If you’re planning a stay in any of the hostels in Paris it probably means you’ll be involved in some serious sightseeing. But as you dash in and out of museums and galleries, don’t forget to take some time out to indulge in something else the city is very famous for – its café culture.
The café-bars of the French capital are renowned throughout the world, and there is good reason for that. Sitting quietly sipping coffee in a Parisian café is one of life’s great pleasures! As is well documented, however, the city’s café culture is quite unique, and it pays to be aware of some local etiquette.
Sit and Sip
On first glance, in high-profile places coffees can appear a little expensive, but when you consider you’ll be able to take your time, relax, read, write postcards or just watch the world go by, it doesn’t seem all that bad. You’ll never feel rushed and can sit at a table for an hour or two without a waiter batting an eyelid.
As in any public place now in France (including all the hostels in Paris), smoking is not allowed in cafés. There are, however, usually some open-air tables where you can still light up. If you’re offended by the smell of smoke, stay inside and choose a table that won’t be affected by travelling fumes.
Grab a Bite
Most cafés in the city also serve snacks, so you can enjoy delicious pastries for breakfast, and soups, baguettes and other light bites at lunchtime. You can often also order a simple three-course meal special.
Not Just Coffee
Although the word café means coffee, the cafés in France are actually called café-bars. This means they serve all kinds of drinks, both hot and cold, and you can order anything from water to beer or wine.
Service and taxes are always included in the price on the menu and there are no hidden additional charges. Obviously, if you want to leave an extra tip that’s up to you, but bear in mind something will already have been included in the price.
The Parisian Way
The idea of sitting in a Parisian café evokes images of romance and ‘times gone by’. The culture originated when life in the city was much more leisurely and people could afford to spend plenty of time whiling away the hours. That luxury is no longer available for the normal person, and in the past 50 years there has been a huge decline in the number of cafés in the city. It could even be argued that the culture now relies for the most part on tourists and visitors staying in the hotels and hostels. In Paris today, for locals, the pace of life is such that a coffee break is short and sweet.
While traditional cafés may be in decline, they certainly won’t disappear, especially if visitors do their bit to preserve them. Find the best café (there’s any number within walking distance of all the hostels in Paris), then just sit back and enjoy! It’s the Parisian way, after all.
Looking for a dream travel experience? Jason H. Cunningham works for Hostelling International, a company with more than 4,000 hostels worldwide.