It's often said that one of the best ways to explore a city is with your nose. Fortunately, Paris is no exception, as the city is burgeoning with intoxicating aromas wafting from bakeries, bistros and bars. From sweet to savory, creamy to crunchy, no matter what neighborhood you find yourself in, there's a plethora of places to eat in Paris. And the best part is that many of the city's tastiest meals are small, simple and inexpensive.
An ideal day of experiencing food in Paris would begin with a visit to your local boulangerie. After letting the wonderful smells guide you in, enjoy a choice between two of the city's most iconic foods: croissants and baguettes. Combine either of these with some jam (and maybe a café au lait) and you'll be off to a most memorable day of eating. I recommend Boulangerie bo, which is located just around the corner from the Gare de Lyon.
After working off your morning indulgences with a vigorous walk along the banks of the Seine or a visit to one of the city's numerous museums, it should be time for a mid-morning snack. Fortunately, you're likely close to a crêpe stand, which can be found nearly everywhere in the city. While there are numerous types of fillings available, I recommend sticking with the classic beurre-sucre (butter and sugar) or if you really want to go wild, try one with Nutella and strawberries. In my experience, strolling down Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter is a sure-fire way to find a crêperie that suits your fancy.
Crêpe in hand, continue wandering the city's narrow streets until you find a sunny spot in one of the many public squares for some people watching. By the time you are licking the last bits of your tasty treat off your fingers, the clocks will likely be striking noon, which means it's time for a drink! As the capital of a country known for its wine, you'd be hard pressed to find a better beverage of choice in Paris. And fortunately, there are a growing number of wine bars in the city, including Legrand Filles et Fils near La Place des Victoires. After locating a suitable establishment, grab a window seat or a street-side table and enjoy a chilled glass of rosé if it's warm out or a rich Merlot if the weather is chilly. As is the case for most situations in France, it's never a bad idea to locate a bit of cheese to go with your aperitif. If you're interested in pursuing this marvelous culinary combination, head to Barthélemy on Boulevard Raspail.
Properly hydrated, set off to further explore the wonders of the city (perhaps a tour of Paris' most famous bridges by boat?). Following your morning of sweets and afternoon of adventure, it's time for a savory meal to balance things out. Enter the croque-monsieur--a delectable combination of grilled cheese, jambon and Béchamel sauce. This simple sandwich, readily available at nearly all Parisian bistros, is a hallmark of the French city dweller diet. Try to find an eatery that makes their sandwiches fresh, such as my personal favorite, Madame Messieurs near the Gare du Nord.
A food-centric tour of Paris would not be complete without a stop for a traditional French macaroon. While there is much debate as to whether Ladurée, Pierre Hermé or Carette make the best variety of this tiny cookie, fortunately there is no debate as to whether any of them are delicious. I particularly recommend the pistachio, coffee and salted caramel flavors.
As the sun sets over the City of Light, make your way towards a café for a chocolat chaud to warm yourself for the journey back to your abode. Or better yet, take your steaming drink to the banks of the moonlit Seine and enjoy the twinkling lights of Paris knowing that you'll have the right answer when someone asks you where to eat here; just tell them to follow their nose.