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Restaurant Le Procope – the oldest restaurant in Paris where Napoleon and Voltaire themselves have dined

Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli was a Sicilian chef who in 1686 opened Cafè Procope, which is the oldest restaurant in Paris. The Cafè Procope, in the street then known as rue des Fossès-Saint-Germain-des-Près , started as a cafè where various famous artists and writers decided to drink coffee and eat sorbet,  and that’s how the world’s first literary cafè was born.

Anyone who was anyone in the literary world would gather there to debate and exchange philosophies (intellectuals like Voltaire, Rousseau, Balzac, Hugo).

Not all of them drank forty cups of coffee a day like Voltaire, who mixed his with chocolate, but they all met at Procope, as did Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones and Napoleon Bonaparte.

In the Latin quarter of Paris. It is the oldest cafe in Paris. Source
Opened 1686 by a gentleman from Palermo named Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, Cafe Procope is the oldest cafe in Paris. Source


At cafe Procope-at rear from left to right-Condorcet, La Harpe, Voltaire and Diderot. Source
At cafe Procope – at rear from left to right: Condorcet, La Harpe, Voltaire, and Diderot. Source

Le Procope was known not only for its delicious ice cream and coffee, but also for its unique ambience with crystal chandeliers , red walls and beautiful lights and it not only attracted visitors from all over France  but also from Europe, and remained a major economic and social event until the French Revolution.

Restaurant Procope today. Source
An active point during the French Revolution, the cafe has been for a while a meeting place for writers, intellectuals, and political people. Source


Cafe Procope was opened in 1686 by Procopio dei Coltelli. Source
This prestigious restaurant is located in the very heart of the Latin Quarter. Source

Le Procope is now a full-service restaurant, but it is also a part-time museum with each room telling a story. One of the stories is that Napoleon Bonaparte would be made to leave his hat as security as he went out searching for money to pay his bill.

Other stories are the final letters between Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, how Diderot developed the first Encyclopedia, then we can see Voltaire’s marble top desk and revolutionary wallpaper from 1830 and in Le Procope Benjamin Franklin wrote the American Constitution.

Café Procope was totally refurbished in 1988. Source1 Source2
Café Procope was totally refurbished in 1988. Source1 Source2


Inside Le Procope. Source
Inside Le Procope. Source

Many years later restaurant Le Procope became the haunt of the early Romantics such as George Sand, Alfred de Musset and Thèophile Gautier, the philosopher  Pierre Leroux, M. Coquille, editor of Le Monde, Anatole France, and many others.

Left: Voltaire's marble top desk. Source Right: One of Napoleon’s hats is on display at Le Procope. Source
Left: Voltaire’s marble top desk. Source Right: One of Napoleon’s hats is on display at Le Procope. Source

The area around this restaurant it sits on the Rue de I’Ancienne-Comedie where the former home of the Comedie-Francaise is located and this is the most beautiful street in Paris with gutters, houses, and shops dating from the 18th century.

David Goran

David Goran is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News