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There’s simply no better city to eat in than Paris. The French capital is home to over 40,000 restaurants and a trove of boulangeries, patisseries, fromageries and épiceries that hawk everything from croissants and camembert to Parisians every day.
In the City of Light, you can hop on a tour helmed by a local expert, who will guide you to under-the-radar markets for deliciously French artisanal snacks. Wait in line at Du Pain et des Idées to discover chocolate-pistachio ‘escargot’ and apple tarts to die for. If you can’t separate eating and sleeping, book a room at the chic Nolinski and feast on a range of desserts in its tea salon.
So you can make the most of your visit, Culture Trip has compiled a guide to Paris’s culinary scene. Here’s what to do, eat and drink, and where to stay if you love food.
Things to do in Paris
Take a food tour
Finish your tour at the Canal Saint-Martin, a popular hipster hang-out
This food-centric tour of the 10th arrondissement showcases Parisians’ favourite culinary hotspots in this bobo (bourgeois-bohemian) neighbourhood. You’ll begin at Paris’s largest covered food market, the Marché Saint-Quentin, following your guide through various backstreets. Sip a glass of wine while exploring a 17th-century cellar, learn about the cheesemaking traditions of local artisans and meet culinary entrepreneurs in the neighbourhood. You’ll end the tour at the Canal Saint-Martin, a 4.5 kilometre stretch of calm water that is lined with restaurants, bars, boutiques and the occasional fisherman.
If you’d prefer to explore alone, the open-air Marché Bastille, one of the city’s largest food markets, operates on Thursdays and Sundays. Stationed along the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, the Marché Bastille offers some seriously high-quality French produce, including cheeses, charcuterie, poultry, fish and crêpes. On Saturdays, the market transforms into the Marché de la Création Bastille, where you can buy handmade art, crafts and gifts. Plus, nearby you’ll find the house of writer Victor Hugo and the Place des Vosges – the oldest planned square in Paris – making this market a great place to pick up a baguette (or two) before heading out to explore.
Head to Du Pain et des Idées for first-class pastries
Du Pain et des Idées, helmed by baking wizard Christophe Vasseur, shuttles out flaky pastries, crusty baguettes and cups of coffee in the 10th arrondissement. Housed in a bakery dating back to 1875, this place is beloved for its signature chocolate-pistachio ‘escargot’ (a spin on the pain aux raisins) –swirled pastry dough brushed with green pistachio paste and chocolate chips. Grab a smattering of items – from fig tarts to delicately rolled croissants – to enjoy on one of the picnic tables outside or on the banks of the nearby Canal Saint-Martin.
Saunter along the streets of Montmartre, a bohemian village set on the top of a hill in Northern Paris, during this walking tour. Explore the area’s cobblestone lanes with the help of a passionate guide, who will talk you through Montmartre’s artistic history (Picasso, Piaf and many others once lived here) as you sample warm pastries, cheeses, charcuterie, wine and chocolate. The starting point for this tour is outside Métro Blanche (line 2), between the pharmacy and the Starbucks.
For more than 10 years, Cook’n With Class has been teaching English speakers the art of French cuisine at its state-of-the-art cooking school in Montmartre. The school offers all kinds of courses, from macaron and croissant baking to cheese and wine tastings. There’s also the option to meet the chef at the market beforehand to select the ingredients you’ll use to prepare a gourmet four-course meal. Class sizes are small and intimate, at just six to 10 people, so you won’t miss any tips and tricks from the chef.
Opened in 1912, Benoit (operated by the Alain Ducasse team) remains the only Parisian bistro featured in the Michelin Guide. Benoit is a restaurant filled with red velvet chairs, brass rails and marble columns. The menu is an ode to French classics: duck foie gras, escargot swimming in garlic butter, house-made cassoulet and profiteroles drenched in warm chocolate sauce.
For a slice of Parisian history, make a reservation at La Tour d’Argent, said to be the city’s oldest restaurant. This historic establishment along the Seine focusses on modern French fare: sea bass with lemon confit, blue lobster that is both poached and simmered, and roasted lamb flanked by ribbons of cucumber and wild blueberries. The downstairs bar is a museum of memorabilia that documents the many visits of Western royalty, while the upstairs is characteristic of Renaissance decor and Paris’s history of opulent dining.
Since opening in 2011, Septime has maintained its standing as one of the top contemporary dining destinations among Paris’s gastronomic elite – thanks, in large part, to chef Bertrand Grébaut’s wizardry with vegetables. His plant-based menu and eco-friendly kitchen philosophy earned the restaurant the title of Sustainable Restaurant of the Year from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants group in 2017. So, what does sustainable haute cuisine taste like? Think salsify glazed in a mushroom reduction, served with a cured egg yolk, shaved truffles and hazelnuts. Reservations are typically tough to nail down, so it’s best booking as far in advance as you can.
If you’re looking for luxury, Nolinski, just a short walk from the Palais Garnier, the Louvre and the Palais-Royal, offers a balance of belle-époque opulence and modern edge. The hotel’s first-floor restaurant, Brasserie Réjane, dishes up everything you’d expect from its high-end location: steak tartare and lobster spaghetti, coupled with detox juices. More decadent are master patisserie Yann Brys’s teatime creations, served in the Grand Salon, which include dainty fraisiers piled high with strawberries and cream, and chocolate and hazelnut eclairs. And adjacent to the hotel is Rue Sainte-Anne, the heart of Paris’s de facto Little Tokyo, where you’ll find great udon, okonomiyaki, ramen and more.
Perfect for exploring the food culture of the ninth and 10th arrondissements, Hotel de Nell is a boutique hotel that is home to a seriously good restaurant: La Régalade Conservatoire. Here, the fabulous service is coupled with a reasonably priced, three-course “bistronomie” menu. Nearby, you’ll also find Le Bel Ordinaire – part wine cave, part épicerie – as well as Le Daily Syrien, a Middle Eastern restaurant that does a mean meze.
For a different kind of hotel experience, hop aboard the four-star OFF Paris Seine – a luxury barge hotel moored at Quai d’Austerlitz – a 25-minute walk from the Latin Quarter. Sip champagne and crack into seafood at the hotel’s summer-only outdoor restaurant, La Mer à Boire, before heading to the nearby food market: Marché d’Aligre. Shopping here is an essential Parisian experience, whether you pick up punnets of strawberries for a picnic in the park or terrines from the traiteurs (delis) that line the surrounding streets.