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Paris eating on a budget

I'm counting down the days to my Paris trip and looking for tips. I'll be in Paris for 15 days - December 20th thru January 4th. Plane ticket and hotel are already covered. I also have the Paris Pass & Museum Pass. That leaves souvenirs and food for when I'm in Paris. I'm looking for any and all recommendations on where to eat while in Paris. I love food and am looking forward to this experience - but I'm getting a little 'sticker' shock with what I've found so far. My budget is under $200 a day for everything. What are the MUST see/eat places in Paris? Is my budget reasonable for Paris?

Posted by
191 posts

Restaurant Chartier, 7, Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th Arr., Mo. Grands Boulevards or Le Peletier. One of the original "cheap eats" places in Paris but so much more! Leon de Bruxelles, Ave. des Champs-Elysees, Mo. Georges V (and other locations in Paris). Bigger than it looks from the outside. Home of the "moules-frites" (mussels and fries). You either like mussels or you don't (I do) and it is on the Champs. Should be able to get away for $20-30 at each place. P.S. have you thought about going to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve? Notre Dame is the most popular and you should get there 2 hrs. before midnight because it will get packed but it is an experience. Most of the other churches in Paris also have Christmas Eve Mass and St Sulpice in the 6th Arr. is also recommended. Notre Dame has an interesting Gregorian Mass on Christmas Day morning. No reservations needed anywhere. Enjoy!

Posted by
567 posts

Try the major department stores such as Galleries Lafayette on Blvd. Hausmann. It's cafeteria-style food, but I think it's a good deal for what you get. You should also check out a chain of eateries called Eric Kayser. They make great bread.

Posted by
9 posts

La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marche is a huge, wonderful place to buy quality deli food to stock your fridge and thus skip a meal out, so you can splurge on a fine dining experience. (Great place also for souvenirs for all your foodie friends - and buy their chic black totebags.) Don't miss inexpensive crepes - savory ones in a cafe or the nutella crepes at walk up stands! The main restaurant inside the d'Orsay Museum is very elegant and our lunch was delicious and artfully plated. Our most memorable moment: savoring a cup of hot white chocolate on the terrace at Cafe Marly at the Louvre. The French take food seriously, so we found that even modestly priced places served very good quality meals. We never went wrong with a Rick Steves book recommendation.

Posted by
1014 posts

My wife and I walk all over Paris. When we get hungry, we start looking menus posted on the chalk board or in the window. They are set meals at set prices. They can be a great deal. They usually run 12-20 Euro. Usually closer to 12. If you have your coffee at an inside table, it is cheaper than drinking it outside. If you want wine, ask for a 1/2 carafe of red, white, rose'. Usually around 6-8 Euro. You can get 3 or 4 glasses out of it. I have never had a bad glass doing it this way. If you are thirsty, ask for tap water (l'eau du robinet), not bottled water. Tap water is free and must be given to you if you ask. The Restaurant Chartier is a good place to eat. We ate there last year and food was good. Go early in the evening. We went at 4:30 and walked right in and sat down. At 6, when we left, the line was down the street.

Posted by
11450 posts

Everyone has given you some good tips.. but when you want tap water you ask for "un carafe d'eau".. that is correct way.. ( carafe dough si vous play is how its pronounced) I find I can eat decently on 50-70 euros a day.. breakie lunch and dinner.. I cheap out some meals and just get a crepe from street stand, then I can blow more money at dinner. Why do you have a Paris Pass AND a Museum Pass.. seems like huge overkill..

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you everyone for your responses. I'm feeling more confident in my upcoming tour. Paris Pass & Museum Pass: A friend told me that I absolutely had to have the Paris Pass. When looking into it for my trip I also learned about the Museum Pass through Concierge. They both offered passes to the museums as well as transportation. I did both because I'll be in Paris for 15 days and each only covers 6 days (or 12 total). Figured with both passes I'd be able to see the sites without having to worry about not having enough time, feeling rushed, etc.

Posted by
3662 posts

Restaurants serving couscous are often good value. You can easily find small, cafeteria-style Southeast Asian spots, usually holes-in-the-wall but serving inexpensive dishes. That's where locals go for a quick meal. You can also consider ordering your big meal for lunch rather than supper. Many places have budget menues mid-day although the choices can be severely limited.

Posted by
2081 posts

Tamara, This has been MY EXPERIENCE and will probably not reflect your or others here. I spent ALOT of time in the museums in Paris and didnt really stop in the middle of my gawking to eat. just tooo much awesome things to see and take in. What i did do when in a museum, was to stop and eat if/when i came across a cafe. Most of the museums had them and thats when i ate. I didnt stop and eat at 1200 for lunch as you would at home,but i ate when it was convenient. So, that usually thru my stomach off eating wise and would usually not be hungry for dinner @ 6pm or so. Just so you know, they eat dinner later than 6pm so you either adapt or eat later. that type of eating sort of kept my eating budget low. but i will confess i was eating 1~2 croissants with my morning coffee every day when i could. i cant think of any outstanding place i ate since i didnt do alot of that there, more or less grazing. just so you know, you wont find alot of place to get a coffee "to go" with lids the exception of places like starbucks. They sit down for morning coffee and dont drink on the run. is that 200 United States Dollars (USD) or Euros? 200 USD is approx 175 ish USD. Not bad money wise. dont forget that you may not need to tip since alot of it is included. TIps can eatup some $$$ if youre generous. I would splurge somewhat and find some nice places to eat. I tried some stuff you cant find here in the US or isnt in my neck of the woods. I also tried more desserts than i should have, but i can personally say, they were tasty and i will try more too. you can find inexpensive places to eat,but it will depend on what floats your boat. happy trails...burp.

Posted by
1878 posts

I suggest looking for cafes rather than sit down restaurants. You can get a great êntre salad for a reasonable price. It's been a few years, but in 2010 we ate for forty dollars as a couple for dinner, and I think that was with a half carafe of house wine.

Posted by
12040 posts

Take-away sandwich shops. They'll fill your belly but won't drain the wallet.

Posted by
4529 posts

Street food (like crepes), sandwich shops and ethnic food (like North African) are great ways to eat cheap. Cafes and bistros are good for relatively quick, not-too-expensive sit down meals. But be sure to splurge a few times for nice meals. A lunch splurge will be cheaper than dinner. Menus are always posted outside and I like to peruse the menus and find a place with a great menu and affordable price and then go there later. Always order off the "plat du jour" menu and not ala carte - it is far cheaper. Expect a nice sit down meal to last at least 2 hours (lunch or dinner).

Posted by
262 posts

Cafe Marly is one of my favorite cafes. Great food and people watching right at Louvre. We always go there on a Paris visit. Probably the most expensive meal that we have in Paris because we order the fillet, but you can have a burger or salad for a decent price. Go to the grocery store and buy food there, great choices and very good wine. Picnics are very popular but may be to cold when you are visiting. Great street food. So many wonderful choices and so little time!! Enjoy. Happy Travels!!

Posted by
1976 posts

You can buy fruit, snacks, and prepackaged sandwiches in Monoprix or Monop' grocery stores. We did this for breakfast every day and spent only a few euros for a filling meal.

Posted by
503 posts

Great suggestions here Tamara - for breakfast stock up at the local boulangerie and grocery store - croissants, fruit, yogurt - if your hotel includes a kettle and coffee, you are set!
Since you are traveling in the winter, Paris will more than likely be cold and quite possibly rainy so having an outdoor "picnic" probably won't work into your plans. Thus, I'd suggest having your big meal at lunch rather than dinner - if you google "budget eating" in Paris you will get lots of ideas - make note of places that interest you and where they are located - note a couple that are in the neighborhood you will be in each day - that way if you don't come across something in your travels, you have a plan. For dinner, you could "picnic" in your hotel room - Monoprix, Galleries Lafayette have very good ions of salads, charcuterie, etc., etc. to make a meal with - then you could go out for a drink or coffee to enjoy the evening for less than a full meal would cost. Finally, in the tourist areas check out the side streets - generally the cafes and bistros are cheaper the farther you get from the tourist center. Have a fabulous time!!!

Posted by
11450 posts

Tamara,,if on a budget then don't buy any more stuff from Concierge.. a Museum pass is easy and cheap to buy IN Paris( and IS a good value , so you didn't go wrong there ) but you paid more to have it in hand, and really didn't need to.. and the Paris Pass is not good value for money.. your friend was likely not very experienced and thought it was great having a bunch of stuff packaged together but truth is you won't be able to use all the features you paid for.. For the length of your visit you could have purchased a Navigo Decouvert transport pass which covers from monday thru sunday for a set price of 19 euros, plus a one time fee of 5 euros .. and its good for unlimited travel on bus or metro. I know its too late for you but maybe someone else will see this and inquire a bit more before buying a product, in your case nevermind obviously but for next time you go its good to have this info.. and you most likely will go again.. Paris is addictive. BTW a there are two GREAT free museums in Paris I can recommend.. the Carnavalet Musuem ( history of Paris) and the Shoah ( Halocaust ) Museum.. they are within walking distance of each other in the Marais so its a good day out.. check out one in am,, have a light lunch , then check out other in afternoon. Neither are crowded or have line issues.. ( thats basically only the Orsay and Orangerie).
Ps While walking around Marais look up on building walls,, we saw several heartbreaking plaques denoting a home where people were killed by Nazis for being in resistance.. young folks.. one was so sad,, a mother and her two teen sons.. the sons were in resistance and when Nazis were interogating them by torture the mother of course jumped in and they killed all three of them.. ugh.. so wrenching .

Posted by
12040 posts

I forgot about what is probably the most wide-spread European option for a cheap meal that will keep your hunger under control for hours at a time- döner kebabs. I don't specifically remember seeing a kebab stand in Paris, but I probably wasn't looking. They're everywhere in Europe. "Since you are traveling in the winter, Paris will more than likely be cold and quite possibly rainy so having an outdoor "picnic" probably won't work into your plans." I wouldn't rule this out, though. Coming from Alaska, you may find December in Paris almost toasty. And although it almost certainly will rain at some point while you're there, it won't rain constantly. I've enjoyed a picnic of take-away sandwiches in Paris in Decemeber. Paris isn't warm in the winter, but neither is it usually uncomfortably cold either.

Posted by
509 posts

The museum cafes were all good: Nicoise salads served with or without a bed of lettuce, stews and soups, paninis, crepes with or without bed of lettuce, quiches, and of course the dessets! Small bistros and cafes that display a small menu in French work well. Order the "Plat du jour" with "un carafe d'eau" and "un verre de vin rouge, s'li vous plait" ( a glass of red wine). Try the "Soupe du Jour" with "un Ham et sandwich au fromage". Galleries Department store offers very nice food or a lovely coffee with a view from the roof tops! When you enter the store look up and you'll see the dome. Downstairs is an immense Food Hall with something for everyone.
We bought wine, a cork screw and a bunch of goodies for a dinner picnic. Being winter you could have it in your room. Mono-prixs and your local bakery, deli, and cheese are great for snacks, beverages, and meals to have in your room. Les Halles has indoor farmers markets except on Mondays. I'm sure within the Carousel gardens there must be winter vendors for the holiday season and the ice skating rink. Hot chocolate in the St.Germain area. Celebs go to Angelina's to be seen.

Posted by
5520 posts

Although not a 4-Star, Must-see dining destination, Les Halles (mentioned above) is still a must-see food destination, for the French market (as opposed to Supermarket) experience. You'll see a great variety and might find some deals. Tom mentioned doner kebabs, and Middle-eastern food, whicle maybe not traditionally "French," is abundant and cheap in Paris. There are several places in the Latin Quarter such as on Rue des Ecoles, where students fill up on a budget.

Posted by
784 posts

Having just been in Paris in an apartment 2 blocks from Les Halles, I can tell you that it is currently a construction zone. The above ground part of the building and adjacent park are being completely rebuilt. Nearby, however, there is a street market on Sunday morning on Rue Montmarte across from St. Eustache church, and the adjacent Rue Montroygueil is a great market street. The big Sunday market on Blvd Richard Lenoir at Place de la Bastille is worth a visit. Markets in Paris are not "farmer's markets" as we know them. The produce comes from the big wholesale market at Rungis (which replaced Les Halles as the big Paris Market in the late 1960's) - it is very fresh and gorgeous. You will also see fishmongers, butchers, cheese sellers, and even clothing and housewares at some markets. The markets are very colorful and part of the social fabric of every French community. They are wonderful places for doing serious people watching.

Posted by
2246 posts

La Regalade St Honore-near the Louvre but not touristy. We stayed late at the Louvre on a Friday then went for our 9:00 reservation, there were mostly French in there but the staff does speak English. A la Biche au Bois on Ledru-Rollin in the 12th; insanely good, I had the venison stew-and the cheese course before dessert is quite excellent. Le Timbre on rue St Beuve in the 6th, I had a starter there of fried foie gras and figs that was out of this world. The chef-owner is a one man show in the open kitchen, very small and personal.

Posted by
2966 posts

Paris is one of my cheapest eating destinations in Europe, because I'm specifically seeking out Asian food when I'm there (Germany has a real problem with decent Asian cuisines). Others have given you great options for getting good french food cheap, but if you get bored of that, here's a few suggestions for GREAT meals that just happen to be really cheap:
Les Pates Vivantes (two locations, one in Latin Quarter, the other near Opera-ish) - amazing handmade Chinese noodles

La'As Du Falafel: Falafel in the Marais. Also Jewish delis like Sachsa Finkeljazn in the same neighborhood have delicious pastrami and savory pastries for cheap and is just a great neighborhood to wander in

Rue Volta near the Arts et Metiers metro stop is a miniature Saigon, with excellent, authentic, and cheap pho (noodle soup) restaurants and bahn mi (sandwich) joints. Seriously I had a bowl of soup bigger than my head for 6 euro here, and the sandwiches are less than 4 euro and are huge and amazingly delicious.

Cheap Japanese food can be found behind the Lourve on Rue St. Anne. A few Korean and Chinese places too. I didn't eat anything here that knocked my socks off, but food was decent and portions plentiful and again - cheap.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
115 posts

All the replies you have received are thoughtful. We were recently in Paris traveling with a budget about the same as yours. We had a nice pension in the Latin Quarter. We are experienced European travelers and have been to Paris before. We had a simple plan for eating. Whenever/where ever possible we would check the outside menus for the "plate of the day" specials. When this failed, (As it usually did) we headed for the nearest pizza place. We have been to Italy MANY times and,I swear, the pizzas in France are just as good as in Italy. We would split a pizza, have a carafe of house wine and never left hungry or dissatisfied. Your hunch is correct; it has gotten expensive to eat and travel just about all over Europe. The good news is that NEVER on the plane ride back to Chicago has our conversation/memory centered on our expenditures. As the old saying goes; The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten. Good luck.

Posted by
19 posts

I was a big fan of the Chinois delis you will see all over the place. Eating cheap in Paris was really important to me, so I often shopped at local groceries and markets and cooked my own meals in my holiday apartment or these delis, in which you can eat well for 5 euros.
I found the Paris restaurant scene to be quite expensive and often overpriced so I limited my nice meals out to just one or two. Also, there's a sushi restaurant seemingly on every (major) street, great place to go if you like Asian food. Good luck!

Posted by
106 posts

Try eating at one of the food markets. We were just in Paris and went to Le Marche des Enfants Rouges. There is a stand there where the guy makes the most incredible crepes. All different types, fresh ingredients, etc. They were huge and were 7 Euros each.