Myths about Paris
Parisians are rude.
There are too many tourists to get a decent photo of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe (ok that last one is a bit true).
We couldn’t have been more surprised by Paris.
We went in with pretty high expectations of the grub, sure.
But we really didn’t expect to love the people and the feel of the place so much!
… But for real, the food is really great though.
We snapped up an Amex Deal (£200 off a £600 spend) which got us return BA flights and 3 nights’ accommodation for £419.72.
Not only because the decor is modern and fun, the beds are comfy, or because the staff are so friendly and happily chatter with you in pretty impeccable English – but because each hotel has an ‘open bar’ of soft drinks and snacks, and you can swing by any of the sister hotels in the city to refuel for free, all afternoon and evening.
This saved us a bomb in drinks, and we were particularly grateful for these air-conditioned pitstops in the throes of the heatwave.
Paris is big. Bigger than we thought – and not all-that-walkable, at least not end to end. We’ve heard great things about the metro but since we visited during a savage heatwave (42C), there was just no way we were enduring anything resembling the tube.
So, we relied mostly on Uber and Kapten to get us from the airport to our hotel, and to ferry us from A to B if the walk exceeded 45m. A 30m ride set us back around €50 / £45.
It’s worth searching for directions on Google Maps when on your travels – it’ll throw up all the local ride share options. If you’ve never used the suggested ride share, you’ll probably be eligible for some kind of sign-up discount. We got €5 off the first 5 rides with Kapten, for example, which made it cheaper than Uber!
Most of our eating was done on-the-fly – we actually cancelled dinner one night in favour of snacks from various bakeries! When in Paris…
Not a comprehensive list by any means, but we did our research and here are our most favourite bites, ranging from €3 for a pastry, up to €17 for a box of fancy macs.
We’ll start with the obvious – of course, one cannot visit Paris without sampling some ‘proper’ macarons. ‘Tis the law.
We opted for the OGs first.
We were desperate to try the wacky Cheese flavour but they were out – so, we plumped for a more conventional selection including pistachio, coffee, and chocolate.
Verdict: you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Laudurée’s salted caramel macaron. (And any shop-bought macaron you’ve tried in the UK actually isn’t a macaron at all, but comparatively carboardy & utterly flavourless).
Laudrée’s cooky cousin. More far-out flavours (like pineapple & dark chocolate), though they do also stock the classics.
Still exemplary, but a definite 2nd place behind Ladurée in our humble opinion.
Next-most-obvious in our line-up of Parisian baked good: Croissants.
La Maison d’Isabelle won the title of ‘Best Croissant’ in Paris’ most recent competition. Basically the Croissant Olympics, so a pretty big deal you understand.
Of course, you can get bloody decent croissants from plenty of Parisian Bakeries, but why not hunt out the champ?
Get one each of the plain and the chocolate – they’re both flaky, buttery, heavenly goodness, utterly unlike anything you’ve tried in the UK.
We continued our tireless documentation of every ‘worth it’ pastry in Paris with a frankly faultless chocolate & pistachio escargot from Du Pain et des Idées.
Equal parts pistachio, chocolate chips and butter, we think. Just get one, promise?
We popped into one of Fred’s many locations across the City for a small chocolate brioche – which they actually don’t make as it turns out. Instead, we left with one larger than our heads.
Happily it was some of the most buttery, moreish brioche we’ve ever tried and the abundant, melty chocolate chips pushed it (and us) over the edge.
We soldiered on. Worth skipping dinner for.
We’ve heard excellent things about the croissants here, but we had a strict itinerary. So in the spirit of restraint, we split a slab of the quiche instead.
Safe to say we’ve never had ‘proper’ quiche before. Creamy, silky smooth, salty egg filling encased in an impossibly crispy, flaky pastry crust. Rich and wonderfully savoury, this is a great shout to break up the plentiful pudding stops.
So obviously, we did a lot of on-the-go snacking (along with some nibbles at wine bars, which we’ll get to). It’s a pretty cheap way to do it!
Dinner in Paris can be an expensive affair. Happily we’re not nuts about fine-dining – a meal can easily total near as much as the holiday itself, which we always find difficult to justify. So, we sniffed out some happy-medium options for a couple of sit down meals.
As always, we did a little digging beforehand on Google / Tripadvisor / Yelp to avoid wasting a meal on somewhere average.
€85 / £78 for shared starter & dessert, 2x mains & bottle wine (before discount).
A very French restaurant – simply excellent produce, expertly prepared. Very no-frills but nonetheless fabulous.
Our saint of a waitress spoke about as much English as spoke French – so, barely there.
Which was actually lovely! It made for a very authentic, non-touristy evening which was refreshing.
We used The Fork to get a 20% discount (food only), which they applied for us without the awkward conversation which our French simply wasn’t up to. Phew.
€11 / £10 p/glass wine
€5-10 / £4.50-10 p/small plate
Pop in for small plates – think tapas only with traditional French cuisine.
Mid-range pricing – you spend as much as you want to depending on how hungry you are and what / how much you want to try. You’ll find the prices on the ceiling!
Honestly hour – we went for the bread and the literal boulder of butter that sits out on the counter for you to help yourself. It didn’t disappoint – maybe the best bread we tried in Paris. Served piping hot with lashings of that incredible salted butter.
We asked the waiter to select us a wine, which was maybe a mistake since it turned out to be an pricey glass – maybe a sly move on the bar-keep’s part, but then everything might just be that price point.
€17 / £16 for the main event
This whole menu looked killer but we went in with our eyes on the prize: their famous Truffle Croque Monsieur. Labelled ‘le must’ on their menu – they’re not wrong.
Our first meal in Paris, and arguably one of our favourite bites (which is truly saying something).
The bread is indescribably soft, with oodles of molten cheese laced with truffle. The crispy almost-burnt cheese on the outside was the bomb.
(Even the side salad was inexplicably good?)
There are only a couple of waiters looking after this packed restaurant – they’re lovely, so be patient. It’s worth the wait, promise.
Paris has numberless wine bars – we managed to swing by a few during our 3-day visit. Our general feeling is that you can’t go far wrong, but as always we just cross-checked reviews on Google and Tripadvisor before we popped in (anything below a 4.5 and we usually don’t bother. Savage, we know).
€8-12 / £7-11 p/glass wine
€10-15 / £9-13 small plates / desserts
For wine and high-end small plates.
This place’ll come up on pretty much every list, it’s one of the more popular / trendy joints in the City.
The decor and feel of this place is nice – decidedly ‘cool’ and reportedly has queues out the door most nights.
Worth a visit for their very extensive wine collection and characteristically great bread basket, but on the pricey side and as such, not our fave hangout in Paris for sure.
€9-13 / £8-12 p/cocktail
For Jazz and ‘proper’ cocktails. IE: not the trashy pina coladas that we usually plump for – much more sophisticated and largely absinthe-based (which it turns out we really don’t enjoy).
But, the incredibly friendly Canadian bar keep and the absolutely top-notch live Jazz kept us in this joint for the best part of an evening, regardless!
If you’re even a little into Jazz, pop into Lulu’s. It’s impossible not to get swept up by the atmosphere in this place!
€4-7 / £3.50-6.50 p/glass
We visited this bar twice – in a city of seemingly endless wine bars, that’s saying something.
Harry was particularly partial to their orange Rose (with notes of lychee) which we nabbed a bottle of – but their by-the-glass wines represent outstanding value and the nibbles emerging from the kitchen looked delicious (though we abstained, we were saving ourselves for dinner reservations!)
Probably the most reasonable wine bar we found and you can buy bottles to take away for a reduced fee. Perfect for a picnic!
€6 / £5.50 p/glass
€20 / £18 meat & cheese board
This was probably our favourite wine-tasting experience of the entire trip.
The owner of this small little joint sat us down, and took us each through 3 wines once we’d let him know our preferences (…anything sweet).
Once we’d sampled each of his carefully selected offerings and chosen our favourite, he talked us through the origins of each wine before he poured us a full glass and to accompany our huge charcuterie board (these are excellent, everywhere).
We spent a few hours in here chatting to him (impeccable English, and a fascinating man). Without a doubt the most personal experience we had in Paris, and it always feels good to be supporting small, local business owners.
Paris is beautiful – though way larger than we anticipated, so you’ll definitely need to lean on some sort of transport to squeeze everything in.
We happened across tonnes of incredible bars, restaurants and bakeries – they’re tucked around pretty much every corner. The simple Parisian grub was some of our best we’ve enjoyed on our travels.
Do a bit of digging beforehand and you won’t have a naff bite or sip in this city.
More than that, though, the Parisians are beyond friendly. Maybe we got lucky – but the locals we encountered were frankly lovely and so forgiving of our blatant lack of conversational French.
We’d go back in a heartbeat – not something we’ve said of any of our recent city breaks!
Our one regret was that since it was blistering hot, way too hot to be outdoors for any stretch of time … we missed out on picnicking under the Eiffel Tower, or by the Siene with a bottle of wine, some bread, cheeses and meats.
But it’s firmly on our to-do list next time we visit…