Finding places to study, in this vast, beautiful place has proven to be far more challenging than anticipated. What with all the libraries, museums, cafes, parks, and campus wifi, I assumed I could drop in anywhere to get some work done. Instead, I have, through some not-as-of-yet thorough, trial-and-error, come up with some good tips.
First of all, as you are sitting at your kitchen table, do some soul-searching to figure out what kind of environment is best suited to your kind of studying. If you are anything like me and have never lived in a big city before, you are going to likely realize quickly that there are so many distractions beyond the confines of said kitchen table that will ultimately inhibit any sort of productivity. Its a hard reality, but its good to know that about yourself, ya know? Don’t live in denial, that sounds like no fun.
Once you’ve determined that you need minimal distractions, good wifi connection, outlets for your computer, plenty of table space to accommodate all those oddly lined notes you take, and easy-access to some decent coffee and snacks, you are ready to make a well-informed decision. Upon my own self reflection and after wasting many afternoons jumping from one in-conducive place to the next, here is my list of top five places to study:
1. La Bibliothèque publique d’information (Bpi): This is the library at Beaubourg, or the musee Centre Pompidou. It opens usually around noon and is closed on Tuesdays. It comprises of three floors with long study tables, plenty of outlets for your technology needs, a cafe, big windows, and access to great, up-to-date collections to help you keep up with your course reading. It’s also right in the middle of le Mirais, so there are plenty of cafes and restaurants, parks and shops to provide you with your study break needs. But a word of warning, despite its size, it fills up rather quickly and if you want to avoid waiting in line for too long, I recommend getting there 20 minutes before it opens and then one you’re in. just pitch a tent and stake out for the day. Its worth it, I’m telling you. The intensity of peoples’ focus is intoxicating and you’ll find yourself studying for a solid few hours before you realize any time has passed…its a magical place.
2. Le Barbouquin : This is a cafe off of rue de Belleville on a street famous for its host of street art. In addition to it being in walking distance from my house, it is also part-book store. The service is super friendly and there is seating for all kinds of moods whether you want to sink into an armchair, share a bench with some other coffee-lovers, s’installer at one of the tables looking out into the streets, or set up camp at a table tucked away against the bookshelves, you are bound to find a nook that suits your needs. One note is that if you go on the weekend, plan not to use your computer because they, like many other cafes in Paris, reserve weekends for non-computer patrons. Though initially inconvenient when I found out, it actually creates a really nice, break-away-from-tech kind of community on those Sunday mornings when you are cramming to get your work done while still appreciating the chill energy of the cafe.
3. Lomi: This cafe has some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. The space is super chill and the wifi is speedy. Need I say more?
4. Café Craft and Anticafes: The “anti-cafe” has a cool concept where you pay based on how long you spend there. Each one is modeled differently and priced differently, but no matter what, it is a cool way to experience a public cafe-like ambiance while not feeling guilty about only buying an espresso for the whole of the four hours you spend at a cafe. Cafe Craft, nestled in a cool neighborhood in the 18th is designed so that you pay 4 euro per hour and can have anything from the menu that matches the monetary value of your designated time spent. That sounds confusing. Lets say you you arrive at 2pm. Between 2pm and 3pm you have can have anything from the menu that adds up to 4 euro or between 2pm and 4pm, for example, you could have anything that adds up to 8 euro. You can choose to get something every hour or you can wait until you are ready to leave and based on how much you pay in the time you spent, they let you take home anything from the menu that matches that value. Long story short, the longer you stay, the better the deal. In addition, the atmosphere is very studious and the food is good! Other anticafes work differently. For exemple you may pay 6 euro your first hour and 3-4 euro each consecutive hours and have access to any snacks or drinks on the menu while you’re there. There is usually plenty of space that is good for study groups and they are all in places right off the metro, so easy to get to!
5. Rue Palastine/ Parc de Buttes Chaumont: Otherwise known as home. Sometimes, its best just to stick it out at home to get that essay done. Traveling to these places can take time and will, in most cases, cost you money. Even though you have found yourself in Paris, it doesn’t mean that you always have to be out in the middle of it all. As a humble college student, I spend more time studying at home or a Beaubourg because they are free than at cafes, even if their ambiance is so inviting. The park, though lacking in outlets and attentive waitstaff, is a great place to spread out on the grass and get some reading done. I personally love when I can take advantage of some beautiful weather while getting some work done. Butte Chaumont, though just one of countless beautiful parks and gardens, has some great little hidden study spots with stunning views of the city.
So there you go. I may try to get into the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève at some point just to give it a try, but be warned. You don’t just walk in to most libraries in Paris. You have to inscribe beforehand which sometimes requires sending in passport and student information in advance and filling out documents…currently too much effort for me. But I suppose that’s how they stave off the crowds, it works. Another thing to know about in your quest for the perfect study spots is the app Affluence. It provides you with up-to-date information about crowd-flow and time/dates for when museums and libraries are open. This way, you can plan when and where you go based on how long the waits are or how full the places are.