There are few moments in life quite so dreamy as sipping an espresso at a Parisian sidewalk cafe. That said, sidewalk cafes come with a few unspoken rules, and you’ll want to know how to decipher them before visiting one for yourself. We’ve got you covered with our guide to Paris sidewalk cafe etiquette.
Understand the seating rules.
You can usually seat yourself at sidewalk cafes (if not, a waiter will let you know), but if you’re just there to sip on a coffee, it’s important to choose an empty table that doesn’t have any silverware on it. Tables set with silverware are intended for guests who plan to order a full meal.
Don’t move chairs around.
While you may not think twice about pulling a few extra chairs from another table in your hometown restaurant, this isn’t the best move in Paris. (Trust: your waiter will not be impressed.) If you have more people in your party than seats at your table, politely let your waiter know and he’ll get it sorted for you.
Your price depends on where you sip.
Your coffee falls under a three-tier price system. The drink is cheapest if you sip standing next to the bar inside. It will cost a bit more if you enjoy it seated at a table inside, and it will cost the most if you drink it at an outdoor table. If you’re craving some sunshine and fresh air, it’s well worth the extra price!
Make like a subway passenger at rush hour.
Outdoor cafe tables are usually lined up close together, so be prepared to get cozy. Keep your elbows close to your sides, don’t expect too much legroom, and be mindful of other patrons’ space. (If you’ve ever had a seat on the New York City subway at rush hour, you know exactly what we’re talking about.)
Expect to hang out for quite a while.
At a sidewalk cafe, life moves at a slower pace. Your waiter may have an abundance of tables to tend to, so service can take some time. Don’t worry, he didn’t forget about you! There’s no hurry, so don’t be afraid to linger over your coffee for a bit. Unless the cafe is extra crowded, don’t feel like you’re expected to rush out as soon as you finish your drink either. It’s a norm for sidewalk cafe guests to chillax for a bit after they’re done.
Don’t forget to watch the world go by.
The best part of sidewalk cafe life is people watching. Make sure you choose a seat that faces out at the world. Set your phone to the side as much as you can so you can gaze out at the city bustle happening before you. It’s the best entertainment there is!