How to Eat on the Cheap in Paris

| May 20, 2012

Image by Cimm

Paris is not often associated with budget travel. Known as the epitome of luxury and style, where the bourgeois elite only ever dine on miniscule servings of haute cuisine and dainty designer macarons, the French capital just screams ‘expensive!’  But is this really the case?

It doesn’t have to be; you just need to know where to go. In a city where a soft drink costs more than a glass of wine and endless tourist traps lure you with over-priced snacks, working out where to eat in Paris can be a tricky business; this, combined with the currency conversion and language barrier makes it even more compliqué.

Unless you want to survive solely on wine and cheese (come to think of it that isn’t such a bad idea…) here are five ways you can eat on a budget in Paris.

Crepes: Pancakes but Better

Image by Suvodeb

There is just no question; the French can do food. Top-class culinary precision and divine execution of flavour combinations even filters down to street food, the most striking example of which being the crepe, found in every neighbourhood. Think wafer-thin dough, oozing melted cheese and thick-cut ham, garnished with crunchy fresh salad and cracked black pepper. If you have a sweet tooth, go for nutella and banana; a simple but satisfying classic. Quality of crepe varies from vendor to vendor, so hang back and check out what other hungry patrons are getting for their money before you hand over your euros.

Price: €3 – €9

That’s a Load of Falafel

Image by Seamus Walsh

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘French cuisine’, but falafel is one of the most popular street snacks in Paris. These middle-eastern pita parcels of delectable deliciousness are stuffed with all sorts of tasty ingredients; from the scrumptious fried aubergine, pickles, tahini and hot sauce, to the chickpea falafel balls themselves, this feast of flavours is one not to be missed.

Falafel is a great option for non-meat eaters, as the French don’t seem to cater for, or in fact understand, vegetarianism at all. L’As du Fallafel on Rue des Rosiers (in the Marais, the Jewish quarter of the city), is known as one of the greatest places to eat falafel in Paris, so prepare for queues; we guarantee it’ll be worth the wait.

Price: €5 – €8

Have a Mosey in the Markets

Markets are a quintessential aspect of French life; the fresh produce and lively atmospheres found in Parisian market places make for top browsing conditions, and whether you’re looking to cook your purchases in your hostel kitchen, or grab something warming as you wander, you can be sure to find some bargains along the way. Marché Richard Lenoir, a stone’s throw from Place de la Bastille, is a people-watcher’s paradise; locals scrutinise the wares displayed at colourful stalls as curious tourists observe and imitate. Pencil in a morning on the itinerary so you can take your time; check for opening times.

Price: Depends how hungry you are!

Dining out in Paris is a Picnic

Image by Yisris

The weather in Paris can be unpredictable, but if it’s dry, you just can’t beat a picnic in one of the city’s many parks and gardens. In the summer months, head to the Sacre Coeur via a boulangerie to feast on warm baguette with creamy cheeses, artisan charcuterie and a bottle of Beaujolais as you watch the sun set over the iconic Parisian horizon. Fruit and vegetables are very reasonably priced in Paris and the dairy section of the supermarket is often the largest in the whole shop; a quick whizz around Monoprix and voila! You’re ready to faire un pique-nique.

Price: Wine €2+ Picnic for Two: €10+

Rue Mouffetard

Image by Fil.Al

If you simply must sample some of the restaurants in Paris, we recommend swinging by Rue Mouffetard, in the 5th arrondissement, for some tantalising menus with prices to match. Wander the narrow cobbled street and browse the offerings chalked onto the ‘prix fixe’ menus in swirling handwriting outside each restaurant. You can feast on a three course dinner and wine for under €20; menus include French classics such as soupe a l’oignon, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and escargot (yes, snails).

Price: €10 – €20+

Bon Appetit!


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Category: Expert Guides, Food & Drink

About the Author ()

Fresh from the SE Asia/Australia backpacker trail, Emma (or Sparkle as her friends call her) is the newest recruit to join the My Destination Content Team. Currently mourning the loss of her tan, she’s finding comfort in sharing her stories and reminiscing about her travels, which is apparently deemed to be ‘work’. Having grown up in a village outside Cardiff, this little Welshie is still getting to grips with London and delights in shocking people on the tube by smiling at them. She’s a keen dancer and is looking forward to visiting Pineapple Studios and impressing some of you at future socials with her moves (drunken tap dancing is her specialty). Dreams of moving to Fiji and marrying Michael Palin.

Comments (2)

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  1. EmmaSparks says:

    Thanks Rolyq! The more tips the better :)

  2. EmmaSparks says:

    Cheers Samuel! It’s definitely possible – I lived there for 8 months so I’m proof!