After your airplane tickets and accommodation expenses, one of your highest daily expenses in Paris is eating out. This is a city well-known for its high-end cuisine, so you could blow a fortune before you even realize it; just by dining out in some of the city’s renowned restaurants. If you’re traveling on a budget, however, you’ll need to pay more attention to the prices on the menu and avoid expensive restaurants.
But “eating cheap in Paris” doesn’t mean you’ll be eating poorly – or at least it doesn’t have to. Yes, there are examples of bad cheap food all over Paris, as there is in any big city; however, there are also plenty of places where you’ll find excellent food that won’t break the bank. You just need to know where to look and what to look for.
Where to Find Cheap Eats in Paris
Generally, the more tourists you are seeing around a given area, the higher the prices for the food. Restaurant owners know that most tourists aren’t going to stray too far from the main attractions; so they can get away with charging high prices. Finding cheap –but tasty– food in Paris often means taking wrong turns, and more or less following Parisians to where they eat.
In The Marais, as noted below, you’ll find great falafel stands; this may be a reasonably touristy area, but it’s also the traditional Jewish quarter; this is where most of the falafel stands are. There are several stands in this neighborhood, all of which sell basically the same thing; if you’re not completely famished, you can browse to compare prices.
Again, although the Latin Quarter can be rather touristy, you’ll find lots of crepe stands in this area because of the heavy student population. Also, because crepes are a great late-night snack when you’re between dance clubs, and because there are so many clubs in and around the Latin Quarter, it stands to reason that there would also be lots of creperies in the Latin Quarter.
>>Also Read: Food In Paris
What Cheap Eats Are in Paris
As is often the case in large cities with many different ethnicities, some of the best affordable foods in Paris aren’t French food. Couscous is a common late-night meal for many Parisians. Still, it’s a filling meal in the day, too. You’re looking for the word “couscoussieres” on a sign or an indication that it’s a Lebanese or Moroccan restaurant.
There are Asian restaurants throughout Paris, but for seriously cheap eats – that’s also seriously quick – you can’t beat the Asian fast-food delis. Food is sold by weight in these spots, and while it can be eaten on-site, it’s often take-out food. This isn’t exactly gourmet Asian fare, but it’s fast, it’s filling, and it’s cheap – and it’s not half-bad, either.
Falafel is another popular cheap meal in Paris – pita sandwiches stuffed with chickpea-falafel and all the fixings. For these, you’ll have to head to The Marais, the Jewish quarter in Paris. The falafel also stands often sell kebobs, which is another inexpensive snack or light meal.
Not all cheap eats in Paris are foreign, however, as the endless supply of creperies in Paris will tell you. Crepe stands offer up some of the best fast and cheap food in Paris, and they’re so versatile that the same base can give you your main meal as well as dessert. Most crepe stands will also have a case full of pre-made sandwiches; are great for a budget meal.
>> More about finding the best crepes in Paris
Another popular snack in Paris is the Croque Monsieur, a grilled cheese and ham sandwich where the cheese is usually on the outside. For a little added protein, you can try a Croque madame, which is the same thing only with an egg on top! They can be messy to eat, but they’re tasty.
In colder weather, be on the lookout for carts selling roasted chestnuts; it’s not a meal, but it’s a lovely warm snack, and because it’s seasonal, it feels like a treat when you do get them.
Tips for Stretching Your Food Budget in Paris
- Many hotels charge more for a continental breakfast. If your hotel does, and it’s more than €6-7, then you’re probably better off buying your own breakfast out of the hotel. You can get a typical French breakfast of a pastry, a coffee, and an orange juice for as little as €5-6. Also, train stations often have breakfast specials that include all these things for a low price. If you’re still hungry after that, an open-air food market will give you a chance to buy fresh fruits, cheeses, cured meats, and bread to snack on until lunchtime.
- Whether you stop into a bar for breakfast of a pastry and coffee or you pop in for a caffeine pick-me-up midday, you’ll pay less if you stand at the bar rather than sit at a table to eat and drink.
- As mentioned above, making a meal of the products you’ll find at a local food market is an excellent way to eat well without spending much. If you’re renting an apartment in Paris or staying in a hostel with a guest kitchen, you can do some cooking. However, even if you’re kitchen-less, you can make a lovely picnic of fruits, cheeses, meats, bread, and wine or water.
- To splurge without splurging, eat your big meal of the day; at that chic-looking bistro, you desperately want to try; at lunch rather than dinner. Many places will offer the same or similar menus at lunch and dinner, only the lunch prices are lower, and the portion sizes a bit smaller.
- Consider the fixed price menu, or “prix fixe,” wherever you see one. These often include a starter, main course, and a dessert or cheese plate. They can be regional or local specialties, making them all the more appealing, and they can be a real bargain.
- A “prix fixe” menu isn’t the same thing as a “tourist menu”. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from any restaurant that brags about its English-language menus. These places can (and do) often charge higher prices than they would otherwise be able to get away with because of the convenience for tourists of having a menu they can read. Just use google translate on your phone and skip the multi-language menus.
- French wine may be famous; however, that doesn’t mean you have to order a special bottle to look like you know what you’re doing. Unlike in many places, ordering a container of the house wine in Paris is a really good option. It’s cheaper than the bottle with the fancy label, and more often than not, it’s really exceptional.
- Travelers are sometimes wary about drinking the water, but in Paris, you should have no such worries. You can order bottled water if you like; however, you can save money by just ordering a carafe of tap water instead. Just make sure you order a carafe specifically; if you just order water, the waiter will almost certainly bring you bottled water.