‘Haute-couture breakfast specialist’ Claus serves the ultimate gourmet petit dejeuner (breakfast) – a lavish array of eggs, hams, salamis, fruit, yoghurt, muesli, breads, pastries and more. Or opt for an old-school coffee and croissant at a typical Parisian cafe such as Café Saint Régis near Notre Dame or Le Petit Fer à Cheval in Le Marais.
If coffee is of serious importance to you then you'll want to make a beeline for Holybelly. This large and vibrant spot is part of a new wave of barista-run cafes that have set up shop in Paris. Holybelly also serves breakfast and the best weekend brunch – think bacon-and-eggs with thyme mushrooms and roasted goats cheese. The menu changes monthly but creativity in the dishes is a constant, such as black rice and coconut milk porridge topped with fruit and vanilla fromage blanc (white cheese) or pancakes with bourbon butter and maple syrup.
You can also devote an hour to coffee dégustation (tasting) with a Saturday-morning cupping session at ground-breaking roastery Belleville Brûlerie, where you can buy beans to take home.
There is no finer place to lap up local culinary enthusiasm than at street markets overflowing with French cuisine staples: try Right Bank Marché d’Aligre or Marché Bastille. End with an apéro (pre-meal drink) at the local drinking hole: memorable wine bar Le Baron Rouge for Marché d’Aligre; belle époque cafe Le Bistrot du Peintre or gourmet wine bar Septime La Cave for Marché Bastille.
Continue the market theme with market-driven cuisine for dejeuner (lunch) at Pirouette, a superb neobistro (contemporary bistro) in the former market neighbourhood of Les Halles. The wholesale market was created in 1137 for merchants to sell their wares and served as the ‘belly of Paris’ for over 800 years.
Striking neobistro lunches elsewhere in the city include art deco Le Chateaubriand (imaginative cuisine in the 11th arrondissement), Albion (near Gare du Nord) and nearby Abri (exceptional-value evening tasting menus all week but giant gourmet €13 sandwiches only Saturday lunchtime).
After lunch explore foodie street rue Montorgueil, once the city oyster market immortalised in Balzac’s La Comédie humaine. Search out Paris’ oldest confectionery house at À La Mère de Famille, and Charles Chocolatier who crafts artisan chocolates made with 100% cocoa butter (no milk, butter or cream). A baba au rhum (sponge cake soaked in rum-flavoured syrup) or puits d’amour (vanilla cream and caramel puff pastry) from 18th-century bakery Stohrer makes tastebuds flip somersaults every time.
If glace (ice cream) is your vice, stroll south past the glittering gold canopy roof of modern-day Forum des Halles to the Seine and hop across the water to Île St-Louis for an ice cream or sorbet at legendary Berthillon. Burn calories by climbing to the rooftop of Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris.
Time for the second sacred apéro of the day: nightlife-busy Le Marais is perfect with its abundant cafes and bars. Standouts for foodie aperitifs include staunchly local Aux Deux Amis (tapas-style dishes, hand-chopped horsemeat on Friday), Candelaria (homemade tortilla chips, nachos and tacos) and Le Barav for excellent wine. For well-crafted cocktails after 6pm try Le Mary Céleste – the shared small plates are outstanding.
Paris is your oyster when it comes to dining well at dinner time whatever the budget. For casual gourmet dining, reserve a table at Le 6 Paul Bert (small plates), Bistrot Paul Bert (quintessential bistro) or L’Écailler du Bistrot (22 rue Paul Bert, 11th arrondissement) for oysters and other seafood. Le Pantruche and Bistrot La Bruyère (pig trotter pancakes with apple chips anyone?) are superb value for modern French cuisine in the edgy 9th arrondissement. Bones is the red-hot choice in the foodie 11th – if you don’t have a reservation, try the walk-in option at 9.30pm.
For fusion fare Michelin-starred Yam’Tcha, headed up by one of the city's most talented female chefs, is the address – pair creative, Franco-Cantonese dishes on the menu with wine or tea. Other top picks of the 90 or so Michelin-starred Paris addresses include Le Jules Verne for its magical perch up high in the Eiffel Tower, and Jean-François Piège (thoumieux.com) for traditional cuisine in his twin-starred restaurant upstairs or the less formal Brasserie Thoumieux downstairs.
The Left Bank beckons with a stroll and delicious breakfast on the hoof along rue Cler. The market street is right by the Eiffel Tower but buzzes with locals shopping for fresh produce at weekends. It’s worth the short walk to Poilâne (49 bd de Grenelle, 15e), the city’s most famous bakery whose distinctive sourdough loaves have fed Parisians since 1932; the original is in St-Germain des Près. Buy a fun loaf-lookalike cushion as a keepsake. For a more leisurely breakfast or brunch, retro cafe Pain & Chocolat is the place.
Climb the Eiffel Tower and sip an early glass of bubbly in the champagne bar at the top. Or walk 45 minutes along the Seine to the Louvre to scout out magnificent banquets and overfed dukes with a food-and-wine-themed THATLou treasure hunt. Tea aficionados might want to ditch both for tea tasting at Mariage Frères instead, the finest tea shop in Paris dating back to 1854.
Dip into the Latin Quarter, stopping off at Fromagerie Laurent Dubois to admire rare limited-production French cheeses. Rev up tastebuds with the smell of chickens roasting at the city’s best Sunday market, Marché Monge, and nearby market street rue Mouffetard. Join stall holders at old-world café-tabac Le Verre à Pied for an apéro and plate of charcuterie (cold salamis and meats). Discover brasserie dining over lunch at 1906 art nouveau ‘soup kitchen’ Bouillon Racine.
Devote the afternoon to mastering the art of French cuisine with a cookery class – macaron classes organised by Le Foodist are wonderful. Afterwards, admire the extraordinary work of master pâtissiers such as Philippe Conticini at La Pâtisserie des Rêves and gorge on afternoon tea and cakes at world-famous pâtisserie Ladurée.
An outstanding apéro address on the Left Bank is vintage wine bar Au Sauvignon – order an open sandwich made from Poilâne bread to share. Or cross the river for a cocktail and tacos at clandestine taco bar Candelaria, or natural wine tasting with experts at Le Verre Volé by Canal St-Martin.
Dinner choices are limited Sunday evening when many restaurants close. But there is no compromise involved when dining at Yves Camdeborde’s bistro Le Comptoir du Relais or edgy neobistro Semilla, both in St-Germain des Près. Richer (no reservations, arrive at 7:30pm sharp or before) is an outstanding choice in the 9th arrondissement.
Before you go
- Dedicated food-themed weekends require advance planning: book cooking classes, tours, treasure hunts and tables at popular restaurants at least several weeks before.
- To explore the markets with a Parisian, sign up for Localers and Meeting the French (meetingthefrench.com) market tours. Paris by Mouth (parisbymouth.com) organises cheese and wine workshops near Marché d’Aligre. Or cook up your purchases during a market class at La Cuisine Paris (lacuisineparis.com).