What makes a great restaurant terrace in Paris? For me, the most important thing is the absence of noisy, polluting cars and motorbikes, the scourge of city life. After that, some greenery is more than welcome, and the food must be at least acceptable and preferably, of course, delicious. For more information on each restaurant listed (alphabetically) below, click on its name.
The Basque food at the Left Bank restaurant Beaurepaire is generally good, but the terrace is a gem: tree-shaded, with few passing cars.
The courtyard at Grand Central, the main restaurant at the rocking cultural center 104, is protected from the street, and customers are guaranteed free entertainment from the talented young people who use the surrounding spaces to practice their dance moves. The cuisine is a modern take on brasserie food.
The beautiful stone courtyard terrace at Grand Cœur is guaranteed to be car-free, but that doesn’t mean it’s quiet. Your meal will probably be accompanied by the clacking of flamenco dancers and the rat-a-tat of tap dancers in the surrounding dance classrooms. The food was fine when I ate there a while ago, but some friends recently gave it quite a bad review, so you will have to take your chances. Warning: the prices are high.
At Ground Control, you are completely protected from traffic in an eccentric courtyard with many different ambiances (see also photo at top of page). The only noise comes from the much more pleasant sound of hundreds of people conversing. This disused railroad warehouse, the size of a hanger, has been converted into a cool place to eat and drink. Get there early if you want a table outdoors. Everything is self-service, but there are plenty of stalls where you can buy food and drink (separately). My personal favorite is Mr. Zhao, where the addictive chicken salad is a must. (See review of the original restaurant, La Taverne de Zhao).
Go to Le Jardin du Petit Palais for the beautiful courtyard, with lush greenery around the pools edged with mosaic tiles, and have a bite to eat in the shade of the arcades. The food here is incidental.
Located in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the Pavillon du Lac is an excellent example of that clichéd haven of tranquility we all seek in summer. Surrounded, shaded and cooled by trees, it is an exceedingly pleasant and quiet place to enjoy a simple, decent meal. The servers are sweethearts.
What could be more elegant than a refined Italian meal at Loulou on a terrace in the Tuileries Garden? You’ll pay the price, but the setting and food make it all worthwhile.
Most of the restaurants and snack bars along the now-car-free Right Bank of the Seine provide basic food, but Maison Maison is an exception. It serves market-based meals at lunchtime and tasty small plates for dinner. Extra bonus: picture-postcard view of the Seine and the Pont Neuf.
It’s not easy to find a decent restaurant, much less a quiet, tree-shaded terrace in the very heart of Paris near the Forum des Halles. While the food at Pirouette can be uneven, it is generally good.
If you want a pizza (warning: not the best in Paris but not bad either), why not have it at Soprano, located on a beautiful, tree-shaded triangular terrace on a quiet street in the Marais?
August 14, 2020: Ten terraces don’t seem like enough in the summer of 2020, with its threat of Covid and recurring heat waves, so here are a few more suggestions:
Le Grand Quartier: A courtyard garden and rooftop terrace make this new hotel in the 10th arrondissement a summer treasure.
Le Democratie: A blissfully quiet garden and good food on the Left Bank.
Edgar: Wonderful, large terrace, but the food has its ups and downs.
Fluctuart: The food is snacky but good, and what a joy it is to eat on a floating art gallery on the Seine with views of the Grand Palais on a beautiful summer evening.
Le Récepteur: Enormous terrace in the 16th arrondissement and surprisingly delicious food for what at first appears to be an ordinary café.
Café des Techniques: The café of the marvelous Musée des Arts et Métiers has a big hidden terrace and is a great place for lunch or a libation (it closes at 6pm [9pm on Friday]).
It’s also worth noting that many restaurants that previously had no terrace or only a very small one were allowed post-lockdown to expand by taking over more sidewalk space or parking spaces, so you may find that your favorite bistro suddenly has a terrace.