If you have read any type of “Insider’s Guide” to Paris in the last few years, you have heard mention of Canal Saint-Martin. Lovers of the film Amélie will know it as the place that the film’s heroine skips rocks, and history buffs will know that it was constructed during Napoleon’s rule. But the most important thing is to know that while a picnic dinner on the Seine draws a crowd, Canal Saint-Martin draws an even larger one; on warm weekend evenings the canal is lined with Parisians out with their bottle of wine and appetizers. It’s home to many a hip restaurant and boutique, but walk just a few blocks to the north towards the Gare de l’Est train station, and you’ll find yourself right back in the thick of true Parisian living, which these days means there is also a handful of places to snag a good coffee tucked into the side-streets.
Pro tip: most of these cafes offer coffee to go, which is helpful if you want to soak up the sun and sit by the canal. Bring your reusable cup (you want to save the environment after all), go buy a pastry from the best bakery in the neighborhood, Du Pain et Des Idées, and find a spot by the water to take it all in.
19 Rue Lucien Sampaix
Holybelly has become a staple for locals, expats and tourists alike. Owned by a young French couple–Nicolas Alary and Sarah Mouchot–who spent time in both Canada and Australia, the seasonal cafe menu is a mixture of cuisines and the house specialty is eggs, done in a multitude of ways.
Alary is devoted to making good coffee, and he’ll chat you up while he brews your espresso or makes your filter coffee. We profiled Holybelly in last year's Buildouts of Summer series, and it's great to see this beautiful cafe up and running.
The mugs are big and the coffee is strong, with beans hailing from Belleville Brulerie, a bit farther away in the 19th arrondissement on the other side of the canal.
24 Rue des Vinaigriers
Need to get some work done and don’t know where to go? Café Craft is calling your name. Unlike other metropolitan cities, Paris isn’t known for its working cafe culture; while there are a few cafes in town that will tolerate you and your MacBook hanging out for a few hours, in most Parisian spots you’re better off sitting with a book or writing in your journal.
But Cafe Craft is set up for the modern creative, and if you need to come and work for 5 hours, no one is going to make you feel bad about it. Payment is 3€ per hour, in “consommation ou connexion,” meaning that you either load up on Cafe Lomi roasted coffees all day long, or just pay for the length of your internet connection. Because they know they pull a crowd that needs fuel for their working day, the team at Cafe Craft also has a rotating lunch menu that’s simple yet tasty. If you want to know more about Cafe Craft, you can read our in-depth feature on them here.
13 rue Lucien Sampaix
The cozy Tuck Shop is run by Australian sisters–the name might have tipped you off–and in this relaxed space you can come for breakfast, lunch or just a coffee and cake break. They offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, which is helpful to know if you’re a veggie visitor to Paris, and they get their beans from Cafe Coutume.
It’s one of the rare places in town where you can get your coffee drink made with soymilk, so if you prefer your cappuccino to be non-dairy, this is the place to go.
Bob’s Juice Bar
15 rue Lucien Sampaix
As the name indicates, Bob’s Juice Bar isn’t a coffee shop at all. In fact, as a specialist in juices, they only have one coffee drink: dark filter coffee made with Belleville beans. But sometimes you want a casual lunch setting, your travel partner is craving a green juice and all you want is a coffee pick me up. Then this is the place to go.
10 rue de la Grange aux Belles
Ten Belles is a well known player on the Parisian craft coffee scene, with the same people behind it as Le Bal Cafe and Belleville Brulerie. As such, they serve Belleville beans and because this is a place devoted to good coffee, you have a friendly warning about what happens if you add sugar to your drink: babies will cry. On warm days you may be treated to iced coffee, which will make any warm weather coffee drinker happy.
The space is small, so some days it can be entirely packed out. It does have a second floor with a few additional tables, and you can always get your coffee to go and head back to the canal. But if you do that, consider investing in the 10 Belles thermos: your filter coffee will then only cost you 1,50€ as long as you continue to bring that thermos back.
Just a little outside of the Canal Saint Martin neighborhood proper but worth mentioning:
Cafe Coutume Workshop
10 rue Martel
While not directly in the Canal Sain- Martin neighborhood, the new Cafe Coutume workshop is just a stone’s throw away and you would be amiss if you didn’t drop by. Coutume have been busy as of late, with plans for a Tokyo expansion, and the opening of this new workshop, set up as a roasting and training facility, and on weekends it will be open for public cuppings and tastings.
Cuppings will be held for free every Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 11 am, for the first 10 people that show up. Throughout the rest of the day you can drop by and taste some coffee. That means it’s not really your typical coffee shop set up with tables and chairs, but it’s the perfect space to learn more about the Parisian craft coffee scene and get to taste some of Coutume’s directly sourced beans.
17 rue Martel
Right across from Cafe Coutume Workshop you’ll find Le Look. While many of the Paris coffee shops can get branded as “very Brooklyn,” Le Look has kept a funky, gritty vibe that’s true to the neighborhood.
At lunch it’s packed with locals coming for a freshly made meal, easily popped into a paper bag so you can take it to go. The beans on hand come from Parisian roaster Cafe Lomi, and Le Look has some of the cheapest coffee prices in town. So get two.