In Paris, café culture is alive, well, and so far, has quietly embraced laptops. Don’t let anyone try and tell you differently. Especially non-Parisians coming from places where laptop-toting customers get mercilessly expelled for staying too long – San Francisco, New York and London come to mind.
In France’s laissez-faire culture, for the price of an espresso you can, in many if not most cafés, settle in for as long as you wish.
Plugged-In in Paris
Recently a friend and I, discussing this, decided to do a cursory ask-around my neighborhood, Montmartre. Each and every place we stopped happened to have wi-fi; owners and managers alike told us the same thing when asked about bringing laptops and settling in:
“We are in France. If we don’t like it, we tell you!”
Some said that laptop habitués sometimes “close the place down,” and two of the café-restaurants we visited had plug outlets – prises électriques – running along their entire back walls behind booths. At one café I frequent, where about four of us work on/off during the day, they go out of their way to save ‘my’ table (in the coffee-drinkers’ not restaurant section) next to the sole power outlet.
These are not co-working spaces or “wi-fi cafés.” They are your average non-touristy neighborhood Paris café-restaurants that don’t advertise that wi-fi is available, yet will make you feel welcome if you ask.
But what about iconic tourist hubs such as Café de Flore and Café Deux Magots, two of my personal Left Bank favorites? Surely with such high demand for tables and high turnovers their rules would be different?
At Café de Flore they couldn’t have been more accommodating. I was told that while they don’t have plug outlets at tables, bringing one’s laptop and staying for hours is pas un problème.
Fine. And what about the Deux Magots, next door? Surely this Saint-Germain landmark with its long lines at lunchtime would have more stringent rules? Laptop users, I was told, are “more than welcome” at “all hours” – on weekends, even during meal times – and, there are outlet plugs under tables.
Wi-Fi friendly in Paris
If there is one rule, it is this: before settling in find out the establishment’s policy. Weekends and meal times – in France, lunch is generally from 12:30 p.m. til 2:30 p.m.; dinner 7 p.m. (apéritif) until 10:30 or 11 p.m. – might be off limits. Be courteous and use your judgment. Become an habitué and you will get away with much. If it’s a meal time and you are not depriving anyone of a table, ask if it’s all right to stay.
Not bad for a culture renowned for its rudeness is it?
Best Cafés for Wi-Fi in Montmartre,Paris
A few café-restaurants in the Montmartre area where, for the price of a coffee or tea, anyone can plug in and stay connected:
All Good Things, 60 rue Custine 75018. Great vibe, music. Nice people. Stay from 8:30 – 11:30 then 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. Stay for meal too.
Le Refuge, 72 rue Lamarck 75018. Laid back, background music. Closes 12 a.m. Friday Saturday 2 a.m.
La Cave Café, 134 rue Marcadet 75018. Casual; live music on weekends. Plug outlets for laptops line a wall behind a long booth in the dining room. If it’s a mealtime and they need your table, grab your cup and laptop and skedaddle to a table in the front room. Closes 1:45 a.m.
L’Étoile de Montmartre (across street from La Cave), 26 rue Duhesme 75018. Best time for internauts: mealtime off hours. Set up for laptops with lots of outlets but you’d never know it. Closes 2 a.m.
Le Mont-Cenis – Laptops welcome “all day long” says the head barman. Sole requirement: one consommation “such as an expresso.” Closes 2 a.m.
Le Francoeur, 129 rue Caulaincourt 75018. Laptop use “discouraged” at lunch and dinner but at all other times of the day or night you can “stay until closing time,” 2 a.m.
Le Cépage Montmartrois, 65 rue Caulaincourt 75018. Patrons “more than welcome” to sit at its coffee (front) area tables and use their wi-fi “all day” says the owner – who I’d been pushing for some time to make wi-fi available. Closes 11:45 p.m.
L’Éscalier, 6 rue de la Fontaine du But 7501. Charming small restaurant at the foot of a stairway; owner welcomes laptop users “all day” and “with pleasure” – even during lunch hours, as long as no one needs your table. Best times: between lunch/dinner. Stays open “all afternoon and evening” in warm weather. Closes 12 a.m./Sunday 5 p.m.
Restaurant Suzanne, 64 rue Lamarck 75018. Great chai; friendly staff. The long table in a far corner has plug outlets. Closes 12 a.m./Sunday 5 p.m.
KB Caféshop, 53 Avenue Trudaine 75009. The good folks at Kookaburra coffee shop have made it official: order something, anything, and you can stay and stay. And stay. Closes 6:30 p.m.
With special thanks: Caféothèque de Paris; Paul’s (tea room – rue de Buci); Café de l’Industrie; Le Peloton Café; Café-Restaurant Le Brébant; Café Deux Magots; Café de Flore
Barbara Pasquet James is a U.S. lifestyle editor, speaker, and urban explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. She is known for helping launch, write and edit USA Today’s City Guide To Paris and can be contacted via her photo blog FocusOnParis.com