If there's one word that symbolizes Paris, it is gastronomy. The French, always appreciative of the finer things in life, have a unique tradition of famous restaurants and great chefs. If you really love good food, you'll find true happiness here. The latest, most fashionable restaurants mix innovation with traditional culinary techniques to serve classic French cuisine that's full of unexpected flavours. The café-restaurants, which are the pride of Paris, fit into the gastronomic landscape better than ever, with their beautifully presented and affordable food. Paris, always so cosmopolitan, has also been enriched by exotic cuisines from the four corners of the earth.
In Paris, fine dining and great feasts (lasting up to three hours) are sacred and the chefs in the most famous restaurants have turned their cuisine into a real art form. Some of the most highly-praised places–and world-acclaimed chefs by International food critics, include Pierre Gagnaire
, voted the third best restaurant in the world by British magazine Restaurant
, the Grand Véfour
, and the Carré des Feuillants
where chef Alain Dutournier do wonders. Some fine dining options can further be found in prestigious hotels, like Restaurant Alain Ducasse
located in Plaza Athénée hotel or Restaurant Le Meurice
in Meurice hotel. Another excellent yet expensive spot is Taillevent
, which has wines that cost as much as a dress from Chanel.
Paris has numerous fashionable spots where you go to see and be seen. Either for a glass of wine after shopping or for a futuristic dining experience, try Spoon - Food and Wine
, where you can enjoy fusion food and fashion at the same time. Most of these restaurants have chic and trendy interiors, designed by popular architects like Philippe Stark at Spoon. Also combining touches of originality in both the food and design, the establishments of the Costes brothers are not to be missed. The Café Costes
was the first to set the trend a couple of years ago. When Bastille became the hip district for nightlife, the spotlight fell on the hotel-restaurant, Sanz sans
, but the hottest spot is without a doubt the Georges
at the top of the Beaubourg Museum. The Café de L'Homme
offers a more intimate experience behind its red curtains and warm wooden décor. Also highly popular during cocktail hours, notably among the business crowd, the Fumoir
is a comfortable lounge with leather coaches and an upscale restaurant, serving elaborate, traditional French food. For fashionistas and celeb-watching addicts, the Avenue
, located on the prestigious avenue Montaigne where many famous designers have boutiques, is an ideal spot.
Famous Restaurants & Cafés
Some of Paris culinary institutions include the Tour d'Argent
and the Closerie des Lilas
, both serving up dishes of worldwide renown. The Pharamond
, offers an extraordinary setting and a meal to match: its décor dates from 1832, proof, if any were needed, that Paris's tradition of exceptional gastronomy is still going strong. Other favourites include Le Procope
and La Coupole
, both typical of Paris'sAnnées Folles
. In Paris, cuisine and history are intertwined. Parisians think of Maxim's
, Les Deux Magots
and Café de Flore as historic monuments just like the Eiffel Tower or Notre-Dame Cathedral. Visitors should make a point of visiting these historical establishments to truly soak up the atmosphere of the capital's glorious past; it's easy to imagine past celebrities and intellectuals dining in the luxurious period décor. If you look out at the terrace of the Dôme
, you may even see the ghost of Jean Paul Sartre. After all, Paris is magic.
Traditional French Bistros
These are certainly the best value for price if you cannot afford the star-rated restaurants but still want to enjoy the best of French food. You can find many bistros and brasseries in the capital, serving the traditional Entrecôte
(rib-eye steak) or Bavette à l'échalotte
(flank steak dressed in a shallot reduction) with French Fries, the cheese or Charcuterie
plate, and chocolate mousse or caramel crème. Among the many that you'll cross on your path, Chez Paul
in the Bastille district, is probably one of the best bet for your first try, but make sure to arrive early or be prepared to wait up to one hour for a table. Less crowded and nearly as good is Julien
. With its Belle Époque
décor, it is certainly a traditional brasserie à la française
. For traditional meals from the Auvergne region, head to La galoche d'Aurillac
. Try one of the specialties like the Lentilles from Le Puy or the Charcuterie Plate
—notably the Fricandeau
(a kind of pâté typical from that region). The cheese plate is a must-have here, since they mature the cheeses in their cellar. Other classic well-established brasseries include the Wepler
on place de Clichy and the Petit Bofinger
in Bastille, more affordable than the original Bofinger.
Seafood & Sauerkraut
Coming from the Alsace region–where the beer was actually brewed, the tradition is that most brasseries (which literally means brewery), not only serve sauerkraut (an Alsatian speciality) but also seafood and shellfish such as scallops, oysters, mussels, clams, etc. The Brasserie Flo
, located in a remote and quiet court in the 10th arrondissement, is a bargain for seafood lovers. The ingredients are extremely fresh and the décor reminds some patrons of Grandma's kitchen. For oysters and shellfish, another great option is the Bar à Huîtres
, an oyster bar in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Other reasonably-priced seafood restaurants include La Marine
alongside Canal Saint-Martin and L'Espadon Bleu
in the 6th arrondissement.
Cafés & Small Bites
Each neighbourhood has countless cafés and dive bars, where you can have an ordinary lunch at very reasonable prices. An entrée plus dessert and a café
(espressos mostly) is usually priced between EUR8 and EUR12, depending on the neighbourhood you're in. Some of them are really picturesque and have that rustic style that allows you to soak up French lifestyle on a daily basis. So grab a newspaper, order a glass of wine and observe people around you; there is no better way to find out about French culture.
Ice Cream parlours
After a stroll in the narrow streets of Île-Saint-Louis, head to the oldest ice-cream artisan in the city, Berthillon. With more than 60 different flavours, their all natural ice creams will enchant the whole family. The most exquisite include Caramel Beurre Salé
(caramel and salted butter), Raspberry-Rosa and Pêche de Vigne
(a kind of rare peach). Other options include widespread chains like Haagen Dazs.
There was a time in Paris when there were no places where you could have a brunch in the weekend. That time is behind us now, and brunch has become so popular that, at some places, you will have to wait a long time for a table. Le Loir dans la Théière
, is definitely worth the wait. All pies, tarts, and pastries are hand-made and fresh, and prices are more than reasonable. Another bustling area for brunch on Sundays is Rue Montorgueil, notably Au Rocher de Cancale
, which is completely packed after noon.
Soup and Juices
A new trend arose in Paris as an alternative to cafés and bistros serving a rich food: healthy soup and juice bars. With an increasing number of vegetarians previously not having many dining options, they rapidly became a success. The soup and juice bar Soup & Juice
perfectly illustrates the phenomenon. People don't have time to sit at lunch for hours anymore, and they want a healthy alternative to the sandwich booths and bakeries. With a dozen of locations across the city, you can grab a healthy meal at very reasonable prices. The Bar à Soupes
in Bastille is a better option if you want to sit, whereas the Paradis du Fruit
(literally–"fruit's paradise") will enchant those missing their smoothie.
Paris has countless fine speciality food stores, each only dedicated to one sort of delicacy. For caviar, go to Prunier
; for truffles, go to Maison de la Truffe
; for flavoured and rare type of mustards and vinegars, the first established Boutique Maille
is the best bet. For tea, Mariage Frères has the best reputation. If you are looking for all of that, plus the crème de la crème
, go to Hédiard
, both on place de la Madeleine. Cheese
Cheese is to France what tea is to England; it is part of the national identity. There are more than 300 varieties of cheeses coming from various regions of the country. neighbourhood farmer's markets are the best places to sample and buy all the kinds of cheese you can imagine and probably some you didn't know existed. Choose from fresh, creamy, or dry goat cheese, soft and milky Camembert
, creamy Brie de Meaux
, strong Munster
, and full-flavoured Roquefort
. The Aligre Market
is without a doubt the largest and the most comprehensive market in the city. Outdoor markets in France take usually place on weekends, with smaller ones during the week, depending on the neighbourhood you're in, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you miss them, you can also try a dairy. It's a little pricier, but they are friendly and can give you more personalized advice. You can find them all over the city. Look for the sign Fromagerie
in the front of the shops, or just follow the distinctive scent.
(bakery) is the favourite shop of French people. 10 billion baguettes are baked each year. 56% of French people buy fresh bread at their Boulangerie
every day. Most of them not only carry bread, but also pastries. Among the many kinds of breads that you can try, the famous baguette is of course a must-have, but be adventurous and try out the wheat-levain bread, the multi-cereal or the rustic bread. If you're looking for authentic country-bread, Poilâne
bakery is the best bet. You will find the famous Tartines
made with this bread (toasted with cheese, vegetables, or prosciutto) at numerous cafés in the city. If you're looking for pastries, the oldest pâtisserie
in Paris is Pâtisserie Stohrer
, carrying deserts and sweets fit for a queen. For the best macaroons (a kind of soft cookie filled with cream) in town, head to Ladurée
, a house that has been established since 1862.
Whether for sampling on site or souvenir shopping, wine is of course a must-have in France. You will find many wine shops in Paris, with an excellent selection of bottles coming from small French wineries or prestigious houses. The most widespread name in the city is Nicolas
. The wine merchant has brown flagships all over the city and carries affordable ordinary wines and more elaborate vintages. All the sales associates are very professional and can give you good advice on wine and meal pairings. The wine bar, Bar à Vins Nicolas located alongside fashionable Cour Saint-Émilion in Bercy-Village is a great spot to sample the selection they carry. Le Repaire de Bacchus
, with several little boutiques throughout the city is also of good value. More intimate and less crowded, they have a good reputation and also carry a wide selection of liqueurs from all over the world.
What is a good meal with wine without an espresso in the end? Something is definitely missing–notably the chocolate served with it. The French are chocolate connoisseurs and you can find some chocolate artisans throughout the city, like cosy Furet Tanrade
or Maison du Chocolat
that imports chocolate from Switzerland and Belgium. -Aurélie Pichard