Paris food is up there with the world's best. Whether you're looking for a fine cheese, a gourmet meal, or the perfect patisserie treat, it's available in the French capital. The city is home to some of the world's most talented chefs, pâtissiers, and chocolatiers. Its delis and food stores are second to none and its famous cookery schools are recognized across the globe. Come with us as we reveal the finest, the tastiest, and the most innovative selection.
Paris is often referred to as the capital of gastronomy and the title is richly deserved. The city is a dream destination for foodies and the ideal place to try authentic French cuisine. It's not all snails and frog legs! Parisian cuisine is among the most exciting and varied in the world, and the capital's restaurants reflect this with innovative and original menus. In Paris, you'll be able to try dishes you never imagined you would, as well as a host of old favorites.
Do the French really eat frog legs and snails?
It's a misconception to believe that the average Parisian regularly dines on frog legs (cuisses de grenouille) or snails (escargot). These culinary delicacies can, however, certainly be sampled in the capital. This is food for the gourmet, and these classic dishes are tastier than you might expect. Snails are gently braised with garlic, butter, and wine then returned to their shells with additional butter, garlic and herbs for serving. Frog legs are usually sautéed with brandy, herbs, and white wine. Try escargot at the aptly named L'Escargot Montorgueil or tuck into beautifully cooked cuisses de grenouille at Roger La Grenouille in the 6th arrondissement.
Steak-frites - a classic
A classic bistro dish, steak-frites is simple and tasty. It really is a partnership that can't be beaten: Carefully selected meat is beautifully cooked and served with golden, hand-cut fries in a plethora of Parisian restaurants. You'll find steak-frites on menus all over the city and it's normally served with a simple salad or a choice of sauces. However, in one Parisian restaurant, it's the only choice. Visit Relais de l'Entrecote in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and you only have to let the waiter know how well done you'd like your steak.
Is wine an ingredient in many Parisian dishes?
Parisian food is as diverse and varied as the capital's inhabitants so while some recipes do call for a dash of wine, others are alcohol-free. Gourmets, however, will adore the great classics like coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, and frog legs that rely on wine for robustness and flavor. You can find these tasty traditional dishes in every neighborhood, and they're enjoying a new surge in popularity thanks to the "bistronomy" trend. Just check out the chalkboards outside places such as Chez Denise in the Les Halles district or Chez Josephine in Saint-Germain-des-Prés for dishes of the day.
Paris food isn't only for meat lovers and carnivores. You'll find innovative and exciting vegan and vegetarian restaurants tucked away in every corner of the French capital. The gluten-free trend is spreading too, which is great news for allergy sufferers and those who prefer wheat-free food.
Fresh, innovative and tasty
The Lula Lifestyle Shop on Rue Saint-Maur is the ideal spot for a quick lunch. Everything on the menu is organic and gluten-free, while vegetarian and hearty soups, crunchy salads, and a selection of main courses combine the flavors of France and Colombia. Try La Cantine Vagabonde in the La Chapelle neighborhood for delicious mains like soba noodles with crunchy vegetables, or sweet potato tart with Auvergne cheeses. For afternoon tea, stop at Café Ginger near the Place de la Bastille. The café's cheerful, bright green exterior is the perfect pick-me-up on a cloudy day, and the food is freshly made and well-presented.
There are some basic items that no Parisian family would be without. Croissants for breakfast, a good baguette for any time, and some tasty French cheese. Of course, the food stores offer some of the best in the world. Let's take a closer look.
Le baguette - the staple on everyone's lips
Forget everything you thought you knew about traditional French baguettes. If you've never tried a freshly baked baguette from an artisan Parisian bakery, prepare for a treat. In France, the traditional baguette must weight 8.75 ounces, unlike European and American copies that can weigh a little more or a little less. Food purveyors take the whole baguette business seriously - there's even an annual contest, the "Meilleure Baguette de Paris." At the annual Fête du Pain (bread festival) in July, the award for best baguette is presented by Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Recent winners include Mahmoud M'seddi of the 2M bakery in the 14th, Sami Bouattour from Brun in the 13th, and Michael Reydelet and Florian Charles of the Parisienne bakery in the 11th arrondissement. Go along and try them for yourself.
Bite into the city's best croissants
Golden, flaky croissants are an essential part of breakfast in Paris, and indeed, all over France. These light, airy pastries take their name from their unique crescent shape. They can be served simply with a cup of hot chocolate or filled with anything from cheese, chicken, and ham to fruity jams, honey, and preserves. Try some of the best in the capital from La Boulangerie Julien in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Laurent Duchêne in the 13th arrondissement, or Boulangerie Terroirs d'Avenir at 3 Rue du Nil in the 2nd.
The big cheese
The city has dozens of wonderful fromageries, fragrant enclaves where you can pick up as many big or small cheeses as you like. While you'll always find popular cheeses such as Camembert, Brie, and Roquefort, it's well worth delving a little deeper. You can explore the various French terroirs through delicious cheeses like Gaperon and Picodon from the Auvergne, or Mimolette from northern France. Why not make a visit to a fromagerie part of a daytime outing? Try La Vache dans les Vignes, a tiny cheese shop on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin for an eclectic range of cheeses to take away. The store also has seating for 14 for snacks or lunch. Alternatively, pick up cheese, wine, and a couple of baguettes from Androuet, Fromagerie Laurent Dubois, or Jouannault in central Paris and enjoy a picnic in the park.
Whether you're arriving in the capital by air or by land, you're sure to be hungry. All of the city's major stations and airports have excellent facilities. Satisfy those hunger pangs in a diverse range of establishments including snack bars, fast-food outlets, and fine restaurants.
Where can I find the best food at the airport?
Most visitors arrive at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The airport has a good choice of shops and restaurants where you can pick up snacks or stop for a meal when you arrive or depart. Options include everything from fast-food outlets to handy snack bars like Brioche Dorée that offers sandwiches, quiches, pastries, and desserts. Fancy something a little more upmarket? For French cuisine, try Café Eiffel by Michel Rostang or grab a space at the counter at the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar.
What if I'm arriving by train?
Gare du Nord is Europe's busiest rail station and a hub for the Eurostar. As you would expect, travelers looking for tasty Parisian food have plenty of choices. If you're after something more substantial than a burger or sandwich, the Terminus Nord Brasserie serves authentic old-style French cooking in a cozy setting. Feel like steak-frites? Pop into the Buffalo Grill Gare du Nord or try L'Étoile du Nord par Thierry Marx for anything from breakfast to late night cocktails. If your train terminates at Gare de l'Est, there are lots of good restaurants nearby like L'Enchotte on Rue de Chabrol. Alternatively, try fast-food outlets like Banh Mi on Rue de Turbigo or the wonderful BOL Porridge Bar on Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière.
How about food on the streets?
Food trucks are a relatively new concept but they're the ideal choice if you're walking or driving through the city. For one of the capital's tastiest burgers, the Camion Qui Fume truck is hard to beat. It's the city's first authentic American-style burger truck and the queues are always pretty long. It's well worth the wait, however, as you'll be rewarded with a juicy burger in a fresh, bakery-made bun with real Cheddar cheese and golden, hand-cut fries. The truck can be found in various places such as the Place de la Madeleine, the Canal Saint-Martin, in front of the Musée d'Orsay, and Porte Maillot. Check the truck's Twitter or Facebook accounts for daily locations.
Aside from the classic bistro and brasserie dishes like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon, there are certain foods that visitors really ought to try when they're on vacation in Paris. We've chosen a few of the most popular.
Every self-respecting Parisian café and brasserie has croque monsieur on the menu. A crisp, golden, ham and cheese sandwich that's even more tempting with a touch of creamy béchamel sauce, the croque monsieur is the perfect any-time snack. Try it for yourself at dozens of friendly, casual establishments. We recommend Les Carrés - Croque-Monsieur in the Montmartre district, Le Petit Cler in Passy, and the celebrated Café de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Ask for a croque madame with an added fried egg if you're feeling really peckish.
Soupe à l'oignon
You really must try French onion soup while you're in the capital. Forget the thin pretenders that are popular in the UK and US, real soupe à l'oignon is a meal in itself. This hearty dish is made with either beef or chicken stock and lots of onions. Seasonings and herbs are added, and it's simmered for a long time until the onions are caramelized and it's thick and substantial. The finished dish is then gratinéed with lashings of Gruyere cheese and served with a large chunk of fresh, crusty bread. Treat yourself to a bowl for lunch or supper at Le Bosquet near Quai Branly, Bistrot des Vosges near Place des Vosges, or a food outlet of your choice.
Fast food is oh so sophisticated when compared with the ubiquitous burger and fries. Even sandwiches get the full treatment here and the jambon-beurre is the typically Parisian result. So much more than just a ham sandwich, this tasty snack is made with fine, cured ham and lashings of butter. The combination is irresistible, especially when it's served between two halves of a fresh baguette or baton. You can buy these delicious ham sandwiches from neighborhood boulangeries or pavement cafés all over the city.
Although cassoulet originated in the Toulouse region of the south of France, it is one of those dishes that has become synonymous with the capital over the years. Food is often shared, and the spicy bean casserole is the perfect dish for family get-togethers. Although cassoulet can vary from region to region or restaurant to restaurant, the dish is always made with white beans. Chefs then add duck or goose confit, meats like pork or mutton, or sausages depending on the recipe. You can sample cassoulet at Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes within walking distance of Canal Saint-Martin or at La Fontaine de Mars near Quai d'Orsay.
As you stroll along the avenues and boulevards of the capital, dozens of tempting aromas waft from the doors of patisseries, chocolatiers, and confectioners. If you have a sweet tooth, Paris is the place to be. The choices are endless but, as always, we've chosen some of the tastiest and best.
Bite into the perfect macaron
Who could have imagined that something as simple as two almond meringue shells filled with buttercream or ganache would become one of the top taste trends of the 21st century? Of course, macarons have been popular for decades, but over the past few years, this Parisian food sensation has taken the world by storm. Deceptively simple, yet utterly delicious, these two-bite wonders are available in an extensive range of flavors. Ladurée has the macaron down to a fine art; once baked, they have to stand for two days to achieve the best flavor and texture. Go along and try them for yourself. You'll find Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées, the Rue Royal, Boulevard Haussmann, and Rue Lincoln.
Paris-Brest - the perfect Parisian pastry
Almost every patisserie in Paris sells its own version of Paris-Brest. The famous wheel-shaped pastry is named after the Paris-Brest cycle race from central Paris to the Brittany coast. The choux pastry shell is baked to perfection and then filled with a sweet praline buttercream and topped with toasted, caramelized almonds. Pick up some Paris-Brest for dessert from La Pâtisserie des Rêves, which has branches in the Beaugrenelle shopping center, Rue du Bac, and Rue de Longchamp, or try Jacques Genin in the 9th arrondissement.
Don't leave Paris without trying crêpes
Crêpes are one of those food institutions that everyone loves. As you stroll through the city you can't miss the dozens of crêpe stands selling these lacy pancakes slathered in Nutella or with ham and cheese. Cheap and cheerful, they're the ideal snack between visits to the city's famous attractions. However, for the real thing, try a traditional Parisian crêperie restaurant. Originally from Brittany, crêpes should always be freshly made and never allowed to stand. They are often served with a glass of cider in authentic establishments like Mad'eo! in the 3rd arrondissement and Bretons in the 11th.
Every good chef needs the best fresh ingredients and where better to find them than the traditional food markets that dot the capital? From artisan cheeses to fresh fruit and vegetables, you'll find the best on the streets of Paris. Here are some of our favorite markets.
Marché d'Aligre, sometimes called the Beauvau market, is one of the city's oldest. It is open every day apart from Monday and is divided into two sections: the covered market and the outdoor market. Inside, the three halls are noted for their architecture as well as their excellent range of stores. Highlights include the Langlet-Hardouin cheese shop, a vegetarian butcher, the Sur Les Quais spice and herb store, and Cafè Aouba coffee roastery. The outdoor market opens onto the square and you'll find antique shops and home accessories as well as fresh produce stalls.
Marché Bastille takes over Boulevard Richard Lenoir twice each week. It's one of the biggest food markets and probably offers visitors more choice than the average supermarket. The food stalls are laden with fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan cheeses, wines, cooked meats, fish and seafood, poultry, olives, sausages, pastries, and so much more. Aim to spend the day browsing the jewelry, textile, and accessory stalls in between food shopping.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
Although more touristy than other Paris food markets, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is still worth visiting. The historical market was established in 1628 and takes its name from the red clothing worn by the children of a nearby orphanage. The orphanage closed before the French Revolution but the original wooden market structure remained. In 2000, the site was reopened as an artisan food market and it's now one of the biggest attractions in the Marais district. Go along to shop for fine cheeses and wine, chocolate, fresh seafood, vegetables, fruit, olives and olive oil, and a wide range of fresh and cooked meats.
In the french capital, food is a major part of any celebration. All over the city, Parisians mark special holidays with unique cakes and desserts that are created especially for the occasion. Christmas, Easter, and King's Day are among the best times to look for tasty creations in the city's patisseries and boulangeries.
Be king for a day
La Fête des Rois, or King's Day, marks the Feast of Epiphany on the 6th of January. Since it's not a national holiday, French families celebrate on the first Sunday of the month with traditional cakes known as "galettes des Rois." These flat, round pastries are filled with frangipane and topped with a golden paper crown. Each contains a hidden "bean" or trinket and the lucky person who finds it is crowned king or queen and granted various privileges for the day. However, in Paris, food is always taken seriously and the Fête des Rois is an opportunity for the capital's top pastry chefs to showcase their art. It's also your chance to try unique versions of the traditional galettes des Rois from famous Parisian houses like L'éclair de Génie, Fauchon, Marcolini, and Pierre Hermé.
Celebrate Easter with a culinary masterpiece
Easter is a family occasion in Paris: food is prepared, and Easter egg hunts are organized in the city's parks and gardens. It's also the best time to discover the city's famous chocolatiers as the year's fabulous designer Easter eggs are unveiled. From glorious mammoth eggs to tiny treats, there's something to appeal to everyone. 2018 highlights included Fauchon's Océan, a stunning masterpiece of dark chocolate embellished with cute milk and dark Piemont praline fishes, and Patrick Roger's bestiary of treasure hunt animals. Chocolate shops all over Paris have versions to suit every budget so do look out for them if you're lucky enough to be visiting over Easter.
Try a different kind of cake this Christmas
No French Christmas table is complete unless there's a fabulous Bûche de Noël or Yule Log for dessert. The traditional log is a cross between a Swiss Roll and a roulade; it's normally shaped like a log and decorated with buttercream, frosting, or whipped cream. Of course, food of any type is always an excuse for excess and the city's top chocolatiers and patisserie chefs never fail to deliver. Favorites in 2017 included Pierre Hermé's signature limited edition log combining Viennese chocolate cookies with dark chocolate, whipped cream, and raspberry compote. The stunning Claire de Lune, a gorgeous crescent-shaped beauty by master chocolatier Pierre Marcolini, was another contender. It's worth ordering your artisan Bûche de Noël in advance - these extraordinary creations are snapped up quickly.
To tire of Paris food is to tire of life itself, to paraphrase a famous saying. The French capital is crammed with elegant restaurants, chic bistros, and trendy cafés, with food to suit all tastes. Whether you want a quick snack or a stylish meal in a stunning location, it will be easier to organize with our handy guide. Tuck into classic French dishes or contemporary flavors as you dine in the city's most iconic neighborhoods. Be sure to look out for places popular with locals and do take a moment to share your thoughts with us. Bon appétit!