The French are obsessed with food. They love to talk about it. Think about it. And, most importantly, devour it. Meals are given an almost sacred place in the daily calendar, and are nearly always enjoyed sitting down and in multiple courses (even at breakfast).
Eating is serious business, especially in Paris, which is said to be home to more than 40,000 restaurants. This is excellent news for food-loving visitors, as it means a delicious meal is waiting for you around literally every corner in the French capital.
But where to start when there are so many options? Here are some local favourites to get you started:
The incredible selection of bread and pastries at Du Pain et Des Idees. (Image: Supplied.)
Begin with bread
It might sound a little Biblical, but the breaking of bread is an essential part of any Parisian’s morning routine. You’ll struggle to find big cooked breakfasts in many of the cafes in this city. Here, breakfast is all about a crusty piece of bread or pastry accompanied by a giant milky bowl of coffee. You can hardly throw a croissant in Paris without hitting a half-decent boulangerie (bakery) or patisserie (pastry shop) but for something special head to either Du Pain et Des Idees for their outrageously good chocolate and pistachio snail or to newly opened The French Bastards for a non-traditional (but completely delicious) “cruffin”, which is a mix between a croissant and muffin that will change your life. For a more traditional start to the day, pop to Boulangerie M’seddi (which won best bakery in Paris in 2018) for the perfect crusty baguette.
Head to Bouillon Pigalle for the best value classic French meal in Paris. (Image: Supplied.)
Embrace classic bistro food
Things get more serious come lunch and dinner, when every good foodie knows it’s time to indulge in some proper hearty French cuisine. You can go the classic route and visit some of the Parisian brasseries renowned for having perfected some of the most famous dishes such as escargots (snails), perfectly cooked steak and deeply flavoured onion soup. One local hotspot is Josephine Chez Dumonet where the gargantuan boeuf bourguignon can be ordered by the half or full portion and should always be followed by their famous Grand Marnier soufflé. Le Bistro Paul Bert is another favourite, especially at lunchtime when you can get three incredible courses for just 22 euros. But for truly great value, head to Bouillon Pigalle, where you can dig into an outstanding French meal for well under 20 euros – if you’re willing to join the crowds waiting for tables.
Freddy's offers a fun night out, with delicious small plates perfect for sharing. (Image: Alex Lalak)
Or enjoy a taste of the modern
While these classic eateries are a must when visiting Paris, there’s also a glittering new wave of neo-brasseries popping up throughout the city offering French flavours with a contemporary twist. In many of these places, small-plate dining reigns supreme but this is good news if you want to try multiple dishes. And you absolutely should. One of the best is the bustling Freddy’s, where the two chefs prepare all of the food in a tiny, glassed-in kitchen in the middle of the restaurant, which makes for wonderful dinner theatre. Seafood temple Clamato is an excellent choice for fish fans, the hard-to-get-into Clown Bar is popular with those in the know, and newcomer Les Enfants du Marche in the heart of the covered Enfants Rouges market is a new favourite amongst local foodies.
The Bastille Market is the place to find vibrant fresh produce and lots of local foodies. (Image: Alex Lalak)
Visit the local markets
For a more DIY approach to feasting in Paris, make time to visit one (or more) of the city’s gloriously colourful markets and collect a range of tasty treats perfect for a picnic by the river Seine. The Marche Bastille is a top choice, with everything from cheese to crepes, oysters to fresh berries on offer on Thursday and Sunday mornings. The Marche Aligre is also a good place to visit for a more rustic experience, and if you want to rub shoulders with food-loving Parisian locals.
Newly-opened Eataly is a temple to delicious Italian food and conveniently located in the Marais. (Image: Supplied)
Experience the food halls of Paris
Or for a market-style experience in a more refined environment, visit one of the excellent food halls throughout the city. The most popular is the lavish La Grande Epicerie (attached to upmarket department store Le Bon Marche) where you’ll find high end delights like truffles and foie gras, plus lots of packaged treats that are perfect for taking home as gifts or edible souvenirs. The newly opened Eataly, a vast temple to Italian food, is also well worth a look in, if you’re in the mood for a break from French food.
The sweet treats at Cedric Grolet are out of this world and are a must for any sugar fans. (Image: Supplied)
Save room for a sweet treat
Parisians have a very sweet tooth and the city is home to some of the best dessert chefs and pastry makers in the world. Top of the heap is sugar magician Cedric Grolet, pastry chef at the fancy Le Meurice hotel, who has a loyal following thanks to his fairylike creations that can be purchased in a boutique inside the hotel. Also head to Aux Merveilleux de Fred for tiny, cream-covered meringues you’ll never forget and stop by Dune Blanches, Chez Pascal to try their signature (and addictive) puffs of choux pastry filled with sweetened cream.