The Top Food Markets and Best Restaurants in Paris
We've traipsed the city far and wide to find the most colourful markets and characterful restaurants just for you
Anyone who’s ever spent a weekend in Paris (or indeed watched the film Amélie) will know the pleasures of perusing a French food market, basket-in-hand. Come rain or shine, a trip to the local marché is an unmissable part of a Parisian’s weekend. And for visiting epicures, there are few activities as delicious as wandering the open-air isles of local produce, fresh bread, sticky pastries, ruby red wines and, with any luck, a mountain of smelly cheese. It is one of the finest ways to get to know the Parisian palette, and appreciate the ingredients that go into the dishes of its best restaurants. In fact, while you slurp a few oysters and sort your Roquefort from your Rocamadour, you might find yourself rubbing shoulders with some of the city’s most famous chefs (Alain Ducasse, is that you?). And once you’ve learned a thing or two about French produce, the best way to educate yourself further is undoubtedly to dine in the very best restaurants in Paris.
Read on for a gourmet’s guide to Paris, from its most colourful markets to our personal pick of restaurants. We took the liberty of trying all of these first-hand for you. The sacrifices we here at Plum Guide consistently make for our readers…
Eat at the very best restaurants
Feast on the classics at Au Petit fer à Cheval
With its original mirrored, mahogany decor still intact, this elegantly ramshackle bar has been an icon of Le Marais since 1903 and one of the best restaurants in Paris. It has all the wood panelling, heavy wood, peeling posters and Métro benches of a classic Parisian bistro - with the added appeal of staying open wonderfully late. The tiny entrance conceals a roomy dining space at the back, where you can feast on French classics. Expect brisk but friendly service (somewhat of a rarity, if we’re being honest), carnivorous dishes, lashings of wine and the distinct air of Paris’ Golden Age.
Enjoy cocktails at Vins des Pyrénées
This historic Marais spot was recently restored to its original 1905 splendour, and is now one of the city’s most eye-wateringly beautiful bistros. With a clientele history that includes Baudelaire and Jim Morrisson (not on the same night, we assume), Vins des Pyrénées now serves exciting twists on classics. Think glistening oysters, golden lamb croquettes, steak frites and the perfect, bubbling croque monsieur. Unsurprisingly for a place that was once a wine store, the list of plonk is second to none. And upstairs you’ll find the palm-filled, gold-flecked Le 1905 bar, where you can sip cocktails, listen to jazz and practice your French (or French kissing, as the case may be).
Reserve a meal at Septime
Look no further than this celebrated ‘neo-bistro’ for a taste of contemporary Parisian cooking at its finest. Chef Bertrand Grébaut creates explosive, textural dishes using hyper-seasonal produce. Forget white tablecloths and snooty service, Septime is a breath of fresh air with its scrubby walls, reclaimed wooden tables and open kitchen. Reservations can be tricky owing to its status as one of the best restaurants in Paris, so book a few weeks ahead. Failing that, you can knock back a few glasses at Grébaut’s nearby natural wine bar Septime La Cave, or try your luck at Clamato - an equally fabulous restaurant experience, if you ask us.
Try modern dishes at Le Clown Bar
Once the canteen for clowns from the nextdoor circus, this romantic landmark on Rue Amelot is now a longstanding favourite of chefs and food critics around the world. Prop yourself at the curved maroon bar beneath a painted glass ceiling and enamel tiles for a glass of something cloudy (natural wines are all the rage here). Expect a joyous parade of small, modern French dishes to share, from perfect foie gras, sardines and pigeon to a particularly famous veal brain dish. You’ll let us know how it is, won’t you?
Explore the very best markets
Find seasonal produce at Marché Bastille
With Colonne de Juillet as its backdrop, this sprawling market bursts into Bastille on Thursdays and Sundays. It has one of the city’s best spreads of seasonal produce, stacked in colourful piles that would have Renoir rushing to his canvas.
Browse fine cheeses at Marché St-Martin
This quirky, covered Montmatre market may not be as sizable as its counterparts, but it is a must-visit for visiting foodies with a nose for quality. Enter through a little archway to peruse fine cheeses, fresh bread and local produce, or join locals for a platter of oysters and a glass of something frosty at bar à huîtres.
Explore the stalls at Marché des Enfants Rouges
Taking its name from the 16th-century orphanage that once occupied the site, this market has been filling the stomachs (and emptying the wallets) of locals and tourists for 20 years. Spend an afternoon exploring stalls selling international and local produce, little street snacks and artisanal products. On Sundays head to L’Estaminet, a restaurant tucked in the covered folds of the market, for a fabulous brunch.
Spend time touring Marché des Batignolles
For a perfectly Parisian Sunday, while away an hour or so at this organic produce market in the village-like Batignolles district. You’ll find all the finest biodynamic vegetables, fruits, cheeses, wines, pâtisserie and preserves here, with a few stalls selling freshly-sizzled crêpes.