History behind the most iconic rival cafés in Paris
Paris will always have a particular vibe when it comes to tourists. If you ask me, I think Paris is an example of the best Marketing Strategy to drive tourism. It’s without flaws. Just pronounce the name of Paris to anyone around you (that doesn’t live in Paris) and you will see their reaction. Priceless. They will immediately tell you they are in love with Paris and they dream of going to Paris or living in Paris.
One of the reasons Paris is trending on every social media is because of all the Influencers or wanna-be influencers that will choose the most iconic cafés in Paris to create content. They will dress à la Parisienne, in La Belle Epoque style, and will sip a coffee or a hot chocolate on the terrace of famous cafés in Paris.
On Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, my favorite district when I go out with my friends you have plenty of iconic places and cafés. Sitting a short block away from each other, are the most iconic and eternal rival cafés in Paris: Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Their rivalry starts at the beginning of the twentieth century when the intellectuals, writers, and artists of the period became loyal to one or the other. Since their opening both coffee houses have been popular destinations for famous writers and intellectuals, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus.
Parisian cafés are not like the Italian counters, where you come to have a quick coffee in the morning. They are a gathering place for friends or a meeting place for colleagues. They are also an escape from the real Paris for locals that want to retrieve the old Parisian lifestyle.
Parisian cafés are known for their small round tables for two, aligned one close to the other, facing the boulevard. At any hour of the day, they will be filled with people drinking espresso or sipping wine and discussing the recent strike in Paris (because there is always at least one strike).
1. CAFE DE FLORE
Café de Flore is located in the chicest arrondissement in Paris, Saint Germain-des-Prés, at the junction of Rue Saint-Benoît and Boulevard Saint-Germain. It is one of the landmarks of Boulevard Saint-Germain.
The name Café de Flore was most probably inspired by the statue of Flora, the Roman goddess of Flowers and Fertility. In the 1880s, the statue stood on the opposite pavement of the boulevard, facing the now Café de Flore.
Café de Flore opened in 1887 at a time when all the artists and writers of that time were spending their days in the Rive Gauche side of Paris, changing from one café to another, to find inspiration.
The establishment became one of the most sought-after literary cafes in Paris when Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, and two other friends organized their meeting to publish Les Soirées de Paris. It was only natural that artists like Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and Léger participated as illustrators in this literary and artistic magazine!
Karl Lagerfeld was spending hours reading Vogue in Café de Flore, not only because of his passion for the Café but also due to its proximity to the office building of the brand Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion Shows were held in Café de Flore for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Paco Rabanne, and launched campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Longchamp.
2. LES DEUX MAGOTS
It is located opposite Saint-Germain-des-Prés abbey church and a short block away from Café de Flore, its lifetime rival. The establishment retained the name of the shop that opened on the same premises in 1873, specializing in oriental fabrics and Chinese antiques. The latter, at his turn, had been named after ‘Les Deux Magots de la Chine‘ a successful theater play of that time. It’s also the name of the two Chinese statuettes that still adorn the central pillar of the ground-floor room. The Café replaced the silk shop in 1884.
Les Deux Magots gained popularity due to its influential literary and artistic clientele like Jean-Paul Sartre, André Breton, and James Joyce, but also some American expats like James Baldwin and Ernest Hemingway who wrote The Sun Also Rises at a first-floor table. Pablo Picasso also met long-time companion Dora Maar here.
Les Deux Magots never ceased to attract the high society and artists, but also politicians, fashion people, and lately, tourists. This is the perfect place to delve in the Parisian La Belle Epoque style, as the Bistro remained dedicated to old traditions. Waiters are still dressed in black and wearing a white apron when serving you.
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Tell me in the comments section if you’ve ever been to one of them and which one you prefer. If you have other useful tips, don’t hesitate to comment below for others to find them.