Earlier this year I won a trip to Amsterdam so decided since I was so close, I would bolt on a week in Paris. I hadn’t been for 11 years so was eager to experience the city of light again but this time through my enhanced foodie filter. On my previous trip, I had done all the serious tourist things so this was more about tasting and shooting some of the delights this culinary hot spot has to offer. I did my usual mass of research beforehand and pre-booked the first 5 nights of my accommodation, but like all travel adventures, you go in with one set of expectations and leave having experienced something slightly different.
Travelling on one’s own as a food tourist has its challenges. Having been to Italy last year, South East Asia the year before, Israel and the USA before that, I knew my limitations. My dreams and eyes are always way bigger than my stomach. As is my budget travelling on the pitiful Rand. I daydreamed about going to Arpège and having Alain Passard come over to my table to say hello. I longed to sit in chic restaurants overlooking the Eiffel Tower sipping a glass of champagne. I was also keen to picnic along the banks of the Seine with my cheese and baguette drinking wine out a plastic cup, but even that is very tricky on your own. I was afraid I would drink too much and then feel vulnerable getting home at night, and secondly, that is a specific experience that is way better done with someone else. In my 7 days in Paris, I barely scratched the surface but will include a few places I can recommend along with resources that are sure to set you up for a full-on foodie adventure.
There are so many amazing pastry shops in Paris you will really battle to get to even a percentage of them. You can encounter many under one roof at any of the large food halls/gourmet supermarkets, so this is a good way to experience a few in a short space of time. I fell in love with Yann Couvreur and there are a few branches all over Paris. I ate chocolate gateaux creation that was so damn delicious and layered it will haunt me for years to come. I also managed a Kouglof on another occasion so I can highly recommend this place. There is a lovely branch opposite L’As du Fallafel in the Marais.
Another pastry shop I simply had to go to was Aux Merveilleux De Fred. They have a few branches in Paris but the store in the 7th came recommended with its huge chandelier. It was also on a street with so many other pastry shops as well as a well-known Instagram location with a view of the Eiffel Tower. They make these creamy meringue cloud confections that taste like pure heaven. Rolled in various flavours like white chocolate, salted caramel and coffee, they melt in your mouth and are utterly irresistible. I opted to buy a few small bite-size versions so I could taste more than one, but I have also heard the larger ones are very satisfying too. I’m planning to try and re-create this as soon as possible so watch this space.
This is the famous and largest Paris brocant / antique market and the place to find anything vintage. It was an absolute MUST on my list. It’s so vast and comprises 14 markets in one precinct. It is impossible to go to them all in one day. I think I managed about 4 before I felt totally overwhelmed. I also started feeling depressed that I couldn’t afford or transport all the things I wanted to buy so retired to a very posh and expensive restaurant in the middle. Ma Cocotte is without a doubt the fanciest restaurant at Clignancourt. Designed by Phillipe Stark I ordered the roast chicken. I figured I needed to order this iconic dish at least once on my trip and was very disappointed. The mash was sublime and served in a little glass jar but the chicken was dry, fairly tough and not nearly as juicy as a Woolies Rotisserie bird. All the other food looked lovely and I would have been better off with the burger or salmon. The market is located in a slightly dodgy part of town and getting there from the subway had me clutching my bag and wallet very tightly. Luckily the bus stop in the middle of the market was on the route that took me directly back to my hotel. I always prefer taking the bus
The nicest Gourmet Food Halls in Paris
The oldest and probably my favourite of the 3 large department store food halls, this shop is a must-visit for any foodie. The Conran Shop is opposite so you can combine the two. I spent a lot of time wandering up and down the aisles oggling at all the delicious food products.
The food hall at Printemps du Goût is a very modern and beautiful. In addition to the gourmet shop, a food ‘court’ with a selection of different eateries on the top floor has panoramic views over Paris. This is the one to enjoy a meal at. The seafood restaurant looked amazing and my advice would be to go early and secure a balcony table with a view. If you are on a budget you can grab a gourmet baguette made with artisan bread and sit at one to the takeaway dining tables.
Not to be confused with the huge and very famous department store, Galleries Lafayette has its own separate food store around the corner (separate building and entrance). I spent some time wondering the multiple floors and looking at all the food on display. I sampled Iberico ham from the Spanish tapas bar and savoured a Hermes macaron. I bought tiny mustard jars from the Maille Boutique and salivated at all the fresh produce on the lowest level. There are a few places to stop for some counter dining.
There are a number of fresh food markets in Paris but I only managed to get to two. The first was a very small and local & organic Sunday market called Le Marché Biologique des Batignolles. I really loved this and totally stumbled on it by accident.
The second was the Marche D’Aligre in the 8th. This was a small neighbourhood fresh market and when I got there I needed to wait an hour until it reopened for the evening trade. I have read that it’s quite a vibe over the weekend and a great place to pick up Lebanese food.
A couple of other shops I loved visiting for home was Caravane and The Conran Shop. Caravane stocks an amazing array of linens and homeware as does the Conran shop amongst many other very cool things. You can see a small display of Caravane goods in Bon Marche.
Straddling the 19th& 20tharrondisements Bellville is an arty neighbourhood with a bit of edge. I ventured to this corner of Paris to eat at Le Baratin bistro because a friend had recommended it highly. It did not disappoint. The only downside was it was a public holiday on the day I went, so the 19 euro lunch special didn’t apply, but it was a fantastic meal. I also allowed the very friendly waitress to select what wine I would have with my meal and it was perfectly paired. After lunch I took a walk up to the Parc de Belleville (the highest park in Paris) and from the almost thirty-metre tall terrace could take in the panoramic views of the city. The architect François Debulois and the landscaper Paul Brichet conceived the park with opened in 1988. You will find a lot of interesting Middle Eastern and North African food in this hood.
I have no idea why I missed this museum on my first trip to Paris but this is probably my favourite art gallery. Many of the works are housed in an expansive and picturesque garden, so it’s a delight to take a leisurely stroll around to see them all.
Located in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde, the Musée de l’Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It’s where you will see the awe-inspiring’s Water Lilies by Claude Monet and I had to revisit it and them. There are so many amazing galleries in Paris but I didn’t have time to revisit them all.
Parks in Paris
Paris is filled with so many beautiful parks and spending time in them is one of my favourite things to do. They are great to rest your weary feet or have a chilled and inexpensive picnic lunch.
Take the bus
My neighbour who had lived in Paris for many years recommended I take bus number 72 that travels from the Louvre along the Seine and past the Eiffel Tower. After another day of gruelling pavement bashing, it was a welcome relief to sit at the window seat of the bus and take it all in. When you are ready to turn around, you simply hop off and catch the next bus in the opposite direction. I bought a travel pass for most of my days in Paris and this allows unlimited use of the bus and Metro for the time period. I bought the local pass vs the tourist one and all in all its fairly confusing to figure out. So I don’t have solid info on how this works for tourists vs locals. I suspect I bought the local travel card. If you Google any bus number in Paris you will be taken to a map and full route info. I found this the best way to get around and far prefer it to the Metro. If you need to get across town quickly or cover a larger distance, the Metro is the best way to travel.
Ride a bike
If you are not a nervous type then an excellent way to see Paris is by Bike. You can hire one of the public Velib bikes all over the city. If you are a little more nervous (like myself) a good idea is to hire a bike on a Sunday morning. Paris is known as a city that wakes up very late and especially so on a Sunday. If you get to the bike early you could cruise down the Champs Elysee without any seeing another car
If it wasn’t for the fact that I laned up staying in a 5-star hotel on the Champs for my last night I might have given this area total miss. It’s fairly fun to see if you have never been to Paris before, but it is definitely not my favourite part of the city. It feels like its just very expensive, overly touristy and all glitz & glam. It was, however, a big novelty that I landed up in such a fancy hotel and on such a famous street, so I relished in every second of that. I did, however, have one of my favourite meals in Paris at Five Guys. This might come as a bit of a surprise, but I thought it was really great (it was also the first time I had experienced Five Guys and I’m hoping it won’t be the last).
For more pictures of the food on my trip click here
Restaurants I went to that I can recommend
le Relais de l’Entrecôte – hugely touristy, this restaurant came highly recommended by a few of my friends so I had to give it a go. I really enjoyed it. They only serve grilled sirloin and cafe de Paris butter and french fries. Both are served in two parts so as to keep them warm, it was utterly delicious. Don’t let the queues put you off, they pack you in like sardines and turn the tables. I went to eh St Germain branch and stopped at Cafe de Flore for an aperitif before which was kind of a bucket list thing I wanted to do. Nothing like paying R160 for a small glass of wine while trying to crack the brusque demeanour of the slightly grumpy waiter. I succeeded by the way.
Buvette – This cute place came across so much of my social media I really wanted to go. I had a delicious croque madame and a glass of wine one early evening. I loved everything about this place.
L’As du Fallafel is a Kosher Middle Eastern restaurant located at 34, Rue des Rosiers in the “Pletzl” Jewish quarter of the Le Marais neighbourhood and it came recommended by literally everyone I asked for restaurant recommendations. Amongst the best falafel I have ever eat (and I’ve been to Israel) and since it is my favourite street food, I landed up eating there twice. On both occasions, I sat inside (there are two branches near each other).
Urfa Durum – I spent 4 nights staying in the 10th and near this authentic Turkish spot that was apparently loved by Anthony Bourdain. You are immediately enticed when you see a person covered in flour making the homemade flatbreads in the window. A queue will likely snake out the small eatery where a 400-degree oven is churning out the flatbread. You choose your meat or vegetables that are grilled to order and then wrapped in a hot flatbread. Utterly delectable and incredibly fresh.
Some of the best food I ate in Paris was the food I bought at bakeries and cheese shops and enjoyed for breakfast at my Air BnB. I spent 4 nights at Artisan Lofts in the 10th so I was near to an array of options in this formerly run-down neighbourhood. The famous Julhès delicatessen was just down the road, so setting out with my foldaway shopping bag to procure food made me feel like a local. There were a wonderful fruit and vegetable shop too and I dived right into all the spring fruit.
A few tips on eating in restaurants in Paris:
Make reservations, especially at the very popular places. There were quite a few that I wanted to get to but were fully booked. Most restaurants have easy to navigate booking systems.
Most restaurants have strict and formal dining hours and lunch is served from 12hoo – 2.30pm and 7pm – 9 pm for dinner. – so this means allowing enough time in the morning to get to your location. I often found this a challenge and wished I could have enjoyed later lunches but this is the way it is.
Tipping is not required but if you receive outstanding service it will be appreciated.
Where to stay in Paris?
Choosing where to stay in Paris especially if you haven’t been before can be tricky. I knew I wanted to stay very centrally as over the years and from past experience I prefer to be right in the mix. I don’t like to commute back to my accommodation late at night. It is not always safe for a women travelling on their own so I’m always happy to pay a premium for a good location. I like to go out fairly near to where I am staying and then venture further afield during the day. Paris is a huge city and each neighbourhood has its own charm. Wherever you land up you will likely find amazing restaurants and bars. I personally love the Marais or the 3rd Arrondissement. They are kind of slap bang in and next to so many places you will want to go. Staying in the southern part of the 10th was very near the Marais and the 3rd and close to some really cool places too. I spent one night in the 9th and this was also a very central and a nice location. I loved the neighbourhood around Rue des Martyrs (South of Montmartre) where there were so many charming cafes and food shops. I also spent one night in Rive Gauche on the Southern bank which was interesting, but not an area I would want to stay in again. My final night was on the Champs Elysee which was such a novelty and treat, but wouldn’t be the place I would choose to stay again either.
David is an expat American who has been living in Paris for a long time. He is one of my all-time favourite food bloggers and I constantly use his site as a travel (and recipe) resource. He is extremely well travelled and has written in detail about his many trips. I discovered amazing gelato in Bologna on his recommendation (amongst other things) so all his guides to Paris will be an excellent place for you to start.
Beth Kirby from Local Milk spends a lot of time in Paris and her various resources like her Google maps with Instagram hotspots and her favourite restaurants was an excellent reference for me. I used it along with my own Google map where I had saved all my researched locations. Find her awesome guide here: Essential Paris Guide.
Jamie Beck is another ex-pat American who lives in France. She is a well-known and super talented photographer and Instagrammer. You will find an abundance of good information and recommendations in her Paris Eats guide.
For more about my trip to Paris see:
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