Paris, France: Best Restaurants and Sites

by Victoria on October 22, 2013

Louvre Pyramind at Night in Paris, France

I can’t believe how fast time flies. I have already spent a full month in Paris, and am leaving today on an afternoon flight to Nice to travel through the southern coast of France for at least the next week.  I’ve been wanting to visit Paris and try to live like a local for the past couple of years now, and I managed to be around for Paris Fashion Week as well as the annual Nuit Blanche festivities.

Luckily, I’ve had the chance to meet not only a lot of great people, but also try a lot of delicious food, see a lot of amazing things, and even manage to pick up a few words of French (albeit very weak). Although I may even come back to this fantastic city in the near future, I’ve got my travel map all set up and ready to go for anyone who will be traveling to Paris, based on my month long journey. If I do manage to come back soon, I’ll make live updates to this post (or at least the map itself). This list was culminated a bit from those of friends @sensesinspired and @grapesofkath, but also includes many places I happened upon, as well as tips from my Parisian friends along the way.

As a result, here is another custom travel map I’ve culled together. Like my other maps to date, you can open the larger map itself to see all the details, websites, and locations, but I’ve also written out the text for a roundup. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram to get a quick view into my meals and experiences as I go.

Restaurants, Cafes & Bars

 

Frenchie A bustling restaurant for great French tapas. There is the original restaurant on one side of the street and the newer bar side that opened early 2012, where walk-ins are welcome. Go early, put your name on the list, and then enjoy a glass of wine at one of the nearby streetside cafes and watch people walk by in the meantime.
Au Passage Difficult to get dinner reservations, but they have a great prix fixe lunch (18 euro at time of writing). The alleyway (or passage) you walk through is interesting, with old mattresses and beer bottles scattering the ground, but this gem is worth the walk through it all. The restaurant was opened by a non-Parisian who used to go to the same spot as his local watering hole. It went up for sale, so he couldn’t refuse taking over the spot in 2009.
Grenier à Pain There are multiple locations of this fantastic boulangerie, but you’ll find the best croissants in Paris at one of these. This was my local spot, and thus the one I frequented most. Also make sure to try the pain au chocolat!
Ladurée Printemps Located in Printemps, a high end mall for luxury shopping, make sure to stop for a world famous Caramel Salt macaroon (my favourite). Since it’s a smaller location within a mall, this place didn’t seem to have any line-ups to have to endure – c’est parfait!
L’Atlas Great higher end Moroccan restaurant in St. Germain. Try their lamb tagines (apricot and mint was delicious), and their aubergine (eggplant) and artichoke heart salad. I’ve also heard their couscous is wonderful.
Café Français Located right by the Bastille Sunday Market, stop by for a break with a cafe crema and a croissant while people watching.
Berthillon A fantastic ice cream shop in Paris. If you only go one place for ice cream in the city, make sure this is the one you go to! Usually lined up in the streets, you can also taste this treat from one of the nearby cafes or restaurants that also serve it, albeit for a slightly higher price. Apparently, the tarte tatin with caramel ice cream is to die for. I personally loved the pistachio and salted caramel flavours that I tried.
Le Fumoir Great atmosphere for people watching near the Louvre. Settle in for a glass of wine or a coffee for a late afternoon pick me up. There’s a great quiet library in the back, but if weather permits, of course enjoy the outdoor seating!
L’As Du Fallafel Grab a straight up falafel for  € 5.50 and take it to a nearby park or eat on the street. Usually lined up for takeout, or their dine-in option, this is the favourite of Lenny Kravitz, and a great inexpensive option.
Les Marronniers Stop by for a drink or a coffee and people watch! A busy place.
Les Etages Great people watching in Le Marais. Sit down for a drink…or 3!
Au Levain d’Antan Great boulangerie for croissants and very well known for their delicious baguettes.
Carmen Open since 1875, this busy local night club has two levels and rooms.  The building inside is beautiful, and is fun for a night of dancing, if you manage to get inside (apparently you should be able to speak French – as the doorman seemed to let me in on that condition). No cover charge, and drinks start at €12, and it seems to be open until the morning hours. The night I went, it seemed to be quite the scene.
Chez Camille A hipster bar in the heart of Montmartre, this great 50s-inspired place has many a local both inside and spilling out into the sidewalk and street. Open until 1 am, they make not only a delicious, but very stiff mojito that will keep you going for the night. If that’s not enough, go to see the good looking bartenders.
L’Endroit Lively French restaurant with a great outdoor seating area (with purple lighting?) for people watching in the Batignolles neighbourhood.  They make a mean burger and have fantastic and friendly service. Best to go on warmer evenings.
Le Saint Régis A great little French restaurant with excellent charcuterie and cheese platters. Highly recommend stopping in for an aperitif with these entrees – the baguette at this place is fantastic! Lots of people watching for those visiting Ile St. Louis.
Café de Flore A very overpriced cafe / brunch spot for the weekends. It’s very busy, and has a great outdoor seating area, but you will be paying a high price for being in St. Germaine, and having the opportunity to watch the world go by. The food is very substandard, so this place is more about getting a very expensive cappucino (which was good), and socializing with people who are in the “see and be seen” crowd.
Mascotte Montmartre A great place for seafood in Montmartre. The outdoor seating area is much more casual and fun, whereas if you’re looking for something a little more formal and posh, sit in the dining room. The prices are on the high end, but the portion sizes here are pretty much American – you could easily share most of the mains (like the risotto or the moules frites). Delicious fresh oysters, and a great wine list!
Casa Luca A trendy Italian restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe, this is a good stopping point for a bottle of wine and a Pizzette if you’re in the area and needing a rest for your feet in this upscale neighbourhood.
Fauchon If you’re looking for all types of French treats – be it macarons, caramel spread, unique teas or olive oils, you’ve come to the right place! Samples provided, this store is definitely a fun place to look around and shop for something sweet.
Jours de Fête This fantastic Spanish restaurant serves great wine, and delicious food. It’s 22 Euros for an Entree, Main and Dessert at lunch, and you will eat more than you can manage. The confit de canard was amazing with the patatas bravas, and the chocolate lava cake with ice cream was incredible. Super friendly service, and a charming little spot along the canal. I would definitely go back!
Le Comptoir General A hard to find restaurant and good place to spend a Sunday early afternoon with a drink. Super casual bobo atmosphere. If you aren’t a local, or aren’t friends with one, I’m not sure you would ever find it – make sure to look for the address and go around back of the driveway to the entrance.
Restaurant B.B.B. An excellent restaurant with an amazing meat selection and a delicious Foie Gras Maison. Very friendly service with a passionate owner and a very eclectic atmosphere.

 

Markets

 

marché biologique des Batignolles This Saturday only bio market is a wonderful outdoor market with plenty of fresh produce, baked goods, cheese vendors, butchers, and more! It runs from 9 am to 2 pm every Saturday.
Marché Bastille The largest market that I could find in all of Paris. Only on Thursdays and Sundays, you can find anything from fresh produce, cheese, meats and seafood, along with various clothing items and inexpensive take away that you can then take to a nearby park or outdoor space to eat and enjoy some people watching. Best to get there mid-morning, as people are still setting up around 9 am, and it seems to start shutting down from around 2 pm.

 

Sites, Services & Shopping!

 

Parc Monceau Parc Monceau is a great park for runners. Water features, statues, and lots of comfortable benches for people watching, it’s a great place to go for a little down time and to enjoy a picnic in the 17th.
Place des Vosges A great place for a picnic, a rest for your feet, and people watching!
Sacré-Cœur Make sure to head to this beautiful spot during dusk on a sunny day, when the evening light reflects off the Sacre-Coeur and you can look at the beautiful scenery of the City below. Walk up the steps if you need to work off some of that rich French food, or else you can also pay the price of a metro fee to take the gondola ride instead. Also, take the 400+ steps to the top of the dome to really get the best view of the city, besides that of the Eiffel Tower.
Boutique orange – paris 18 For a pre-paid sim, Orange seems to be the place to go. While you can find multiple stores throughout the city, make sure it’s not a franchise that doesn’t provide SIM cards. For an iPhone 5, it was 9 Euro for the SIM itself (including 5 Euros of phone credit), and then 10 Euros for 500 MB of data to last up to 2 weeks. If you’re staying for longer, you’ll need to buy another SIM card with more data. The only one month plans available only provided 300 MB of data for 40 Euros, which didn’t make sense.
Le Marais Le Marais reminds me of Yaletown in Vancouver, in a sense that everything seems a little more high end, and everyone is super stylish in the neighbourhood.  Even the pre-teen school children are more in style than most people in Vancouver. 😛 Great for weekend strolls, delicious restaurants, and shopping!
Galeries Lafayette A massive mall for shopping, located across the street from Au Printemps. The whole area is a great shopping district if you’re looking to buy pretty much anything. Go to the top floor of Galeries Lafayette for a view over the Opera and to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. There is also seating to take a break with a coffee or a snack.
Jardin du Luxembourg / Garden of Luxembourg An amazingly beautiful garden by the Luxembourg Museum. Sundays, listen to music and watch the dancing near the stage, or else relax and people watch around the water fountain. Many families will come with children to rent little boats to play with on the water. Lined with several chairs, try to find the reclining ones – these are the most comfortable and are in high demand! Perfect for a little nap or a picnic with friends.
Colette A great fashion experience, Colette is right on the trendy Rue Saint-Honeré. See and be seen if you hit up this store during the early evening hours (between 5-7 pm). Check out their great magazines, clothing, high-end watches, sunglasses, and fun gadgets!
Palais-Royal A “hidden” garden, within the Palais Royal, this is a quiet place to take a snack and a bottle of wine during the weekend or else in the early evening during the weekdays for people watching, socializing with friends, or relaxing with a good book. Beautiful gardens and a large fountain and many benches and chairs for sitting.
Place du Marché Saint-Honoré This square is a fun place to go for aperitifs at the end of the Parisian workday. Everyone from the office will gather here for a glass of wine and some bites before going home…or continuing their evening elsewhere in the area.
Père Lachaise Cemetery Check out the graves of Edie Piaf, Jim Morrison, Colette, and more.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont Make sure to check out the view of the Sacre Coeur from the top of this park. There is a charming little gondola with steps up near the southern end of the park. Perfect for a picnic or if you want to go for a run in nature to work off some of that cheese and wine!
Kiliwatch An on-trend higher end Vintage store. Find whatever is in season – both in almost new and new options. This one will take a bit of time to get through, but definitely some really interesting pieces!
Shakespeare and Company An amazing bookstore owned by one family over several generations. Large and unique with multiple rooms and two levels, including great spots to sit and relax and read. There’s also a small room with a typewriter that can be used, and writers can come in to enjoy the space with a bottle of wine. Definitely check it out if you’re a book lover or are looking for first editions!
Notre Dame If you manage to go to this famous cathedral during a service, you are in for a phenomenal treat. I walked in during a Sunday evening, and it was quiet and the pews were filled, while listening to the beautiful acoustics and the sounds of voices and the ancient organ filling the space. Stunning, moving, and heartwarming. An experience I will never forget.
Fat Tire Bike Tours – Paris I took the night time tour, which is at a more leisurely pace than the day tours. If you want more details and info, then aim for the daytime, but at night, you get to do a boat cruise down the Seine with wine included, as well as just enjoy the beautiful city lights at night with a group. This was recommended to me by a friend who went, and I definitely had fun seeing the city in a different way!
Printemps Another high end mall right next to Galeries Lafayette. Beyond shopping, check out the 6th floor restaurant where you can dine under the beautiful stained glass dome, or head up to the 9th floor in the next building over to have a drink and take in the incredible view over the city.
Eiffel Tower Even without going to the top, this monument has an interesting history and is beautiful to see. Take a picnic to the nearby park and people watch, or else be sure to reserve your ticket in advance to go to the top so you’re not waiting in a massive line up for no reason. The other option is to book a seating at the restaurant, but be prepared for the starters to cost a minimum of 60 Euros, and at least a 250 Euro meal per person.
Canal Saint Martin Take a walk along the canal, or rest up near the water with a picnic or a good book, on your way down to a couple of great areas for shopping. Alternatively, hit up one of the many cafes that line the canal in fair weather. It may look familiar due to the French movie, Amelie.
Orsay Museum A great contemporary art and impressionist museum. Check out Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Dave La Chappelle, and many others! Easily spend a minimum of 2 hours in this museum. So you don’t have to wait in the long lineups, make sure to book online first via digitick (http://www.digitick.com/musee-d-orsay-paris-css4-digitick-pg5-si9079.html) and you can have your ticket right on your smartphone for quick and easy entry through Gate C.
The Centre Pompidou I went to the special Roy Lichtenstein exhibition and it was fantastic! Make sure to check out not just the permanent collection, but whatever may be temporarily on display, if it’s of interest. Reserve tickets online in advance from the Pompidou site to avoid lineups, but you’ll need a printer to do so. Unfortunately the 5th floor was closed for rehanging (and doesn’t reopen until October 23rd, so keep this in mind if it’s the main reason you’re planning on going).
Rue des Rosiers This busy street in Le Marais is filled with delicious kosher falafel restaurants (Check out L’As du Falafel), cafes, and boulangeries. Great place to stop for a quick inexpensive bite to go while walking around the surrounding neighbourhood or in between shopping.
Champs-Élysées Walk along this street, starting from the Arc de Triomphe, to enjoy the beautiful tree-lined streets and amazing shopping of Paris. Beware there are many tourists here!
Arc de Triomphe The view from the top of this structure is supposed to be incredible. While I didn’t have the chance to go up, it’s still great to see at night all lit up, and also to use as a starting point to stroll and shop along the beautiful Champs-Élysées on a sunny afternoon.
L’église de la Madeleine A massive, beautiful church. Sit on the steps for a break after an afternoon of shopping.
Musée Rodin A wonderful museum of Rodin’s artwork. He used to live in this building and loved the abandoned gardens surrounding the area so much, that he ended up taking over the space and eventually donating his entire collection to the nation in order to preserve the space, and always remain at home there. Great little garden area with his statues throughout.
Hôtel National des Invalides A good place to go see Napoleon’s tomb (in the large dome) if you’re also in the area to check out Musee Rodin. Large gardens out front as well as tickets for entrance to explore the inside.
Sainte-Chapelle Beautiful stained glass windows. Do this site in tandem with the Conciergerie virtually next door to save a little time. You’ll still have to wait in a fairly long security line up with advanced tickets, but it will save you a little bit of time. There are also concerts that can be booked if you’d like to see something at night instead. But I would recommend watching the light stream through the windows during the daytime.
Conciergerie If you’re already going to Saint Chappelle, shorten your wait by going to the Conciergerie first and get dual tickets with no lineup for 12.50. Spend a little time seeing Marie Antoinette’s holding cell before heading to the church nearby.

After this, I’ll have a car rental and will be doing a lot of driving around to the small villages both along the Southern coast of France, as well as inland. I’ll cull together more restaurants and sites over the next week! A bientôt!

Also, let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions to add for Paris food and drink for my next visit – thank you!

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