Modesty? I don’t know her. These Parisian restaurants and cafés deliver on the mythical Paris that was promised to us. From luxury brunch to insane Louvre views, they are sure to check all your boxes. Pinky promise.
Le Meurice Alain Ducasse
Le Meurice is the Paris dining experience of your dreams. This is not an over-exaggeration, and this is not a drill. Attached to the luxury hotel of the same name, Le Meurice has two Michelin stars, literally one of the best pastry chefs in the world under their gilded thumb, and (speaking of gilded) a dining room oozing with panachè. We’re talking marble walls, gold frilly trim and delicate rococo paintings that make you feel like you’re visiting the art museum across the street. And as for the food? It’s classy and multi-course featuring meats in rich sauces and a chef so incroyable he can make plain vegetables taste new and exciting. We’re also going to repeat that part about literally one of the best pastry chefs in the world (he also does their afternoon tea, can you imagine anything more perfect?). As for the prices, well, you can always give up your first-born son. It might even be worth it.
ADDRESS: 228 Rue de Rivoli (1st arr.)
MÉTRO: Tuileries (line 1) or Concorde (lines 1, 8, 12)
DEETS: hotel restaurant, breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, iconic, posh, in the Michelin guide, open Saturday, open Sunday, classic French, old school cool, worth the flight, worth the bankruptcy, MOF, awards for days
No self-respecting Francophile can visit Paris without stopping by Ladurée. They literally invented macarons (yes, literally), so why not get bunches of joy-inducing pastel sandwich cookies straight from the source? Even if macarons aren’t your cup of tea (what is wrong with you?????), they also have great variations of pretty much every classic pastry you can think of, as well as a swanky tea room on the Champs-Elysées. Whichever location you choose across Paris, expect to be met with the same mint-green posh décor and excellent quality that speaks for their institutional status. There’s even a few (admittedly, less sparkly) Ladurée stands at the airport for some last minute plane treats. You literally have no excuse.
ADDRESS: 75 Av. des Champs-Élysées (8th arr.) / 16–18 Rue Royale (8th arr.) / 14 Rue de Castiglione (1st arr.) / 99 Rue de Rivoli (1st arr.) / 14 Rue de Bretagne (3rd arr.) / 21 Rue Bonaparte (6th arr.) / 62 Blvd. Haussmann (9th arr.) / Gare de Lyon (12th arr.) / 15 Rue Linois (15th arr.)
Bontemps has pretty much everything for the perfect quaint Parisian tea: a great location (Le Marais), a borderline stereotypical French aesthetic (frilly, sugary, pastel as all hell), some great desserts (do try the lemon cookies, possibly the best cookies in town), and of course, great tea. It can all be splendidly enjoyed in Bontemps’ lush and idyllic secret garden terrace; a cute courtyard full of lacy white furniture and oodles of cascading greenery (be sure to book in advance).
ADDRESS: 57 Rue de Bretagne (3rd arr.)
MÉTRO: Arts et Métiers (lines 3, 11) or Filles du Calvaire (line 8)
Originally founded in Moscow, the Parisian incarnation of Café Pouchkine is a seamless Franco-Russian hybrid that oozes elegance and deliciousness. The first floor is a cute (if marble can be considered cute) bakery, and if that somehow doesn’t tempt you, travel up the grand gold-and-iron-wrought staircase to the several swoon-inducing intricate and opulent rooms that make up the café. The menu offers everything from caviar to blinis to macarons, and the drink menu has a long list of craft teas and beverages. In true cross-culture fashion, both vodka and champagne are featured. The vibes are a romantic, pre-revolution kind of timeless, and the experience is inescapably classy.
Le Train Bleu is the most conveniently beautiful dining room in Paris. The convenience: it’s in the Gare de Lyon (train station at the center of town, you probably take a shuttle there from the airport, NBD). The beauty: a stunning cobalt blue and gold palette complete with mahogany wood paneling, delicate paintings on the walls and ceilings, gold filigree everything and those stunning large train station windows. Seriously, it’s breathtaking. Also convenient: Le Train Bleu serves gourmet classic French food, like beef tartare, foie gras and grilled salmon at pretty reasonable prices considering the setting and quality. They also have explicit vegetarian options which is always a plus.
Beefbar is the name, high quality beef is the game, and if you’re a meat-loving architecture nerd, this is the place for you. Before its self-explanatory incarnation, Beefbar used to be La Fermette Mabeuf, an art nouveau landmark constructed during the Paris Exposition. La Fermette’s gorgeous skylight roof, garden-inspired painted walls, and intricate metalwork are all still wonderfully preserved and can be enjoyed with some steak frites, kobe or wagyu beef, or gourmet burgers. The food is pricey, the atmosphere historic, and the setting delightfully unparalleled for casual carnivorous consumption.
There’s restaurants with great locations and great views of the nearby monuments, and then there’s Le Café Marly, an upscale modern bistro that is kinda sorta in the Louvre; you know, that place where the Mona Lisa is. Like all museum cafés (no matter how fancy), it’s a bit pricey, but for those willing to shell out for the incredible neoclassical terrace and wonderful selection of vegetarian and carnivorous meals, it’s well worth it. If terraces (and a view of I.M. Pei’s pyramid) aren’t your thing, Le Café Marly also has a classy orange dining room that overlooks the Louvre’s sculpture collections. The cuisine cannot be nailed down to any one genre and offers everything from truffle ravioli to veggie burgers, beef carpaccio to an impressive signature cocktail list. It’s the perfect, delicious refugee from the endless art-hungry crowds.
Nina’s, a tea shop founded in 1672 that retains its original 17th-century Vendôme location, is possibly the closest an average Paris tourist may come to emulating royalty. Originally a perfume store created by the King’s “magician of fragrances,” Nina’s has the exclusive privilege of making tea from the fruits and flowers that grow in the Royal Gardens of Versailles, the very same one created by Louis XIV. For those feeling extra fancy, try the Marie Antionette blend made from rose petals and apples plucked from the garden and named in honor of the queen’s very real patronage. The royally white and gilded store also doubles as a very tiny tea salon just in case you want some cake with your Marie Antionette tea.
Chez Plumeau is a classic French bistrot that, quite simply, has the prettiest tree in all of Paris. Located steps from Sacré Cœur and immersed in an idyllic countryside vibe, Chez Plumeau is home to a massive hundred-year-old wisteria tree that stretches artfully over the gorgeous, cobblestoned terrace. Chez Plumeau used to be a cabaret and, as a result, the interior is pretty classy and interesting, but the tree should be a monument in itself (you heard me Sacré Cœur). The classic dishes, like beef tartare or duck tournedos, are well worth the visit, so if you’re not fortunate enough to visit when the wisteria is in bloom, be sure to look it up and enjoy your experience anyway.
FrouFrou embodies the simplest yet classiest of all cultural experiences: dinner and a show. Located in the Theatre Edouard VII, a medium-sized theatre steps from the (admittedly much grander) Opéra Garnier that regularly puts on productions with English subtitles, FrouFrou can delight patrons of the arts with its rich colors and exclusive vibes. The restaurant, a beautiful dark blue room with floral motifs, features gourmet modern French food with a special section of its menu dedicated to shared plates. The bar however, is the showstopper. Located underneath the restaurant in speakeasy fashion and coated floor to ceiling in a rich blood red, the bar is only open for a few hours before each show.
ADDRESS: Théâtre Edouard VII, 10 Place Édouard VII (9th arr.)
Lapérouse has a lot to brag about: it’s old (founded in 1766), it’s steps from the Seine in the center of town, it has a pretty cool wine cave (tastings available), and it has a pretty sexy history consisting of illicit affairs, secret deals, and famous clientele just to start. The setting fits the mood. Lapérouse is tricked out in 18th-century moodiness from the dark wood-paneled walls with gilded accents to the dripping chandeliers, from the lush upholstery to the storied mirrors scratched by diamonds. As for the food, the offerings are as swanky as the surroundings; three-Michelin-star gastronomy including delicious dishes with caviar, blue lobster, and pigeon, all crafted with the finest ingredients.
If you find yourself enthralled with Notre Dame and wish Paris hadn’t been architecturally overhauled in the 19th century, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole is the most logical next stop on your trip. Perfectly situated in the Île de la Cité, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole has an atmosphere that can only be described as beautifully medieval. Let’s start with the outside: a delightful terrace dotted with cheerily purple tables underneath a sprawling wisteria tree that transforms into lush cascading greenery. Inside, the majority of the restaurant is coated in a sumptuous pink velvet (chairs, walls, curtains, everything) which leaves a few imposing exposed stone walls and some carved wooden furniture to truly sell the ancient vibe. The menu features a variety of delicious, surprisingly reasonably-priced French classics including duck confit, snails, and in true medieval fashion, rabbit.
Behold, the most otherworldly terrace in all of Paris. Maison Sauvage is a health-forward, two-story restaurant in the storied Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood that, among the many literary cafés that dot the region, stands out due to the wild pile of seasonally changing flowers it lies beneath. The elegant, ethereal drape of flowers gracing Maison Sauvage’s awning and second floor is a spectacle best not missed, and it’s best viewed from the various tables scattered around the sidewalk. Besides the carnival-esque show, Maison Sauvage offers three meals (and a brunch) of trendy staples like avocado toast, quinoa bowls, and fish tacos. A word to the wise: the terrace tables are first come, first served.
ADDRESS: 5 Rue de Buci (6th arr.) / 5 Place Victor Hugo Corner rue Raymond Poincaré (16th arr.)
Le Grand Salon at the Hôtel Particulier is the perfect blend of exclusivity, gourmet food, and a dreamy garden party. The Hôtel Particulier Montmartre is the smallest hotel in Paris and its restaurant has the privilege of boasting an art-déco chic dining room as well as, weather permitting, access to the largest, lushest hotel garden in town. It’s like being trapped in a Monet painting, only with better service. The restaurant has all sorts of fancy foods to match the mood including risotto, seared tuna, Mediterranean octopus, an afternoon tea, and a savory-leaning Sunday brunch. The entire experience screams high-class old money, and lots of it.
One of the many restos located in the Passage des Panoramas, Astair stands out with its classy, shiny, upscale take on the classic Paris brasserie. First, let’s discuss the setting: the Passage des Panoramas is the oldest covered passageway in Paris, built in 1799, and it’s the perfect mix of clandestine, historic, and trendy. Astair takes advantage of the passage’s beautiful glass skylights and marble walls to offer some chic “outdoor” dining, while the inside of the restaurant explodes with a wickedly timeless, jazzy, salmon aesthetic. In terms of food, Astair offers some reasonably priced, delightful takes on French classics including eggs mayonnaise aplenty, sautéed octopus, and warm goat cheese salad.
The second restaurant of note located in the seriously cool Passage des Panoramas is Canard & Champagne; a spot with a concept as simple as their name. Serving duck and champagne (free-range duck and small-fry champagne, if we want to be specific), Canard & Champagne inhabits a 200-year-old stationary shop graced with an intricately carved wooden storefront, an art-deco-esque black-and-white tile floor, and a gilded ceiling. Even better than the classy, covert setting and décor are the fantastic prices. Canard & Champagne has a simple menu riddled with great formula deals in addition to all the duck and booze.
Let’s be real, Le Colbert has pretty much everything the average Parisian traveler could want: a cool, yet homey atmosphere, an esteemed celebrity clientele, a long dessert list, and of course, more. secret. passages. Gloriously situated between the Galerie Vivienne and the Galerie Colbert, two fabulous covered passageways, Le Grand Colbert revels in its royal history while also offering enough meat and seafood to feed the masses. The dining room is a cheerful yellow with historic mosaic floors and a Roman vibe (as well as a sizable and sleek bar). The vast array of offerings can vary from a simple (and cheap) foie gras to an extravagant (and exorbitant) whole lobster. It’s classy, it’s bright, it’s peak old world glamor, and it’s also pretty gosh darn tasty.