Paris isn’t just the City of Light. It’s a city where life revolves around art, culture, fashion and, of course, food. For more than a century, French food has been the pinnacle of the culinary world. Most restaurants use the French brigade system, and most European cooking methods come from French techniques.
So, it goes without saying that your taste buds are in for a real treat when you visit Paris for the first time. From casual bars to Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine to aromatic bakeries and pastry shops that are a feast for the senses, Paris’ food all but guarantees a gastronomic journey you’ll never forget.
Here’s how and where to enjoy the most delicious bites on your Parisian getaway, even if you’ve never listed the phrase “foodie” on any online bio.
Baguettes, Croissants and Baked Delights
Set up your home base at Diamond’s Royal Regency, situated in a charming eastern suburb of the city, and follow your nose to the scent of freshly baked bread. The boulangeries of Paris are the neighborhood gathering places, and every Parisian has an opinion about who makes the best loaves. Almost every local buys fresh bread every day — it’s that important.
Enjoy a crusty baguette to keep in your bag for a snack throughout the day, but in the morning, choose a flaky croissant, a pain au chocolat stuffed with dark chocolate, a half-moon-shaped chausson aux pommes filled with sautéed apples or the swirly raisin-studded pain aux raisins. Whatever your selection, you can’t go wrong.
Escargots, Steak Frites and Bistro Classics
If you’re looking to sample some of France’s most famous dishes, look around (or better yet, ask around!) for a bistrot. These eateries usually feature well-priced, three-course menus for lunch or dinner, and you’ll find a lot of the same items on their à la carte menus. You’ll find plenty of places to sample authentic French delicacies in the city centre, which is easily accessible via public transportation — Royal Regency is just a short walk from rail stations that will take you directly into the heart of the action.
Start your culinary exploration with a dish of escargots — snails broiled in parsley and garlic butter. Don’t be intimidated by the utensils that come alongside your order: Just use the clamp in your left hand to grasp the shell and the tiny fork in your right hand to extract the delicious morsel. Other classics to try: steak frites (seared steak with fries), coq au vin (chicken stewed in red wine) and salade lyonnaise (greens topped with bacon and a fried egg).
Pretty Pastries, Hot Chocolate and Macarons
The French practically invented the art of pastry, and on just about every street you’ll find gorgeous sweets that simply beg to be Instagrammed. Head to Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli across from the Louvre, and choose one of the gorgeous creations in the pastry case. The Mont Blanc is their specialty: a meringue cookie filled with whipped cream and topped with candied chestnut paste to resemble the famous mountain in the Alps. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the restaurant’s famous, thick hot chocolate.
A trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ladurée, the home of the macaron, the famous French sandwich cookie. At the candy-colored tea house and pastry shop, choose a few to take with you or to enjoy in the dining room with a cup of tea or coffee.
Pack the Perfect Parisian Picnic
Parisians aren’t really ones to eat on the go. They much prefer a languid dining experience — especially outdoors when the weather is favorable. But picnicking is an art, just like everything else in this food-fueled town. Street markets are everywhere, so you’ll have no problem choosing a few fruits, some cured meats, creamy cheeses and a fresh baguette to enjoy outdoors.
There are plenty of beautiful squares and parks for picnicking in Paris. Just sit down on a bench or on some stairs to take in the sights and scenes of this sensory city. In Montmartre, head up the funicular to the Sacré-Coeur basilica and enjoy the panoramic view of Paris from the terrace while you snack. In front of the Eiffel Tower, the Jardins du Trocadéro park plaza or, on the other side, the Champs de Mars park is a favorite for picnickers. Of course, the Tuileries park next to the Louvre, Parc Monceau near the Champs Élysées and the Luxembourg Gardens are also excellent spots to sit and mange to your heart’s contentment.
Royal Regency is just steps from Le Bois de Vincennes, another park with incredible sightseeing, people-watching and family friendly activities like the city’s only zoo, the Zoo de Vincennes. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon perusing all the park has to offer — and you can bring any leftovers back to your in-suite kitchen at the hotel.
Set Aside a Splurge Night (and Budget)
For the most part, you can dine very well in Paris for about €40 per day. Breakfast is cheap, lunch deals are plentiful and you can get great values for dinners if you plan ahead and make reservations.
That said, you’d be remiss not to plan an evening of opulence at one of Paris’s famous fine-dining establishments and get a sense of the city’s elegance and essence — its je ne sais quoi, if you will. Many of these restaurants have fixed-price (prix fixe) menus, which is helpful for budgeting.
Head to La Tour D’Argent, Paris’s oldest and most heralded restaurant. Or, L’Arpège, helmed by decorated chef Alain Passard. You can also dine atop the Eiffel Tower for an incredible view of the city (spring and summer are best) at Le Jules Verne, or pay homage to the Belle Époque of the 1890s at Maxim’s, where can-can dancers once entertained the artists Chagall, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Need-to-Knows for an A+ Dining Experience in Paris
- You can always ask for a carafe d’eau, a pitcher of tap water, instead of the often-pricey bottled still or sparkling water.
- Service charges are included in menu prices, so unless you receive phenomenal service, there’s no need to leave anything additional (although it is often customary to round up to the nearest euro for sit-down meals). To show appreciation for an outstanding server, leave a tip of about 10%.
- Allow yourself lots of time for meals. The French are leisurely eaters, and you’ll likely need to ask the server for your check when you’re ready. If you’re on a time crunch, ask for the bill when they bring your last course. There’s nothing worse than rushing through the final minutes of a fabulous meal without the time to truly savor every bite.
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