Three historical cafes in Paris
Cafes in Paris: Café Procope
Café Procope was the very first literary cafe in Paris.
In 1686 it was bought from a Sicilian immigrant, Catania-born Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, from which it took its name. Loyal to the traditions of the Procopio family, which managed the bar for years, Café Procope introduced the sorbet and granita, the predecessors of ice-cream. And King Louis XIV appointed Procopio as exclusive producers of sorbets, granitas, and ice-creams.
Like many other Parisian cafes, its patrons included many famous names, including, between the 18th and 19th centuries, Napoleon, Honoré de Balzac, Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and François-Marie Arouet, the real name of the author we all know better as Voltaire. It therefore goes without saying that many works of art and literary works came to life on the tables of this cafe.
Today Café Procope is a restaurant, but all Parisians are familiar with its story, which has been handed down through the generations over the centuries.
Cafes in Paris: Café de la Paix
Also mentioned by Italian singer-songwriters, throughout the 1800s, Café de la Paix was one of the main meeting places for a very diverse mixture of artists, academics, writers, astrologers, and thinkers from various currents.
Designed in Imperial style, it opened its doors in 1862 under the name Grand Hôtel de la Paix. A few years later, in 1875, it opened near the cafe Opéra Garnier which made that splendid bar even more famous in the circles of the arts, to such an extent that its clients included Émile Zola, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and Guy de Maupassant, Marcel Proust, to name but a few.
The cafe was most recently renovated in 2003. Since 1975, the entire building that hosts it has been considered a national monument, also in memory of the German grenade by which, sadly, it was struck in 1944.
Cafes in Paris: La Rotonde
Although there are many cafes that are much older than this one, we simply can’t leave La Rotonde out of our list of the historical cafes of Paris, because it generated the migration of the most important 20th century painters from the district of Montmartre to that of Montparnasse. And for this reason, La Rotonde played a crucial role, not just in the history of art, but also in the history of Paris as a whole.
Established in 1911, it takes its name from the round shape of its entrance, and is characterised by a Bohemian atmosphere, with tables outside and on a small terrace. If that terrace could talk, it would surely have many tales to tell: like the time Jean Cocteau took 21 photographs portraying Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, Marie Vassilieff, Henri-Pierre Roché, model Paquerette and Amedeo Modigliani as they relaxed at La Rotonde one sunny summer afternoon in 1916.