Enjoying a cold beer or a good glass of wine en terrasse—on the terrace of a café—is a quintessentially Parisian experience, and no other city in the world has managed to elevate the simple art of sitting outsde drinking to such heights
As soon as the first rays of summer sunshine begin to poke through the clouds, Parisians and tourists alike flock to cafés, bars and brasseries that offer outdoor seating. Café terraces, which can range from a few picnic tables and plastic chairs outside a local dive bar, to huge open spaces with room for dozens, if not hundreds of customers, are a traditional part of the urban fabric of the French capital.
Like most of life’s simple pleasures, it’s easy to see the attraction of sitting outside with your drink. In the summer months, of course, it’s a chance to enjoy the sun. Given that many bars don’t have air conditioning inside, being outside under the shade of an awning with a cool drink in your hand might is often the most comfortable place to be.
Secondly, it’s a great place to see and be seen. In a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that many, if not all terrace-dwellers are motivated by people-watching, the majority of bars arrange the seats on their terraces in long rows facing out onto the street. Of course, that also helps them save a little bit of space and keep within the strict guidelines set by local authorities about the amount of room they can take up.
There’s no need to worry about missing anything, either, as a bar with a terrasse will nearly always offer table service, although it’s worth remembering that occasionally comes at the price of a small supplement on top of what you would have paid if you were sitting inside at the bar. Having a waiter come to your table to your order—or simply shout across from the other side of the terrace—is all part of the fun, though.
Finally, since the 2008 smoking ban came in, then café terraces have been full for a different reason: they’re on of the few places you can still enjoy a cigarette and a drink at the same time as you’re technically outside.