In the land of croissants and crusty baguettes, of escargot snails doused in garlic and frogs’ legs, of brie and bubbling bouillabaisse, it’s hardly surprising that being a foodie is a darn good thing to be. In fact, France is hailed as one of the top destinations on the globe for traveling gourmands, offering everything from Michelin-starred haute cuisine to rustic Provencal farmer stews. And there’s arguably nowhere better in France to sample the delights of the Francophone kitchen than in the capital: Paris.
Bistros and wine bars, cheese shops and patisseries line the corners of the streets of the capital, from the Latin Quarter to the banks of the Seine, while classy restaurants beckon from around the Louvre and enticing cafes churn out cakes and coffees and flavoursome French creations between the Canal Saint Martin and the hillside streets of Montmartre.
That’s right folks, there’s rarely a tasteless moment on a trip to the City of Light and love!
In this guide, we take a look at some of the top places to dine and things to eat in Paris. For the benefit of travellers and backpackers, many of our North American travellers make a stop here on the way back from Europe after our YachtLife Croatia and Mediterranean tours!
Breakfast (or brunch): Holybelly
Nestled in the tight-knit Rue Lucien Sampaix just a short walk from the bustling cafes and watersides of the Canal Saint Martin, little Holybelly offers one of Paris’ most sought-after breakfasts. Masters of all things eggs, the folk here field a menu that starts with a choice of poached, fried or scrambled varieties, and finishes with hefty choice of sides. For the meat eaters there’s a tasty sausage patty addition, while veggies will love the leafy greens or the fried champignons in thyme and garlic. And while breakfast is the mainstay, the 9am opening time (10am on weekends) means that Holybelly isn’t for the earliest of early birds. Cue a quality brunch selection to boot, with Brittany artichokes next to homemade gnocchi. Nice.
Foodie break: Marché Bastille
The single largest food-only farmer’s market in the city is a real treat for the budding gourmand making their way through Paris. Located across the river on the south-western banks of the Seine, it was hailed by Hemingway as a veritable “moveable feast”. And boy does it live up to the moniker. Stalls burst with baskets of salted pistachio nuts, while stacks of apples and oranges and corn ears fresh from the Provencal fields of the south stand nearby. There are fishmongers too, along with pungent stalls touting creamy French cheese, and some of the best baguettes you’re ever likely to sample!
Lunch: Bob’s Food Etc
Salmon-packed bagels, Caesar salads, hummus mezze, capricciosa and feta sarnies are just some of the examples of the out-and-out European fare on offer at Bob's Bake Shop (also known as Bob’s Food Etc) on Halle Pajol. Located not far from where the towering domes of the Sacré-Cœur mark the middle of must-see Montmatre district, the joint is a real favourite with travelers making their way through the 18th arrondissement at lunch time. The stripped-down interior oozes a hip New Yorker diner-style vibe, while the cakes; well, the cakes are simply to-die-for!
Snack: Picnic on the Canal Saint Martin
Forget hitting the Parisian bistros for another euro-draining meal and opt instead to join the local boules players and dog strollers on the gravel banks of the Canal Saint Martin. There are oodles of authentic little French cafes (check out Café Craft and Café Clochette for two of the best) nearby for grabbing an afternoon coffee, while there are also plenty of little patisseries (cake shops), fromageries (cheese shops) and boulangeries (bakeries) lining the streets all around for grabbing a baguette and a slab of smelly brie!
Dinner: Le 6 Paul Bert
Located on the street of the same name, Le 6 Paul Bert remains one of the top dinnertime choices in the 11th arrondissement. It can be easily accessed from the banks of the Seine and the Faidherbe-Chaligny metro station alike, oozing with all the features you’d expect of a classic Parisian bistro come wine bar: a quaint painted exterior; a dedicated following of local patrons; a tight-knit interior that’s at once romantic and lively. But classic character aside, Le 6 Paul Bert diverges a little from the traditional Francophone kitchen with its focus on tapa-style small plates. Expect the likes of confit eggs with shaved truffles, succulent meat dishes and raw veggie salads, not to mention some seriously mouth-watering ice-cream to top it all off!
Breakfast: Frenchie to Go
Start the day a little closer to the heart of Paris with a visit to this uber-stylish breakfast and brunch bar on Rue du Nil, in the very heart of the 2nd arrondissement. The joint is actually a wine bar and bistro and breakfast coffee shop all fused into one, making it a great choice for both early starters and late brunches (or even an evening aperitif!). And the menu? Well, there’s actually a curious influence from America and England to enjoy, with bacon-packed muffins meeting slabs of cheddar cheese extras. There’s French-European staples too though, so don’t worry, with the likes of pastrami and egg Benedict, fresh pastries and milky café au lait. The spot is a swish and welcoming one, with dark colours and chalkboard menus of the day, a clutch of outdoor benches and wide open windows to watch the world go by from!
No culinary adventure around The City of Light could possibly be complete without at least a sampling of France’s famous haute cuisine. Pirouette perfectly balances affordability with refined fine-dining, offering modern and edgy dishes created from hearty farmer’s foods and local French produce. Lunch will set you back around €35, but the price tag is justified by the sheer quality of flavour that’s packed into every plate. You can expect the likes of smoked lobster with garnishes of charred onion and broccoli, chorizo aperitifs and colourful vegetable soups, all cooked up by the masterful Tomy Gousset - a chef alumnus of some of New York’s finest. Booking ahead is essential!
Snack: Kraft Hot Dogs
This uber-casual street food hole-in-the-wall is a fine spot for quelling that mid-afternoon puckishness. Drop into the joint on Rue des Archives, just a few streets back from where the winding Seine gives way to the Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, and be sure to pick up one of the trademark hot dogs. The whole process is simple and easy, and the dogs come complete with crusty buns and countless possible toppings, from charred onions to real American mustard.
Nestled in the streets between the 9th and 10th arrondissements, stylish little Richer and its interior of exposed real stone and bespoke furnishings is a welcome addition to the line-up of tasty gastronomic spots in downtown Paris. Not your regular, sit-down and order bistro, the focus here is on small plates and the accompanying wine (this is France after all!). The tasty options include the likes of tomato gazpacho, beef carpaccio and more, while patrons would do well to ask advice on whether to opt for that Côtes du Roussillon red or Alsace Pinot Blanc white!
Can you think of any must-eat Parisian gastronomic spots to add to this list? Or, is there a meal you think every traveler absolutely must try in the City of Light? We’d love to hear about them in the comments…
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