Monet, Degas, Guimard, Toulouse-Lautrec and more are yours to view, simply by passing through its stunning gold, wrought-iron gates.
Walk beneath its cupola and out to the garden, where you’ll find palm trees and other greenery lining mosaic-tiled pools. Honestly, are we in Paris any more? You know the answer is yes, when you see the Lenôtre pastries the café serves, along with other simple fare.
Le Petit Palais (Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris)
Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008
Métro: Champs-Elysées Clemenceau (Lines 1 & 13), Concorde (Lines 1, 8 & 12)
Tue – Thu: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sat – Sun: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
18. Café Renoir, Musée de Montmartre
It’s another hidden garden, this time at the top of the city, overlooking another of Paris’s gems–the Clos de Montmartre vineyard.
Travel back in time in this café attached to the Musée de Montmartre, the oldest house in Montmartre, which was once home to Renoir and other artists. The glass conservatory is where Renoir painted La Balançoire–you can see a replica of the swing itself in the garden, where tables dot the lawn. It’s the perfect place to set yourself up with your favorite writing tools and sip on a glass of iced mint tea. Or maybe a rosé. You deserve it for climbing that hill!
Access to the garden/café: €5, or free with your museum ticket (€9,50).
Café Renoir, Musée de Montmartre
12 rue Cortot, 75018
Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Line 12)
Bus : 40
Summer hours (May to October)
Daily: 12:00PM – 6:00PM
Thursdays in July & August: 7:00PM – 10:00PM
Winter hours (October to April)
Mon – Tue: Closed
Wed – Sun: 12:15 PM – 5:00 PM
19. Musée de la Vie Romantique
Down the hill from Café Renoir, in the newly trendy Saint-Georges district, sits a museum dedicated to the Romantic period. The hôtel particulier Scheffer-Renan, built in 1830, saw many artists of the time visit its resident, painter Ary Scheffer: Delacroix and Chopin were just a few.
Now owned by the city of Paris, the museum has a large collection dedicated to Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, a.k.a. novelist and libertine George Sand, amongst other writers. Its garden is yet another bucolic retreat in this busy city, with the café run by Rose Bakery. Which basically means, you’ll have to subject yourself to another session of writing in a lovely setting, sipping tea and nibbling scones. La vie est belle !
Access to the museum and gardens is free.
Musée de la Vie Romantique (Hotel Scheffer-Renan)
16 rue Chaptal, 75009 Paris
Métro : Saint-Georges (Line 12), Pigalle (Lines 2 & 12), Blanche (Line 2)
Tue – Sun: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Let’s Go Outside
20. Jardin du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg has it all: a palace, a fountain, a pond to sail toy boats on, a marionette theater, an apiary, a rose garden, and–best of all for us–those classic green metal chairs that you can pull up to just about anywhere you like and settle in for writing en plein air.
When you get hungry, check out La Terrasse de Madame. This newly renovated gingerbread house serves up delicious meals (the chicken salad is a winner), but if you’re just in the mood for a snack, head to the back of the kiosk. There are also (clean!) toilets downstairs. If you buy something from La Terrasse, they’ll give you a token to hand to the attendant; otherwise, it’s €2.
Coffee: average €5
Wine: average €8
You could spend the whole day here, exploring the museum, playing chess, listening to music at the bandstand, or playing tennis. Once you’re ready to head out, you’ll find English-language bookstore The Red Wheelbarrow right across the road at 9 Rue de Médicis, or head for the Angelina teahouse at 19 rue de Vaugigard (in the park’s grounds at the entrance to the Musée du Luxembourg) for its world-famous chocolat chaud à l’ancienne .
Angelina hot chocolate: €8,20
Jardin du Luxembourg
Rue de Médicis – Rue de Vaugirard, 75006
Métro: Odéon, Luxembourg (RER)
Bus – 21, 27, 38, 58, 82, 83, 84, 89
Mon – Sun: 7:30/8:15AM – 4:30/9:30PM, depending on the season
21. Père Lachaise cemetery
The first time I visited Père Lachaise, it was summer and a group was picnicking on its green lawns. That set the scene for the marvelous world contained within the cemetery’s high brick walls, and why I feel it’s a perfectly respectful place to write–or, at the very least, research.
Jim Morrison might be the cemetery’s most famous resident right now, but back in the days when this part of town was considered disreputable, officials needed incentive to get people to buy plots here. So they dug up doomed medieval lovers Héloïse and Abélard and popped them in a stunning gothic crypt.
Dear readers–it worked. The cemetery’s 44 hectares has 70,000 plots, amongst which are the final resting places to writers Colette, Honoré de Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Guillaume Apollinaire, Molière, and Alfred de Musset, as well as Edith Piaf, Chopin, and more. But even these luminaries are overshadowed by some of the most elaborate funeral art you’ll ever see.
There are free guided tours on the weekend, or you can pick up a free, detailed map at one of the entrances.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Opposite 21 boulevard de Ménilmontant, 75020
Métro: Père Lachaise (Line 2)
Mid-March – October
Mon – Fri: 8:00AM – 5:30PM
Sat: 8:30AM – 5:30PM
Sun: 9:00AM – 5:30PM
22. Bercy Village
It hardly looks like it from this shot, but the Parc de Bercy is completely inside the Paris city limits. Created in the mid-90s, it sits on the site of a former wine depot, traces of which you can see in this wine keeper’s house in the Jardin Romantique part of the park’s 14 hectares.
A haven from the city’s crush, particularly in hot weather, the park has many spots to set up shop and write. Try by the lake, under one of its many adult trees, or in the flower prairie. If that’s more bucolic than you had in mind, take the short walk to the Cour St-Émilion, where 42 former wine storage houses have been turned into shops and restaurants.
You’ll also find one of Paris’s hidden gems here–not a place to write, per se, but with high inspirational value. The Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts) is a privately-owned whimsical collection of carousel horses and other 19th and 20th-century carnival treasures. It’s open year-round, but you must book ahead.
Parc de Bercy
128 Quai de Bercy, 75012
Métro: Cour St Emilion
Open every day
8:00AM/9:00AM – 5.45PM/9:30PM, depending on the season
23. The world’s most beautiful Starbucks
That’s right, I’m calling it: this is the world’s most beautiful Starbucks. It’s also one of my favorite places to write. I spent most of the winter of 2008/2009 typing away here, inspired by its ballroom-like features and the ceiling murals that remind me of Palais Garnier just across the boulevard. More of those features were revealed in a 2017 restoration, along with the smoky blue walls and new brass balustrades.
I can’t remember who the building’s first occupant was, some marechal of some kind, I believe. Then the space became luxury clothing and fabric store Liberty (of London) & Co during the Gilded Age, as well as a billiards academy and photography studio, before housing a travel agency and finally, in 2006, Starbucks. Find yourself a cozy armchair and settle in.
3 Boulevard des Capucines, 75002
Mon – Fri: 6:30AM – 10:30PM
Sat: 7:00AM – 11:00PM
Sun: 7:00AM – 10:30PM
Thanks for reading–and leave a comment below if you’d like to share your favorite place to write in Paris!