Paris Café Culture

Paris Tour Overview: Thinking Spaces, Drinking Spaces

A 19th-century Paris cafe painted by Manet
The Café-Concert by Edouard Manet

From the 17th century to today, cafés have been an irreplaceable feature of life in the French capital. Some of the earliest Parisian café patrons were traders at the great St-Germain fairs, and foreigners who frequented the Turkish-style coffeehouses around the St-Michel bridge. At establishments like the Procope, near the Comédie-Française theatre in the 1680s, the café was a place to see and be seen. Over the centuries Parisians of all stripes gathered at cafés elegant and humble. Paris, said historian Jules Michelet, was “one vast café.”

Coffee being sold at the St-Germain fair, 17th century

Cafés were also places to debate and exchange ideas. Michelet and some modern scholars see coffee drinking and the rise of the coffeehouse/café as helping fuel the Enlightenment, the French revolution, and the spread of scientific, artistic and philosophical ideas in France and Europe. Across the centuries, Voltaire, Robespierre, Manet, de Beauvoir, Baldwin and many other writers and artists have been associated with cafés.

These “third spaces” were no less important to those unknown to history, or to us today. Cafés have been escapes from the cold, de facto offices, places to meet friends and lovers, or refuges where one can simply sit and observe. When we go to them, for whatever reason, we are taking part in the comédie humaine

Why Take Our Paris Café Culture Tour

This tour will be a fun yet in-depth dive into Paris Café Culture past and present. You’ll enjoy

  • the fascinating stories of famous and not-so-famous Parisians on custom walking tours with novelist Lisa Pasold
  • a guided visit of the lovely Musée de la Vie Romantique to better understand 19th-century cultural life
  • a cooking class with the incomparable Frédéric, who will help you prepare a delicious meal to savour together
  • time to enjoy Paris’s many distinctive cafés

We’ll study these thinking/drinking spaces through the works of the prolific writers Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola—the first a consumer of prodigious quantities of coffee, the second obsessed with food and the way it is bought, sold and eaten. 

Join other bons vivants for a relaxed yet stimulating exploration of Paris café culture through art, literature, history, and food. 

Traveller Reviews



Suzanne is simply the BEST travel guide! Her professionalism, depth of research, thorough knowledge of each destination, flexibility, and sense of humour, are unequalled in my travel experience. Having toured with Suzanne on eight trips, I especially appreciate her ability to consider each participant’s preferences rather than adopting a “one size fits all” approach.

Ready to Book?

To learn more or book your spot, email Natalie at or call toll-free 1-800-387-1483.

More Resources

Léon Lhermitte, Les Halles, 1895


The tour name is indebted to the book The Café as a Cultural Institution in Paris, Italy and Vienna, ed. Ritter et al.


Get a detailed itinerary

Paris, France

October 11 to 17, 2024

US$4495 per person based on double occupancy
US$975 single supplement

The Hôtel Le Littré is in Paris’ 6th arrondissement, on a quiet street between the rue de Rennes and the rue de Vaugirard. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, TV, safe, minibar, and hair dryer. Free Wi-Fi. A hot breakfast is served in the elegant restaurant.

12 to 16 participants

Suzanne Bodner has created and led tours to France, England, Italy, Canada and the US for more than 10 years. Her first career was as a teacher of ESL to francophones at institutions in France and Canada. She studied French language and literature at the University of Western Ontario, and she has master’s degrees in education from the University of Toronto and the Université de Montréal. Suzanne will be your tour manager.

Lisa Pasold will lead our custom walks. A writer originally from Montreal, she is the host and co-writer of Discovery World’s TV travel show “Paris Next Stop.” Lisa is the creator of “Improbable Walks”, story-telling walks focusing on legends and place memory. She has created these art walks to critical acclaim for festivals and gallery residencies in cities such as New Orleans, Toronto and Paris.

Selections from Balzac’s Human Comedy series
Selections from The Belly of Paris and other works by Emile Zola

Cost includes guides, readings, accommodation in double occupancy, two meals a day, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, admissions, and taxes and gratuities.

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