Your guide to the best restaurants and cafés in Paris, with tips for families with children.
Where to Eat in Paris
Whilst Paris might be a food mecca for anyone who loves to eat, that’s not to say that a good meal can be found everywhere in Paris; a lot of restaurants and bistros are merely tourist traps, serving underwhelming food with questionable service to match.
It pays to research the restaurants and cafés in the area where you will be staying or visiting and to make reservations ahead of your arrival.
I always find comfort in knowing that lunch and/or dinner has been planned in advance, allowing us to fill the time in between for some sightseeing or other touristy activities.
Favourite Restaurants in Paris
I started writing this post about where to eat in Paris a while back, but found that I could never finish it. There was always another restaurant to add, another place to visit, more photos which had to be taken.
This post on Paris just never felt complete to me.
But then it dawned on me that, well, I suppose I am not done with Paris; that there will always be another charming café to discover, another cluttered kitchenware store to visit, another flavour-bursting macaron to devour.
So I thought it was best to just hit the publish button and come back frequently for any updates.
If you have visited any of the places mentioned below, or you have some recommendations of your own, I would love to hear from you!
The Best Cafés in Paris
If you’re looking for a place for breakfast or brunch, you won’t be disappointed with Carette. They have delicious breads and pastries on offer, as well as great coffee and hot chocolate. Before you leave, treat yourself to a selection of their macarons – they are a must. And grab a bag of chouquettes while you are there. High chairs are available for small children – a rare find in Paris!
Tiny cafés in eclectic locations seems to be the trend at the moment in Paris, including the Boot Café which is housed in a former cobbler’s workshop on a secluded street in the Marais precinct. With just enough room for three small tables, this cosy café is occupied by a steady stream of clientele who either pop by for a quick caffeine hit or who linger by the shopfront on one of the colourful stools. A selection of cakes and biscuits are on offer, as well as (at the time of writing) the interesting inclusion of Asian-style buns for those wanting a savoury snack. Definitely a place to visit for serious coffee lovers.
Ob-La-Di Café is currently the hippest hangout for Instagramming coffee lovers in Paris. There is nothing particularly French about this café, but the coffee is excellent, as is the small selection of cakes, pastries and light meals on offer. There is a somewhat Scandinavian feel to the concept behind this café, no doubt due to one of the owners being Swedish. The place seats maybe only 10 people or so at a time, but the service is friendly and the ambience is great. If you’re fed up with the stuffy French waiters at the more typical Parisian bistros, you might want to give this place a try.
LE FLORE EN I’ILE
If you love ice-cream, then you will love Berthillon ice-cream. This French brand of ice-cream, made using only natural ingredients, has its premises on the the idyllic Île Saint-Louis, just around the corner from the Notre-Dame. Many cafés and restaurants in Paris sell Berthillon ice-cream, and one of our favourite spots is Le Flore en I’Ile. I think we come here mostly out of habit; even in the middle of winter will we find an excuse visit this café for a small bowl of ice-cream, even if it means having to rug up outside under one of their heaters. Their food menu is standard café fare and the service can be a bit questionable (or maybe it is typically French), but the ambience is always lovely.
LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN
You may not know this, but Le Pain Quotidien (which means “the daily bread”) actually originated in Belgium. They have over 200 branches worldwide but I felt it was worth mentioning it here because they have great bread and pastries, a solid breakfast/brunch menu, and they are child-friendly. This is one of the few places in Paris where you will find a high-chair for your little one and a baby-changing station (maybe not at all locations but certainly at the branch at Saint Honoré). Maybe, for me, it is the comfort of going somewhere familiar in a foreign city (we are regular visitors of Le Pain Quotidien in Zurich), but when you are a parent and want your child to be suitably strapped to a seat for at least 5 minutes so you can enjoy your café au lait while it is still hot, that’s a good enough excuse for me.
The Best Restaurants in Paris
LA FONTAINE DE MARS
Several years ago, we were kicked out of La Fontaine de Mars during our meal because our crying baby was apparently disturbing the other patrons, even though the restaurant was half empty. We were not brave enough to venture back to this restaurant until during Covid when Paris was eerily empty of tourists, and it was suddenly possible to walk into any restaurant without a reservation. After bribing our kids to be on their super-best behaviour, we nervously survived an entire three-course meal without being kicked to the street! During Covid, the waiters were extremely nice and accommodating, and the food was exquisite. Their menu changes frequently, but it’s worth seeking out their Cassoulet and Duck Confit. I would highly recommend La Fontaine de Mars for traditional French bistrot cuisine, but I can’t make any promises about their hospitality post-Covid 😉
If you fancy soufflé for entrée, main and dessert, Le Soufflé is the place to eat! Their famous dish is the Soufflé Henry IV – a cheese soufflé served with a creamy chicken and mushroom sauce. For dessert, I highly recommend the Soufflé with Apple and Calvados, as well as the Soufflé Grand Marnier. Children can order the entrée-sized soufflés, and there are also non-soufflé options available (such as Boeuf Bourguignon).
LE CAFÉ CENTRAL
Le Café Central is a pleasant find for anyone travelling with tiny tots. Not only do they have a few high chairs on site and a baby-changing table in the toilets (two rare finds in Paris), but their menu is pretty darn good too. Their Duck Confit with fried potatoes is my regular order, but expect to find a decent choice of bistro classics, including burgers with French fries. And on top of all of that, we’ve always had wonderful service.
The Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Paris
No trip to Paris is complete without a bowl of Pho, and Pho 14 is one of our favourite Vietnamese restaurants. They have several locations around Paris, but we always go to the one near the Opéra. I highly recommend their Pho Tai (beef Pho with raw beef slices), Cha Gio (spring rolls/egg rolls) and Papillots aux Crevettes (prawn spring rolls). The decor is cheap and cheerful, and the service is always friendly. They also serve a simple Pho without meat – it’s just a big bowl of noodles in beef pho broth, which is sometimes just all that you need.
This modern Vietnamese restaurant recently had a facelift by way of an enclosed dining terrace installed at both of their entrances, allowing more tables to be squeezed into this popular restaurant, as well as more natural light. The staff are loud but friendly and the food has always impressed. The bowls of Pho are generous but a bit light on fresh herbs, and their Cha Gio (spring rolls/egg rolls/nems) are quite tasty. The only time I was disappointed was when they saw us coming with a toddler in a stroller during their busy period and turned us away. But luckily, there are many options on this street.
The Best Bakeries and Pâtisseries in Paris
A visit to Poilâne is worth it just to breathe in the wafting scent of freshly baked buttery pastries. My favourite is their apple tart. Softly cooked apples, gently spiced with cinnamon, sit atop a crisp and flakey puff pastry base which tastes of heaven at the first bite. These tarts are not for sharing, although a family-sized apple tart is also sometimes on offer, but even then I would want to claim it all for myself. Grab a few pastries and a packet of their shortbread biscuits for snacks on the go, or to sustain you on a long train journey out of Paris.
This is a lovely tea salon to visit for their exquisite pastries. It also happens to be opposite the Jardin de Tuileries, so it’s a good place to stop with the kids for afternoon tea. I highly recommend their signature pastry, the Mont Blanc, which is whipped cream encased in chestnut purée. The kids love the éclairs, giant macarons, millefeuilles, as well as the ice-cream.
The macaron phase looked to be a fleeting one, but even I have fallen victim to these petite morsels of heaven. I once thought I had tried every possible flavour combination that could be squeezed into these coin-sized bites, and even thought my quest for the perfect macaron was over when I discovered Ladurée, but the macarons of Pierre Hermé will make you understand why he is considered the most creative and gifted pastry chef in Paris. Enticing flavours include milk chocolate with passionfruit, or rose and lychee, but the simple salted caramel is an enduring classic. If you’re not a fan of macarons, his chocolates are also highly regarded. Be prepared to part with some hard-earned money for these delectable but worthy delights.
L’ÉCLAIR DE GÉNIE
If you are a fan of éclairs, L’Éclair de Génie is the place for you. The name of this venue is a smart play on French words which translates to “a stroke of genius” in English, something which you won’t deny the moment you step foot on the premise. On offer are an assortment of vividly colourful éclairs with equally bold flavour combinations, such as pistachio with orange, vanilla with blackcurrant or passionfruit with raspberries. While you are there, you may as well try all of them.
I’m quite a fan of choux pastry, so when I saw that this shop proclaimed to have the best choux puffs in Paris, we popped by for dessert one evening. Unlike other pâtisseries specialising in choux, the choux puffs here are not made to order but are ready-filled. However, there are so many mouth-popping flavours to choose from – they are definitely a delight to eat. The store occupies a tiny shopfront with most of the seating outside on the pavement. In good weather, it’s a great place to sit outside with a cup of tea or coffee and a small selection of choux puffs to nibble on.
This article was first published on 22 July 2014. It has been updated with new photos, as well as new listings.