The 5 Food Experiences You’ve Got To Have In Paris
We're pretty sure there's a rule somewhere that says you can't go to Paris and not picnic.
Ah, Paris. It’s the City of Love, yes – but it’s also the city that loves to eat. If you’re the kind of person who plans your travel around mealtimes, then the French capital is a dream of delicious proportions. As a consequence, things can get a little overwhelming – so here are five foodie goals to keep you on track.
Important tip: Paris’s food spots are often closed for one or two days a week, and many businesses close for a summer break around August. Research and plan ahead to save yourself the heartbreak.
Pick your pastry
A good Parisian boulangerie (artisan bakery) is your best friend. A fresh, flaky croissant, or perhaps the sticky swirl of a pistachio and chocolate escargot is the perfect way to kick-start a day of exploring – and it’s easy on the pocket to boot. Get in as early as you can for the best spread of goodies; you’ll know you’re onto a winner if you find yourself jostling in a healthy queue with folk of a more aged disposition (read: Paris grannies know where it’s at). Once you’ve found the one, by all means embrace it. There’s a comforting feeling in becoming a ‘regular’, albeit a temporary one.
Where boulangeries are for bread and croissanty delights, pâtisseries are your go-to for the sweet stuff. Like precious gems laid out in jewellery cabinets, these treats are testament to Paris as one of the world’s greatest dessert capitals.
Picnic like a pro
Paris is home to some truly beautiful parks and gardens, and its residents know how to make good use of them; as soon as the sun comes out these public spaces are buzzing. The best way to join in? Put together a killer picnic chock-full of France’s finest. And the centrepiece of any respectable Parisian picnic is, of course, cheese.
A cheese shop in Paris can be a daunting place, but persevere and you’ll reap those delicious rewards soon enough. Ask the cheesemonger for their suggestions (be patient if you haven’t got the best French skills) – the most popular cheeses are a good place to start, but also offer up your preferences so they can put their expertise to use. Hard or soft cheeses? Mild or strong? A tangy chèvre (goat’s cheese) or a good, smelly blue? Most cheeses will be available to taste before purchasing, so don’t be afraid to try a few. Cheese shops will usually also sell baguettes from a local boulangerie if you haven’t already stocked up.
Top pick: Fromagerie Beillevaire, which has multiple locations across the city. The store on Rue Saint-Antoine in Paris’s charming Le Marais district is just a short walk from Place des Vosges, a stunning spot to set up your hard-earned feast.
Get the scoop
An evening stroll along the river Seine is the kind of stuff your romantic Paris imaginings are made of. As the city works toward making much of the riverside roads pedestrian-only, it’s the perfect way to watch the City of Lights come alive. An even better way is to kick it off with a luscious ice-cream in hand.
In Paris there is one ice-creamery to rule them all: Berthillon. You’ll see the name etched upon menus and cafe awnings across the city, but the best thing to do is make for the original Berthillon storefront on Île Saint-Louis (next to Île de la Cité, the island home to Notre Dame). The master ice-creamer is famous for fruit sorbets that pack a punch and exquisite cream-based glaces.
The store closes at 8pm (Wednesday-Sunday), so try to time your visit just right before making the long, lovely walk along the Seine to catch the light show at the Eiffel Tower.
A little bit luxe
Budget for at least one meal that’s on the fancy side; you’ve gotta splash out a little in the home of haute cuisine. Luckily, Paris’s fine-dining scene has branched out beyond stuffy waiters and immaculate white table cloths, and you can eat some phenomenal food in more modern, relaxed environments these days. Lunchtime menus are also often an excellent, less expensive way to eat at some of the more popular spots.
Top pick: Frenchie Bar à Vins in the 2nd district. This wine bar is a fabulous way to experience the fine-dining expertise of its restaurant counterpart across the street, but with a more laid-back atmosphere. There’s no reservations – perfect for spontaneous drop-ins – so just arrive 15-30 minutes before opening and you’re in for a good time.
Make friends in all the right places
Much like the delight in becoming a regular at your favourite boulangerie, there’s something very special in returning to a good Parisian wine bar. Let’s be honest, the French aren’t known for their warmth in customer service – especially with tourists – but repeat visits are a good way to earn favour. And the people in charge of the wine are never bad people to have on your side.
Ideally you’ll find a spot close to your accommodation, but a good wine bar can certainly be worth the Metro trip. You’re not looking for the Frenchie Bar à Vins of the world – you want to find a little place that has that cosy, local feel. Make an effort to try a little enthused French, and persevere with potentially aloof staff. By night two or three you’ll feel right at home, and perhaps even find that those very staff can be rather generous with le vin as the night wears on…
Top pick: 5eCru in the 5th district. If you’re in the area at all, do not skip out on this gem.
(All images: author’s own)