The Legendary Cafe de la Paix: A Parisian Institution

Established in 1862, Café de la Paix is one of the oldest and best-known restaurants in the city of light. It also has one of the best views from its terrace—the iconic Paris Opera House. Over the years, a who’s who of customers spent many an hour nursing a drink or grabbing a bite…from Victor Hugo to Charles de Gaulle. It’s just as popular today as it was during its belle epoque beginning. The French government named the Café de la Paix a historic site – a well-deserved distinction.

Location: 5 Place de l’Opéra in the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel, a stone’s throw from the opera house. It’s difficult to miss, look for the hunter green awnings and the long queue of people waiting to get grab a terrace seat.

Menu: The lunch menu will suit every palate. The starters include the quintessential French onion soup, escargots with buttery garlic parsley sauce, and a platter of oysters. You’ll find a variety of salads, sandwiches and burgers, all with a french twist. Of course, steak frites and a large cheese platter are offered. Desserts, the classic French favorites, eclairs, napoleons, and chocolate ganache are a few of their offerings.

The wine selection is vast and, according to my husband, the beer list is interesting. There are choices we’ve not seen in other restaurants in France.

Thoughts: Our timing was perfect. We arrived after the lunch rush and were seated on the terrace with a view of the impressive opera house. A queue formed right after we sat down.

Our waiter quickly brought a carafe of water and nibbles – almonds, olives marinated in garlic, and crunchy candied peanuts. Placing menus in our hands he said: “I’ll return soon to take your drink order.” He returned in a flash with a basket of bread and rolls, took our drink order and had them in our hands within minutes.

We wanted a light meal and our waiter offered excellent suggestions. My husband ordered the Gratinée à l’oignon (French onion soup), I had smoked salmon and blinis.

French onion soup has been on the menu since 1862 and is a restaurant original. The portion was generous. It’s made with white wine, chicken, and beef broth with an abundance of aged Comté cheese and croutons. The smell was intoxicating and my husband said it was “the best” onion soup, hands down. I took a taste and it was delightfully sweet. I had to agree, this was the best onion soup I’ve tasted.

My meal arrived on a large platter and was artfully presented. The salmon was thinly sliced and topped with caper segments that looked like a row of flowers. Accompanied by eight blini, dill creme, and a wedge of lemon and lime, it was colorful. It was also delicious. The salmon melted in my mouth. The blinis were light and the flavorful dill creme was the ideal accompaniment. The waiter was pleased to see I ate everything on my platter.

Tip:  Plan on arriving around 2 pm to avoid the lunch rush and most importantly, score a table on the terrace.

Price Range: The prices are appropriate for the historic setting and the quality of food. The French onion soup was €21, the smoked salmon and blini were €25. With drinks, our meal came to  €71.

Salads range from €20-€25. Sandwiches and burgers include french fries and a salad, and range from €18-€29. Heartier fare including fish and chips, beef tartar, and steak, are €25-€35.

While we did not have dessert, I did see several pass by on trays. They look incredibly delicate and scrumptious. Desserts are €14.

Wine by the glass is €8-€13, €21-€61 for a bottle. Beer is €8-€14, Champagne €20-€25 a flute. Apéritifs average €13.

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Author Bio: Barb Harmon is a freelance travel writer and blogger with a yen for food, wine, and fashion. Family vacations as a child opened her eyes to the wonders of travel but her true travel addiction began in the Netherlands as an exchange student. Moving to Luzern Switzerland a few years later, it flourished. Every spare moment was spent traveling. Returning to the United States, she spent years in the cosmetic industry working for an international company in a position that also involved travel. Definitely a pattern in her life. As empty nesters, she and her husband plan to divide time between Mexico and Europe, in particular…France. Her articles have appeared in a variety of print and online publications including: The Good Life France Magazine, MilesGeek,  Short Weeks – Long Weekends, Epicurean Traveler and more. She is a member of ITWA. Barb’s blog can be found at

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