In 1686 a gentleman from Palermo, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, opened a coffee-shop in Paris. The excellence of his beverages and sherbets, the agreeable surroundings, the proximity of the old Comedie-Francaise; all of these factors contributed to the popularity of this establishment. It very soon became a meeting place for people of sensibility, and the first literary coffee-shop was born.
For more than two centuries everyone who was anyone (or who hoped to become someone) in the worlds of the arts, letters and politics, frequented the CAFE PROCOPE. Voltaire came here, and Rousseau; Beaumarchais, Balzac, Verlaine and Hugo; from La Fontaine to Anatole France the list of the habitues of the PROCOPE is a list of the great names in French literature. It was here in the 18th century that the new liberal philosophy was expounded; this was the cafe of Encyclopedistes, of Diderot, Voltaire, d'Alembert and Benjamin Franklin; the history of the PROCOPE is closely linked with eighteenth century revolutionary ideas. Robespierre, Danton and Marat used the cafe as a meeting place, and the young lieutenant Napoleon Bonaparte left his hat here as a pledge.
The PROCOPE of today is still faithful to the memory of its distinguishted past. The table of Voltaire is still here, at once a symbol and a testimony of permanence, ready to welcome new distinctions.The cafe still attracts a mixed bag of writers and journalists, university professors, models, businessmen and assorted tourists.