My Gay Paris: Eating and Drinking in Paris, Café de la Paix

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at some chic places to enjoy Paris café culture on the left bankof the river, but the north side of the Seine has its fair share of famous addresses too. Today’s example is the Café de la Paix, which sits opposite the Opera House design by Charles Garnier and first opened in 1862.

Napoleon III

For over a century and a half, the café has been serving opera-goers and passers-by have been able to enjoy one of the finest examples of architecture under Napoleon III. At the time, the area around Paris’ ‘grands boulevards’ was the epicentre of the city’s business and social scenes, and many important companies with head offices here can trace them back to this period. The café was first opened in 1862 to cater for the Great Exhibition of that year, but the proximity of the Opéra Garnier soon brought a crowd of composers and performers through its doors. Other regulars at the time included famous French writes like Maupassant and Zola.

During the Second Empire, ostentatious design was all the rage, and so the designers of the café de la Paix didn’t hesitate to use gold and marble wherever possible. The roomy interior boasts high ceilings made possible by the use of materials like iron and steel, available for the first time in the nineteenth century. In 1896, it was the venue for some early trials of new technology called the ‘cinematograph’, with tickets costing just one franc and screenings lasting for several hours.

US Connection

With so many visitors, it’s hardly surprising that the café de la Paix boasts at least two noteworthy connections with the US: Hemingway wrote several passages of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ while sitting at the bar. The famous radio programme ‘This is Paris’, the first ever live outside broadcast from Europe to the US, came from a special studio inside the café de la Paix.

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