Gourmand, you've landed in the right place. No city in the world boasts such a high concentration and variety of gourmet delights as Paris. Parisians are famously food-obsessed and regard both cooking and dining out as sacred rituals. Life at home with friends and family centers around the kitchen and dining room, and nightlife in Paris is most often spent around the newest chic table or favorite neighborhood boîte, where the very best way to spend an evening is over a good meal with animated conversation.
Of course, there is much more to Paris than food. But when you start looking around, you'll notice that nearly every museum has its café, and every neighborhood—no matter how central or far-flung—its corner pâtisserie, boulangerie, fromagerie, and épicierie (small gourmet grocer), not to mention its weekly or twice-weekly open-air food market.
Today you'll hit the ground running because no matter how jetlagged you are, there is always an excellent café for a flaky croissant and some gourmet re-caffeinating to be done. So drop your bags and head to the 7th arrondissement, where you can refuel at the loft-like Coutume Café, one of the city's great coffee outposts (and roasters) for a choice espresso or cappuccino, or try a freshly pressed fruit juice and a delicious breakfast pastry. The superb Musée Rodin is just a few steps west. Housed in the great sculptor's studio, the 18th-century house was bequeathed to the city at his death and opened in 1926 as a museum. A four-year renovation finished in late 2015 has restored the elegant mansion to its original splendor. After reveling in the master's work, stroll through the extensive gardens, where you can grab a snack in the outdoor café or pick up a memento at the museum bookstore.
On the other end of the rue de Babylone, past the lovely Jardin Catherine-Labouré, turn right on the rue du Bac to the rue de Sèvres and you'll run smack into La Grande Epicerie, Paris's largest gourmet food shop. Part of the chic Left Bank department store Le Bon Marché, this is a culinary paradise. You'll find everything: fresh pastries, bread, chocolate, wine, every top-quality grocery item under the sun, and all manner of prepared foods ready to be enjoyed. Up the escalator, the Bon Marché home store carries all those stylish French gadgets, tableware, cookware, and linens for the well-appointed kitchen and table.
A few steps down the tue de Sèvres will land you in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris's chocolate central, with a dozen world-class chocolatiers within a square mile. Jean-Charles Rouchoux, Pierre Marcolini, Patrick Roger, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé, and Henri Le Roux are some of the top names to look for.
Stop in at La Dernière Goutte (across from Henri Le Roux), where you'll be initiated into the joys of French small-producer wines (with some of the best wine tastings in English in town). Or head straight to Freddy's wine bar from the same owners, where you can sample splendid wines and small plates of artisanal charcuterie, grilled fish, falafel, duck satay, and much more.
If you feel like a sit-down meal, Semilla, right next door, is a wildly popular neighborhood outpost, where you'll dine on the freshest products among a chic Parisian crowd (reservations are recommended). For a stylish nightcap, head one block over to the trendy Prescription Cocktail Club, a perfect way to end your day.
Breakfast near the Canal Saint-Martin is just the thing, and you've got lots to choose from, depending on your morning mood. For a healthy fix, Bob's Juice Bar (opens at 7:30 am) singlehandedly ignited the trend for fresh veggie juices and fruit smoothies in Paris, and their great selection of healthy homemade treats will set you up right. Down the street, Holybelly (open 10 am) is the hipster's choice for its laid-back vibe, French-American breakfasts, and top-notch coffee drinks, including a yummy chocolat chaud. Tiny Ten Belles (open 8 am) draws coffee aficionados from near and far for pedigreed java and a selection of gourmet nibbles. Next door, Myrthe épicerie is a great place to stock up on French regional delicacies like Provençal olive oil, foie gras from Gascony, or Breton sardines. Stroll along the tree-lined canal before heading to the rue de Marseille, rue Beaurepaire, and rue Yves Toudic for some top-notch shopping.
From Place de la République, cross over to the fashionable haute Marais for a visit to the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, one of Paris's hidden gems, an intriguing mix of old-style nature painting, antique weaponry, and contemporary art in a beautiful 18th-century mansion. Then follow pretty rues Pastourelle, Poitou, and Pont aux Choux (three streets in one) to the legendary Merci, concept store par excellence. Here, you can shop for French housewares, the best in men's and women's fashions, classic French sheets and towels, stationery, you name it, and it's all super chic. With three cafés to choose from (downstairs you'll find some of Paris's best vegetarian salads), you can stay here for lunch or head down the street to Maison Plisson, a new gourmet grocer where you'll find a hand-picked selection of specialty foods from all around France and a café for a quick gourmet bite.
For a little culture, the stately Musée Picasso or Musée Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris, are both within a few minutes walking distance. Or, you can shop the afternoon away in the Marais, one of the city's top shopping destinations, with hundreds of boutiques lining its medieval streets.
Craft cocktails and well-priced oysters make a perfect apéro at Mary Celeste, but you may decide to stay for the excellent menu of Asian-inflected tapas. Or head to stylish GrandCoeur, the Marais's best new brasserie, with an inspiring menu of French classic dishes, a wine list to match, and the added benefit of a lovely outdoor terrace.
Sunday is market day in Paris and the vibrant Marché d'Aligre near the Bastille is a great place to experience all the hustle and bustle of an authentically Parisian market overflowing with seasonal bounty (8 am–1 pm). Don't miss the covered market at the Place d'Aligre and be sure you've reserved your table at Dersou, where diners flock for a spectacular Sunday brunch (reserve in advance).
If you didn't fit in the Musée Carnavalet, now's your chance. Or, if you feel like a relaxing Paris stroll before your trip home, head across the river to the lovely Jardin des Plantes, Paris's first botanic gardens, or meander down the Coulée Verte René-Dumont (aka the Promenade Plantée): three miles of luxuriant trees and gardens atop the scenic Viaduc des Arts.
Where to Stay
First an elegant bathhouse (where Proust liked to go), then a legendary nightclub in the ’80s and ’90s, now the Hotel Les Bains is the area's most glamorous design hotel, with elegant-minimal rooms and a restaurant/cocktail bar that's all the rage. An easy walk to the new Les Halles, the Canal Saint-Martin, and the Marais, this is a good choice for those who like their digs on the chic side.
Reopened in 2014 after a complete makeover and name change, the Art Deco Hotel Baume quickly became a favorite Left Bank lodging for travelers who want lots of style without breaking the budget. Just steps from the Luxembourg gardens, this hotel puts you in the very heart of Paris.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Paris Guide