Paris – The city of lights. The city of love. The Heart of France.
There are a million sites and sources on what to do with your time here – a French New York City with world-famous places and beautiful architecture. But we went for 1 real reason – to eat and absorb the culinary scene that’s arguably the basis of all western cuisines today. So instead of reiterating what many others would say, here is our culinary point of view (with a couple other non-food related notable findings) as we spent a week walking and eating throughout this magnificent city.
Ahhh the food…. Some not so good, some AMAZING! As with any big city and especially one where food is so highly acclaimed, there will be may places that cater to the tourist palate and aren’t quite up to par. They may talk a good a good game, but as always it comes down to execution. Here are a couple of places we thought excelled!
The Frenchie Bar (5 Rue du Nil, 75002 Paris) – The amazing owner from Le Coq Rouge in Reims, yet again did not fail us. He sent us on a quest to find this small wine bar up in the 2nd arrondissement (they also have a sit down fixed price restaurant, a takeaway storefront, and now a wine shop all on the same street). At 6:30pm each night the doors open to this lovely hidden gem of a wine bar. Rustic and warm, the interior features communal high tops and an open kitchen. Behind the glass, 3 chefs intricately prepare wonderful small plates that were some of the best we had our entire week there. This place is not to be missed during any food lovers trip to Paris!
L’Avant Comptoir (3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris) – Creperie in the front (takeaway only) and standing tapas bar in the back. This small place hangs their menu from the ceiling and features some French style and traditional Spanish tapas. Great little nibbles for your mid-day hunger when wandering around Le Jardin du Luxembourg.
L’Assiette (181 Rue du Château, 75014 Paris) – Traditional French Brasserie filled with locals! Cozy and casual (although the woman next to us was dripping in Chanel jewelry and designer clothing) this lovely little spot served up an amazing Cassoulet – bubbling hot and filled with a wonderful mixture of meats
La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis (55 Quai de Bourbon, 75004 Paris) – Another French classic brasserie (this time filled with the typical French servers and GIANT espresso machine behind the bar), we were pleasantly surprised by the steak frites served with caramelized shallots and the onion and bacon “tart”. Beef Tartare was being prepared tableside at nearly every other table – a specialty of the house I can imagine.
Les Fables de La Fontaine (131 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris) – Michelin 1 Star Restaurant serving a 25 Euro lunch, what could go wrong? This little place offered up beautifully plated food and great flavor. And for the price, it couldn’t be beat. *Many places offer a set prix fixe menu, in which the dishes are already decided. We ended up going with one set menu and 2 al la carte options so that we had different dishes*
On every block, there are at least 2 boulangeries (bakeries) and 1 passelling sweets, chocolate, or macaroons. Nothing is better than walking up to the local bakery, buying a fresh baguette, and devouring half of it before you even get back to your apartment. While we had our fair share of mouth-watering pastries (honestly how could there be a bad butter flakey croissant?), the below were exceptional!
Du Pain et des Idees (34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris) – With a line out the door, and rightfully so, this place should be sought out. Specializing in “pinwheel” pastries, this amazing patisserie had many flavors to choose from. We settled on the Praline version and it was absolute heaven! I am glad this was not near our apartment, or I would have been there every morning and sampled them all.
Pierre Hermé Paris (multiple locations) – What’s a trip to Paris without purchasing some delicate Macaroons? Pierre Hermé was awarded the title of World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2016 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. His shop features interesting and innovative flavor combinations, which were a treat to enjoy.
With the best ingredients stemming from every square mile of the country, Paris has some amazing establishments dedicated to the regions’ finest. The sights, the colors, the smells, the quality – these markets were a food lover’s dream! (Too bad we have a long way to go on this journey, or our suitcases would have been full!)
Galeries Lafayette Gourmet (35 Boulevard Haussman, 75009 Paris) – This multi-level food hall reminded us very closely to Eataly, only focused mainly on French ingredients. The displays so beautiful – everything from mounds of colorful spices, to the best dry aged meats, and legs of pate negra hanging from the ceiling – you feel bad disrupting them in order to purchase what they have to offer.
La Grande Épicerie de Paris (38 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris) – smaller, less crowded and a little more approachable, this gourmet market does not disappoint. A staple stop on every trip to Paris!
Although the sights and smells of gourmet foods can be found on every street in Paris, there are a couple notable streets where the industry has found its niche. At each store front you can find either a café, brasserie, or merchant proud of their local ingredients. A feast for the eyes, and hopefully the stomach.
- Rue Cler (7th arrondissement)
- Rue Buci (6th arrondissement)
- Rue Montorgueil (1st/2nd arrondissement)
Other Sights & Activities
Despite what the chef may have liked, our trip to Paris could not have solely been spent hoping from one restaurant to the next, filling our stomachs with yet another traditional French dish. Many of our days were spent walking through neighborhoods taking in the architecture and ticking off the “must sees” on your first trip to Paris. Below are a couple other places we felt were worthwhile.
Palais Galleria – Not only is Paris a food capital but it is also a fashion capital of the world. Having a bachelor’s degree in Fashion, this was on MY must do list. Beautifully preserved garments, some dating back to the 18th century, this collection of garments told the story of French fashion and its notable designers through the 1990’s. The museum does not take long to go through, so if you are in the Trocadero area and enjoy fashion – I highly recommend it!
Fontainebleau – By the end of the week, we had explored pretty much all of the notable arrondissements in Paris and were looking for something a little different. In lieu of the Versailles day trip, we decided on Fontainebleau – a château said to have inspired Versailles, with a fraction of other tourists. We boarded Train R out of Gare de Lyon’s main platforms and within 50 minutes we arrived to the local station where a quick trip on the city bus dropped us off at the château.
As we wandered our way through staterooms and halls once occupied by the kings of France dating back to the 1100’s, often times we were the only ones in the room allowing us time to take in all the intricate details. In the warmer weather months, the grounds feature ponds, gardens, fountains, and a huge forest with walking trails. This château was equally impressive and for only €11.00, was certainly a day well spent
- The City of Fontainebleau is a quaint town with a main street riddled with shopping and restaurants. Trains run every half hour back to Paris so some time can easily be spent wandering the streets.
- We stopped for lunch at Bistrot 9, a small place situated on a side street just before the entrance to the grounds. This authentic French bistro served up some delicious plates of French classics. (The Beef Tartar was the best we had all week and the baked camembert with honey… need I say more?!)
The Louvre – This museum goes without saying, it’s worth a trip. In for some inclement weather? A full day can easily be spent wandering the thousands of rooms. We were fortunate to hit the days just right and scored free entrance. Given the timing of our visit, we concentrated on Decorative Arts/Europe – an in-depth continuation of our trip to Fontainebleau . With so much to see it can be quite overwhelming, so focus on the collections that interest you most.
Until next time Paris! We will be back!
Our Stark Perspective (Tips) –
- If you plan on doing a lot of walking, purchasing the 10 Pack of tickets should be sufficient for a week in the city. If you plan to go to Versailles and/or Fontainebleau, purchase the week pass (Navigo Découverte) is worth the extra cost.
- Trocadero is the best view of the Eiffel Tower and can be easily reached on the metro. Best advice I ever received – the first time you see the Eiffel tower up close and in person, do it at NIGHT! It’s magical (Bonus – At the top of every hour it twinkles)
- Many local businesses are closed either Sunday or Monday (sometimes both).
- Except in the tourist areas where hours are continual – businesses generally close around 2 or 3, before reopening again around 6. For restaurants, many stop serving lunch at 2 and do not open again for dinner until 7 or 8pm.
- Bus Route 72 (you can use a regular transit ticket to board) runs along the Seine and is a virtual rolling tour of Paris, connecting many of the main sights. While we did not get to take advantage this trip, it is a great way to see the city of lights especially at night!
- 95% of the city’s museums are free on first Sunday of every month. If you are able to coordinate your schedules around this, it could be a large savings.
- Supermarkets with great ingredients are plentiful. To save a couple of dollars during the day, stop in a purchase some cured meats, cheese, and fresh-baked bread to assemble your own sandwiches, just like they sell on the street.