The historical café competition in Paris is fierce. Cafés where the greats such as Sartre have sipped their inspiration for their best work is abundant in the city of love, croissant and coffee. We explore Café de Flore which is arguable one of the best historical cafés in Paris. Founded in the 1880s, it remains a staple café and tourist destination.
A Parisian legacy of the best historical cafe
The Parisian coffee landscape started to really thrive in the 18th century, over 200 years after coffee was first introduced to the city in 1644. Café de Flore was opened during the Third Republic and its name is inspired from the sculpture of Flora, the goddess of flowers in Roman mythology.
On the boulevard of Saint-Germain, in the 6th arrondissement, it is located in the center of all things Parisian. Back in 1899, th Revue D’action Francais was founded in the café. It served a cultural centre of progression and intellect, as did many cafés of that time. Authors Joris-Karl Huysmans and Remy de Groumont were well-known authors and regulars that would frequent the café.
A hub for famous philosophers and writers
The peak of French intellect started in the coffee shop scene. The greats like Robert Desnos, Léon-Paul Fargue, Raymond Queneau and even Pablo Picasso were regulars that held a strong network in the café. Foreigners and elites like Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was also a frequent visitors in the 1920s.
In the 1930s, a new heater was installed in the café and more Parisian writers flocked there to enjoy the heated interior. Simone de Beauvoir enjoyed working from there and later Jean-Paul Sartre would arrive in 1941.
Later in the post-war era, American writer Adam Gopnik explained why Café de Flore was a more fashionable counter part than the equally famous “Les Deux Magots” in his essay caleld “A Tale of Two Cafes”. By the late 1990s, the battle was clearly won by Café de Flore and remains a major Parisian coffee landmark.
Art Deco and Pastries
Any historical gem should be accompanied with stunning décor and architecture truly reflective of its original era. The Art Deco style is prevalent in the café, symbolizing freedom of expression and creation. Its unique lighting, red booths and patterned tiling are what make it unique. The exterior white canapé with bold cursive letters are the iconic look that make it so recognizable.
Pastries, croissants and history
The pastries are of course an extension of this type of creativity and attention to detail. Their Tarte Tatin is delicious and is especially scrumptious with their hearty hot chocolate. Their opera cake is also something gorgeous and flavourful to try.
There are an abundance of historical cafés with a historical legacy in Paris, each with their own flavour and unique story. Café de Flore has contributed so much to the French literary and culture scene, and continues to impress locals and foreigners who want a taste of Parisian nostalgia.