I would not be unduly surprised, if I discovered, on some future trip to Paris, that the legendary Café de Flore had been frozen in aspic, to preserve it for eternity, and declared a national monument by the French government. It is after all one of the grandes dames of Parisian cafés which opened its doors to the coffee imbibing public way back in 1887. And, of course, it’s a place where the rooms echo with the ghostly voices of some of the literary and philosophical greats (including Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway …) who ate, drank, and wrote there in earlier epochs.
The Café de Flore has a duality about it: on one hand it’s the quintessence of a Parisian café, and on the other it’s a bit of cliché beloved by tourists. The Flore divides opinion. I like it and often return to it when I am in Paris and I did so again, for a late lunch, on my most recent visit to the City of Light.
The café is on the Bouelvard St Germain, at the junction with the Rue St Benoit, in the swish sixth arrondissement, not far from: the banks of the Seine, a ton of interesting shops, and Notre Dame itself. The Flore has: tables and chairs on the pavement; a covered terrace; a ground floor room filled with dark wooden tables, and chairs and banquettes covered in red leather; and a first floor room decorated much as the ground floor except in neutral colours.
The waiters, who are all male, look as if the came straight from central casting: they hold their trays aloft as they weave their way between the tables, and in their black and white rig-outs, they look, for all the world, like penguins on roller skate as they glide around. They seemed to have drunk in Sartre’s dictum that – ‘hell is other people’: they are aloof and unsmiling. However they are polite and utterly professional and the food arrives pretty pronto, exactly as you ordered, which considering the café is an uber busy tower of babel-esque spot, is semi-miracalous.
I normally, when I am there for lunch, have the Flore version of Welsh Rarebit, which I love and recommend. However on my recent visit, in a bid to break my creature-of-habit ways, I ordered a Caesar salad. It was ok-ish, but definitely not the salad Caesar Cardini had in mind when he invented the dish, I suspect the slices of cheese on top and some extraneous ingredients may have had him spinning, like a gyroscope, in his grave.
The food the Flore serves is far from being the best, or the best value in Paris but nonetheless, I think, a visit to the Flore at some time on a visit to Paris is almost obligatory, if not for a meal at least to sample a coffee or hot chocolate while watching the world go by.
25 responses to “Paris: Café de Flore”
I will visit next time I am in Paris, thanks for the tip.
Hope you like the Flore and I also hope you get to Paris soon.
Sounds like a lovely place for an afternoon bite to eat! Alas, if only I was close enough to visit and try it out 😉 I’m making a mental checklist of places that you’ve mentioned for whenever my next trip is!
It’s a good spot, and I know I am lucky to be able to get to Paris so easily as it’s, in relative terms, so close. I hope you get to make that trip sometime soon. 😉
Nothing more wonderful than sipping coffee, tea or even wine and watching the world go by in Paris and Cafe de Flore is a landmark. I too am a creature of habit when it comes to food I order at restaurants and unfortunately I am often disappointed when I steer away from the norm.
I am glad someone else is a creature of habit when it comes to choosing from a menu. That makes me feel better as I ofter beat myself up, metaphorical speaking, for sticking to the same choices.
Watching the world go by in Paris is the best. 😉
Totally I rarely deviate. I could be called boring or unadventurous I guess but I’m not a gambler I go with the tried and true most of the time
Thanks, that makes me feel better about being a creature of habit … 😉
Every time I have passed this cafe I avoid it. I don’t want to be considered a tourist so I never go. This post has changed my mind. Next time I am in town, I will go in for a noisette and watch the world go by.
Merci from Lyon.
Hello Hata in Lyon,
Thank you for your comment. I hope you enjoy the Flore when you get there.
Waving from Dublin
I will definitely go there next time I’m in Paris. It sounds just marvelous!
I like it, altho I know that some don’t , so I think it’s definitely worth a visit. 😉
Thank you for this very nice review of Cafe’ de Flore, dear B. It looks appealing (despite the waiters’ attitude, I have to say)…
Thank you for your comment. The cafe is appealing and it’s so busy that it feels sometimes if the whole world is passing through. I do have a certain sympathy for the aloof waiters (and they are polite) because when service is at full tilt they never stop – not even for a nano second.
All the best B
Lovely post, B.! I have to go through your entire Paris section to be sure to cover all your spots next time I’m in Paris.
Thank you so much Francesca, I am lucky that I can get to Paris so easily but I still wish I got there more often.
I hope you get to Paris some time soon and also that the cold and the snow that I read about have now left your part of the world and that spring has sprung …
I think we all hope to experience Cafe de Flore. It has been way to long since I was there…thank you for sharing your photos. 🙂
Thank you for your comment.
Times flies by so quickly, I hope you get to return to the Cafe de Flore sometime soon-ish. 😉
Is that bacon? In the Caesar salad? Hmmm…..
Still, I would eat there, just to soak up the atmosphere and pretend I’m being whispered to by some literary ghosts.
Yet it is! I agree with you about the atmosphere, it’s what I like most about the place. Thank you so much for the compliment on the photographs.
Have to admit I never went to Café the Flore though I was a student in Saint Germain des Prés. Coffee was too expensive for us there. But now that I live away from Paris and I know how much I love my French writers I may pop in one day just to be were Camus and Beauvoir once were. Thanks for reminding me 🙂
Soo jealous. I love cafe de flore and Paris is one of my favourite cities. I am also a total literary geek so Shakespeare and Co is my favourite book shop in the whole world. Love your blog. Look forward to reading more. Emma xx
Thank you so much Emma and I hope you get to revisit Paris soon. Agree Shakespeare & Co wonderful …
HL=huge like, of course… 🙂 was there several times while we lived in Paris… cheers and my very best, Mélanie – Toulouse, France
Oh well- looks like it’s back to French Rarebit next time 🙂 I passed nearby but not close enough to pop in, but I would have liked to.