Despite, or maybe because of, Paris's famously fickle weather, outdoor dining here is at a premium for city-dwellers hungry for cool breezes, city atmosphere, and great people watching. As much as we love a terrific terrace, without food to match what's the point? Finding a restaurant or café that balances the two can be a surprising challenge in Paris, so we did the homework for you and found the perfect places to enjoy a delicious meal outside.
Among Paris's top gastronomic bistros, Philou's got it all: great food, a fabulous list of natural wines—many by the glass—and the area's best outdoor dining. Nestled on a quiet street between the historic Hôpital St. Louis and the hip Canal St. Martin, Philou's street-side terrace is a major destination for foodies who appreciate a stellar quality-to-price quotient with some atmosphere on the side.
Insider Tip: With prix fixe menus at €25 for lunch and €30 for dinner, this is a splurge you can't afford not to make.
Within a month of opening, Ralph's was the darling of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés fashion crowd. Part of the handsome new Ralph Lauren boutique, the restaurant's American-style food—complete with grass-fed Angus beef burgers from Lauren's Colorado ranch—and upper-crust atmosphere tickles the French taste for all things American. The food is seriously good and the charming terrace, with comfy chintz chairs, plenty of greenery, and an unhurried atmosphere, is one of Paris's prettiest.
Insider Tip: Ralph's is perfect for a lunchtime shopping break on a warm day, when it's also easier on the wallet.
The soaring terrace is just one good reason why Mini Palais at the historic Grand Palais is a Paris favorite. Along with a contemporary menu designed by superstar chef Eric Frechon and one of Paris's more stylish décors, it's also got the best hours in town. Open nonstop from 10 am to 2 am, it's great for lunch and dinner, teatime, an apéro and, in the summer months, the bar à glace (ice cream bar) dispenses tantalizing sundaes and cones.
Insider Tip: Burger lovers take note, the luscious duck breast-and-foie gras version draws rave reviews.
Dans les Landes
The teeming sidewalk terrace at Dans les Landes has a lot to do with the food. A long chalkboard list of small, reasonably priced dishes from France's southwest region—including Gascony and the Basque country—lets you decide how the meal will unfold: Caesar salad with fresh anchovies, golden chipirions (squid) dusted with smoky-sweet pepper, mini-croissants stuffed with Basque ham and truffles. Graze happily or settle in for a long, satisfying meal topped off with hard-to-find regional wines.
Insider Tip: A great spot for groups of four or more, it's also good for kids and foodies on a budget.
Restaurant du Palais Royal
What could be better than your own private table overlooking Paris's most beautiful garden? Well, nothing, but Restaurant du Palais Royal ups the ante with the addition of crisp white linens, shining silver, and a choice menu of updated French classics. You'll pay for the privilege, but it's worth the splurge for a leisurely lunch or dinner that transports you to a bygone era.
Insider Tip: The restaurant's historic location near some of Paris's most elegant shopping is icing on the cake.
Le Bal Café
A popular weekend brunch spot, Le Bal Cafe has a loyal following that includes hipsters, foodies, and families out for a leisurely Sunday. Tucked away on a cobblestoned street across from a charming play park, the café's sought-after outdoor terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy a gourmet menu of British-inspired favorites and some of the best coffee in town.
Insider Tip: Not just a café, the on-site photo gallery and bookstore add a dash of panache.
Just far enough from the Marais crowds, Chez Julien's old-world charm, classic bistro fare, and Seine-side terrace have been enthusiastically adopted as the Paris fashion crowd's favorite. Dine by candlelight in the glittering Belle Époque interior or take a marble-topped table on the spacious terrace overlooking the medieval St. Gervais church on one side and Notre Dame and the Ile St. Louis on the other. No bargains here, but you will have the distinct feeling of a Paris "experience."
Insider Tip: Window shop along the elegant rue du Pont Louis-Philippe all the way to the Ile St Louis.
Bonus Tip: All of the restaurants listed require reservations. Be sure to check for summer closures, as most Paris restaurants close for two weeks in July or August.
Photo credits: Ralph's outdoor courtyard courtesy of Ralph's restaurant; Mini Palais terrace courtesy of Francois Voisin; Le Bal Cafe courtesy of Le Bal Cafe; Chez Julien patio courtesy of Chez Julien.