It's not just the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or Jardin de Luxembourg — food also defines the city and its culture.
Think caviar, foie gras, oysters, cheese, champagne and of course, truffles. For many visitors and would-be travelers, the food has an irresistible pull to the City of Gourmet Delights.
To get the biggest bite of French gourmet food it's important to plan your culinary itinerary before you leave home. Otherwise it's easy to miss the small food shops that offer rare delicacies, often only available in Paris.
Entering a Paris food store can be intimating. But don't be afraid. If you just remember to say bonjour when you enter and au revoir when you leave, you'll be welcomed.
We encourage you to wander the narrow streets of the most interesting parts of the city (the 1st, the 2nd, the Marais and the Left Bank) and stop into any shop that catches your fancy or your interest. For just one example, L'Epicerie de Bruno in the 2nd Arrondissement specialized in dozens of different types of pepper — black, white, red, green, pink.
If you love Paris food as much as we do, make sure you have an extra duffle bag to bring home French chocolate, fleur de sel, toasted nut oils, tins of foie gras and even cheese!
Many of the French gourmet food traditions were created by the bourgeois class in the late 19th century. The city's famous food stores have similar beginnings.
The story usually begins with a young man from Brittany or Normandy selling fruit or seafood from a wheelbarrow in the streets of Paris. Many of these young men of the 19th century went on to create long-lasting food empires.
In 1891 Auguste Fauchon arrived to Paris from Calvados with a wheelbarrow full of fresh apples to sell. Before long, he had a food store selling coffees, teas, confiture, and chocolate.
You could say it was his wife, Madame Fauchon, who invented the first luxury food brand when she had the bright idea of putting their name on every product they sold. Fauchon now dominates a corner of the Place de la Madeleine.
You can still purchase lovely foods from around France at Fauchon but it's the éclair that's really worth a visit to the store.
In the center of their bakery is a large pastry case filled with hundreds of silky pastel éclairs in many different flavors.
Be sure to try a foie gras éclair, filled with foie gras crème and drizzled with hazelnut glaze. There're even pinky-sized éclairs for the fashionably slim crowd.
Fauchon is located on Place de la Madeleine, which has long been the gourmet food center of Paris.
Across the place Alfred Prunier opened his first oyster restaurant in 1872 and discovered his clientele couldn't get enough of the caviar he also sold.
In 1918 his son Emile began farming sturgeon on the banks of the Dordogne river to keep up with supply. (That's a good thing since it is now illegal to import Russian caviar to France.)
Today, you can visit Prunier's main floor tasting room with its glass-enclosed, refrigerated tasting booth to taste a variety of caviar. Prunier is famous for its smoked salmon, seafood and caviar.
Also on Place de la Madeleine, directly across from Fauchon, is its main gourmet Paris food store rival, Hediard.
Our Paris Concierge has put together a marvelous collection of gourmet activities to make it easy for you to go deep in the food culture.
Explore a famous Latin Quarter food market with an expert guide. Or combine a gourmet adventure tour with French wine tasting. Or visit a different food market or food street every day. All this can be found in our Guide to Private Gourmet Activities.
Smack in the center of things, on Île Saint-Louis, is Lafitte, purveyors of quality foie gras.
In 1920, Pierre Lafitte began to sell wild game birds and foie gras in his native town in southwest France and eventually opened a store in Paris.
Lafitte's foie gras d'oie, made from goose liver (most foie gras is made with duck liver), is a luxury not to be missed. All of their ducks and geese are grain-fed and raised free-range on small farms in southwest France.
Truffles are a luxury staple. In Paris one of the best places to buy them is La Maison de la Truffe. Originally a cooperative of truffle growers from Provence, today La Maison De la Truffe sells fresh diamant noir (black truffles) at their two Paris shops. Not to be missed: their all-truffle menu with a generous amount of truffles in each dish!
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