The Belle Époque Guide to Paris

The Belle Époque was a golden age of Europe at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. It was a time when before WWI, art, theatre, music, technology, economy, and thus life, thrived. It was characterized by optimism, celebration, and indulgence, and absolutely nowhere was this more evident than in Paris, the epicenter of this golden age. Perhaps this atmosphere is best illustrated in the paintings of Renoir from the time. Oh how I would have loved to see Paris in this era!

Paris Rendezvous

Today it’s as vibrant as ever, but the memory of this especially spectacular moment in Paris's rich history lives on through some of its most historic institutions and iconic architecture. The Art Nouveau movement that perhaps most visually characterized the Belle Époque gave us so many of the city’s ornate fixtures, historic cafés, outdoor artworks, and architectural masterpieces. If like me you love to see cities through the lens of a century past, here is a mini guide to some of my Belle Époque favorites in Paris where this fantastic era still lives on!

Maxime’s — This legendary brasserie is alive and well today. During the Belle Époque it was the hot spot to dine and dance, entertaining so many of the city’s most noteworthy residents and visitors alike. The clientele today is new but the decor inside is still adorned in its original Art Nouveau details, and after all these years it’s still one of the hippest places in Paris for a night out!

Le Bofinger — If I’ve got something to celebrate, I love to go to this historic brasserie for oysters and champagne. Its beautiful stain glass dome ceiling lights the main dining room, and with its white tables cloths and impeccable service, it has an elegance reminiscent of centuries past.

Metro Abbesses — Yes, even in Paris the subway stations are a work of art! The beautiful and iconic entries to the underground were created by the famous artist Hector Guimard himself. They have undoubtedly become a symbol of Paris. One of the most beautiful can be found in Montmartre at the stop Abbesses.

Le Petit Zinc — The famous façade of Le Petit Zinc is also modeled in the style of Hector Guimard’s Parisian metros. Many stop to admire it while strolling Paris’s Left Bank. Those who choose to dine inside can indulge in its equally Art Nouveau interiors.

Closerie des Lilas — Also on the Left Bank, this historic restaurant was opened in 1847! Since then it was a hangout for famous artists and writers, like Rimbaud, Picasso, Hemmingway, and more. The restaurant and piano bar live on today in their original style and is still a beloved place for Parisians and visitors.

Galeries Lafayette — A must-visit shopping destination, Galeries Lafayette’s giant stain glass dome ceiling from the Belle Epoqué is a true masterpiece of the era’s architecture. The cafes on the top floors offer some of the best vantage points for taking in its details.

The Wallace Fountains — Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city. A great aesthetic success, they are recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of Paris. A tiny detail but not to be overlooked!

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