Few places get the swooning-hearts-in-eyes reaction of Paris. The love runs deep — with the quaint cafés, twinkling lights, and chic locals bringing the vibes. And that extends to the famous foods in Paris.
From mouth-watering desserts to traditional dishes and street food, there are numerous ways for you to eat like a local when you travel to the City Of Lights and you’ll likely want to try some of the famous foods in Paris while there.
Our Paris food guide will go over the most essential classic French dishes from the city so you can taste the flavors that make this culinary capital so delicious.
Dining Culture In Paris
Before we get into the famous foods in Paris, we should sidebar. This list of famous foods in Paris is squarely focused on traditional French food. It’s a subset of the culinary scene in the city that’s mostly served in traditional cafés, bistros, brasseries, and restaurants.
And it should be said that traditional Parisian restaurants are more structured than stateside. Many restaurants have set menus, set dining times, and the service can sometimes seem brusque to Americans. But the country has such a vibrant boutique produce industry and an incredibly rich culinary culture that it more than compensates.
In these more traditional settings, meals are an event that can last for hours. Head to a street food spot (see the crêpe stand recs!) if you’re in a hurry; otherwise, you might be whiling away the day tableside.
Finally, keep in mind that Paris is the most modern, cosmopolitan, and creative of French cities regarding everything from design and fashion to food, so these classic foods are not the only game in town.
There are also numerous modern street food spots, cutting-edge fine dining, and creative neighborhood joints more that make a mark on the city. If you’re looking for a full list of Paris restaurant recommendations, reach out and we’ll share those as part of our travel planning services.
Classic Foods To Eat in Paris
All that said, we insist that everyone try classic French foods when in Paris especially if it’s your first time to France. Here are the most classic famous foods in Paris and a few places to try them.
Classic Parisian Bread
To clarify, there are various types of baguette but the baguette classique is the best known and it hails from Paris. The traditional Parisian baguette is made with white wheat flour (considered more refined (figuratively and literally than the country-style ones that were made with whole wheat flour) and known for its crisp golden crust and delicate mie or crumb. These baguettes area often around 250 grams in weight and there is even a competition for the best baguette each year — the 2022 winner is Frederic Comyn from the 15th arrondissement of Paris.
Thanks to the “bread decree” of 1993, the more popular style these days is the “baguette de tradition française.” The boulangeries who make this style turn out baguettes that have a short kneading time, a long fermentation, and are made with flour without additives.
There are a few myths about how and why baguettes came about including one that Napoleon Bonaparte had bread made into long sticks so his soldiers could fit it in their pockets. Whatever the reasoning, we can all agree that there are few things more quintessentially Parisian than a baguette.
Copy locals and eat the heel of the baguette, called le quignon, on the way home from the bakery.
Among the most famous foods in Paris is the croissant. Many credit Viennese bakers for inventing the crescent-shaped treat during the 17th century while others claim it was created in Paris in the late 19th century.
There are two different main types of croissants you can find:
- Croissant au Beurre: Made with butter and usually has the tips pointing outward
- Croissant Ordinaire: Made with margarine and usually has the tips pointing inward
Get in touch if you’re searching for great croissants in Paris, and we’ll pass along recommendations as part of our travel planning services.
This rustic round country loaf hails from the renowned Parisian bakery, Poilane, and is made via a natural sourdough starter. The interior is dense, chewy, and slightly smoky from it being baked in a wood-burning oven. Our favorite open-faced sandwiches (aka tartines) are made with this bread.
Classic Parisian Drinks
Café au Lait
Many a French person starts their day with a café au lait and a croissant. This coffee drink is traditionally made by combining a shot of espresso with steamed milk and is served in a large bowl. These days the use of a café au lait bowl is rarer, but it’s perfect for dunking a pastry, so we’re happy when we come across it!
A cousin to the café au lait, a café crème is a coffee drink that is also made with espresso but it uses less milk. Akin to a cappuccino, the cafe creme is most commonly consumed at breakfast and you can order the larger grand crème or, the smaller petit crème.
Long before chocolate became one of the most famous foods in Paris, locals were drinking hot chocolate aka chocolat chaud. The most classic (and best, in our opinion) versions are like a drinkable chocolate ganache. Many people cite Angelina as their favorite chocolat chaud spot in the city, but Carette is also worth a visit.
Like a do-it-yourself lemonade, this Parisian drink is a must-order during the hot months. When you order a citron pressé, a tall glass will arrive partially filled with ice and freshly squeezed lemon juice and there will be sugar and water on the side. You then mix the citron pressé to your preference!
Order an orange pressée if you want it made with orange juice instead of lemon juice.
Classic Parisian Sandwiches
The first crêpe recipes on record were said to have been made in the capital city of Paris making it one of the all-time most famous foods in Paris. Unlike the rustic Breton-style buckwheat crepe (aka a galette), the typical Parisian style is made by cooking a thin egg, milk, and flour batter on a round griddle.
These days you’ll find the Parisian treat at sidewalk crêpe stands, many along Boulevard Saint-Germain (where university students eat after a night out), and at sit down eateries known as crêperies, many of which are in the Montparnasse neighborhood. Head to Lulu La Nantaise for a to get a taste of the buckwheat and flour-based creeps.
“Croque” means crunch in French and here it’s referring to the toasting of this classic French ham and cheese sandwich, which makes for a crunchy crust.
The sandwich is said to have been invented in a Paris brasserie in 1901 when the owner ran out of baguettes for his sandwich of the day. He instead used “pain de mie,” and now the Croque Monsieur is one of the most famous foods in Paris.
The sandwich is traditionally made with ham and cheese slices it’s then topped with salt, pepper, and a bit of grated cheese and toasted. The sandwich is sometimes dipped in beaten egg before being cooked and some places add in béchamel sauce. Traditionally, Gruyère cheese is used, but sometimes similar cheese like Comté or Emmental cheese may be used.
What’s the difference between Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame, you ask? An egg! The Croque Madame adds a fried egg to the top.
The jambon beurre is as Parisian as the Moulin Rouge though it’s not that well known outside of France. This simple sandwich is nothing more than a baguette that is slathered with butter and then topped with high-quality ham. . It may sound boring but it’s anything but.
In the late 19th century, the jambon beurre became famous because of people who worked in the Les Halles market. This lunchtime snack was protein-rich and kept market workers full throughout the rest of the afternoon.
To be cleary, the word tartine refers to any open-faced sandwich, be it a breakfast of bread slathered with jam and butter or topped with savory ingredients for lunch, a snack, or a nibble with an aperitif. They are so beloved by locals that a few Paris restaurants, including the old-fashioned La Tartine, specialize in tartines.
Classic Parisian Main Dishes
Though classic French food lovers will want to search out classics like boeuf Bourguignon, coq au vin, duck confit, escargots (yes, snails!), foie gras, frog legs, and paté, those aren’t dishes that specifically hail from Paris. Here are a few famous foods in Paris:
French Onion Soup
The hearty French dish that is French onion soup (aka Soupe à l’oignon in French) needs no introduction. It is a blend of rich beef stock and caramelized onions (often with a shot of sherry) topped with toasted country bread with melted Comté or Gruyère cheese.
One of the most famous foods in Paris, it gained popularity in Parisian restaurants in the 18th century when it was said to be a restorative served at Les Halles, the former wholesale market in the middle of Paris.
There is a long-running debate about whether the French or the Belgians first came up with French friends.
The French claim they were first cooked near the Pont Neuf, which happens to be the oldest bridge in Paris, in the mid-nineteenth century so we’re including it in our list of famous foods in Paris.
Sidewalk vendors are said to have cut potatoes into long planks (some say to resemble the bridge) and then fried them in fat. It’s said the most delicious way is to add a piece of beef suet to the frying oil.
Omelette aux Fines Herbes
A staple of French cuisine, the omelet is a dish that can be served as a first course for a traditional meal or as a light meal. Unlike in the United States, you will not traditionally see an omelet (or any eggs) served for breakfast.
The classic Parisian omelet is just set on the outside (never browned), still a touch runny on the inside, and topped with fines herbes or a mixture of chopped fresh herbs, including parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon.
Oysters and Fruits De Mer
If a city were to have a seafood mascot, Paris’s would be the oyster which is why they’re are on our list of famous foods in Paris.
During the colder months, bistros will have all sizes and varieties on display. They serve them with mignonette sauce or piled with other fresh treats from the sea for a multi-tiered seafood tower known as a fruits de mer platter.
Head to Huîterie Régis for some of the best oysters in the city and have them along with a glass of excellent Champagne or Sancerres.
If you need more ideas on what to eat in Paris, look no further than steak frites.
Steak frites is a dish of steak (almost always served rare or medium-rare) with French fries. Different variations of dishes experiment with the cuts of steak, seasoning, and sauces including bearnaise, cognac sauce, sauce verte, or peppercorn sauce. Traditionally, rump steak was used but you’ll also see ribeye used.
One of the best dishes in Paris is steak tartare. Made from raw ground beef, and typically served with capers, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper, this dish is sometimes served with a raw egg yolk on top.
While it’s incredibly popular in Paris, the dish is said to have come to the country via Mongolia via Russian sailors in the 17th century. However, there has been some debate on how the dish came to Paris.
In 1875, novelist Jules Verne described steak tartare in his book, “Michel Strogoff.” After that, steak tartare became the signature dish in the Eiffel Tower restaurant named “Le Jules Verne.”
Classic French Pastries
Not to be confused with the homey British dessert by the same name, the French Charlotte is made of sponge cake or ladyfingers and a fruit-flavored Bavarian cream. Chef Marie-Antoine Carême created this classic French dessert when he served a Charlotte Russe for a banquet at the Louvre for Czar Alexander I in 1815.
Paris is one of the best places in the world to eat ice cream which is why we had to include it in the famous foods in Paris. The city’s ice cream (aka glace) vendors sell elegant flavor combinations, but the most famous shop is Berthillon, located on the Île Saint Louis.
The shop’s ice creams and sorbets are available across the city but we think there is a certain romance to lining up at the original location. When in doubt, order the salted caramel flavor, as it sets the bar for all things salted caramel in our book.
Not to be confused with macaroons (the shredded coconut cookies of Jewish origin), macarons are among the most famous of all French cookies. Their made by sandwiching almond flour cookies around fillings like flavored buttercream, ganache, jam, or curd.
These treats were created by two sisters at the French Carmelite convent in Nancy in the late 1800s. They were soon very well known and were called “Les Soeurs Macarons“ (“The Macaroon Sisters”) and the cookie became a hit. These days Ladurée and Pierre Hermé pastry shops are the best-known spots for eating them in Paris.
This beyond-decadent layered chocolate dessert is one of our favorite classic French desserts. Fittingly for one of the most famous foods in Paris, the dessert is named after Paris’s famed Opéra Garnier. It’s made by assembling layers of coffee buttercream, syrup-soaked cafe, and ganache for a dessert that we’re always game to order.
By far, one of the most famous foods in Paris is the Paris-Brest pastry. Named after the Paris-Brest bicycle race that passed by his pastry shop, chef Louis Durand created this dessert in 1910.
It classically consists of a circular piece of crisp choux pastry that is filled with hazelnut cream, but these days, you’ll find mini versions and variations with different flavors.
Famous Foods Streets In Paris
Or venture to the pedestrian-only streets lined with food shops like Rue Mouffetard or Rue Montorgueil.
Set along the Right Bank in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements (aka neighborhoods), Rue Montorgueil is a pedestrian-only street with legendary spots. Go to L’Escargot Montorgueil for escargots, get baked goods at pâtisserie Stohrer (the city’s oldest continuously-operating pastry shop, and have oysters that the more than 200-year-old Au Rocher de Cancale.
Have Us Plan Your Paris Trip!
There’s nothing better than French food and now you’re set with our list of the most famous foods in Paris. Need help planning your trip? Contact us today to learn more about our France travel planning services.
Photo Credit: Opening photo by Kirayonak Yuliya; French croissant by y Simone Wave; Steak tartare by Rebecca Fondren; Paris Brest pastry photo by Theerawan; all other photos by Team Salt & Wind Travel