2 Days to Dine in Paris

Our contributor gives her best tips on what to eat and see during a quick visit to Paris
Allison Stone

Get tips on how to find the best eats in France’s food capital, Paris.

Paris doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s a beautiful city with amazing architecture, culture, and of course, food. I’ve been to Paris a few times in the past five years, and I have fallen in love with it every single time. It’s a great city just to wander in; you’ll come across some of the best hidden gems that way. But of course, you do need to see the Eiffel Tower at least once (just be prepared for some major lines if you want to go up to the top), and the Louvre is also a must. Other popular sites are the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées, Notre-Dame, Jardins de Luxembourg and Jardins de Tuileries, L’Opera, and the Musée d’Orsay. Located in an old train station, and more manageable than the Lovure, the Musée d’Orsay is my favorite museum in Paris.

The last time I was in Paris, I had the pleasure of staying in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the sixth arrondissement. This is by far my favorite neighborhood in Paris. There are great boutique hotels, shopping, cafés, patisseries, bars, and narrow, winding roads filled with pedestrians or cyclists carrying baguettes (yes, that’s a real thing). I stayed at Hôtel Villa Saint Germain des Prés, which is a recently renovated boutique hotel in a perfect location. The rooms were a nice size and the service was amazing; I would definitely stay there again. A friend stayed in an apartment she found through Airbnb, which is a great way to really experience the culture of the city, and is often less expensive than most hotels. For example, one of the highest-end hotels in the city, the Four Seasons Hotel George V, can cost more than €1,000 per night. While it is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen, I’d rather sleep in one of the city’s Mercedes taxis and spend all of my money on food.

Speaking of, no matter what you do or where you stay, there are some restaurants and markets you have to visit.

Where to Eat:

Semilla: Located in Saint-Germain, this contemporary bistro is the newest addition to a group of popular restaurants owned by Juan Sanchez and Drew Harré (FishCosiLa Dernière Goutte). While the menu is mainly French, there is some Spanish influence as well; a reflection of the owners’ nationalities. While wandering the streets one day, my husband spotted Semilla and we decided to try it that night. Without a reservation, we went a little early (for Paris), around 7 p.m. We were seated at the bar because the restaurant was fully booked. I noticed a counter with stools overlooking the open chef’s kitchen, which you can, and should, reserve if you have the opportunity. But even at the bar, we loved everything about this place; the atmosphere, the service, and the food were all perfect. The menu changes daily, and it includes a selection of small plates and main plates, so it’s great for sharing. We started with a dorade ceviche with avocado, grapefruit, lime, and chile. It was one of the best ceviches we had ever tasted. The fish was fresh and soft, and the flavors were perfectly balanced; citrusy and salty but not overpowering, and the spice added the perfect kick. We also tried the aubergine fritters, expertly fried eggplant with a delicious roasted red pepper sauce. And finally, the pièce de résistance, a massive, dry-aged côte de boeuf served with jus, and a side of mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly (charred on the outside, medium-rare on the inside), and it wasn’t over-seasoned, allowing the flavor of the meat to shine through. It was probably some of the best steak I’ve ever had. And the potatoes were actually a bowl of melted French butter and cream with a little potato purée stirred in. And as Ina Garten would say, how bad can that be?

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Septime: A 30-minute walk from Notre Dame, this restaurant is part of the newest generation of Paris eateries, sometimes referred to as the "neo-bistro." Instead of the classical French, formal dining experience, both the food and the service are a little more relaxed. They serve lunch and dinner; both menus are small and change daily. Everything here is delicious and expertly prepared, and relatively inexpensive for Paris prices. You can make reservations for both lunch and dinner, although they are very difficult to obtain; so try and book well in advance.