Paris has its roots on Île de la Cité.
This tiny island in the Seine in the heart of Paris was where the city was founded by a tribe of fishermen in the third century BC. With its cobblestoned streets lined with chestnut trees, cozy eateries and historic landmarks like the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the island is a popular tourist destination.
But despite the inevitable crowds of visitors, several restaurants on Île de la Cité have managed to retain their original charm and keep attracting local clientele. Read on and we’ll tell you all about these hidden gems.
1. Le Caveau du Palais
Le Caveau du Palais specializes in traditional French fare. Its gourmet dishes, based on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, include roasted quail stuffed with foie gras, pan-seared scallops with artichokes, and veal tartare. Add a historical setting with stone walls and ancient arcades, an excellent wine list and top-notch service, and you’ve got one of the best dining spots on Île de la Cité.
2. Restaurant Paul
A popular lunch venue for lawyers from the nearby Palais de Justice, Restaurant Paul is the perfect place to enjoy a tasty meal alongside locals. The restaurant boasts a vast menu of classic French specialties. Delicious examples are the fricassée (a stew with a white sauce as its base) of snails and mushrooms with garlic, and calf’s liver with honey and raspberries. And for dessert? Go for the homemade vanilla crème brûlée.
3. La Rose de France
There’s no better spot for a snack or light lunch than this Mediterranean-style restaurant overlooking Place Dauphine. Its old-school Paris menu brims with delicacies. Both the burgundy snails and the rump steak with homemade French fries are must-tries. If meat’s not your thing, they offer a modest range of vegetarian options too.
4. Ma Salle à Manger
Ma Salle à Manger is a delightful bistro celebrating Basque cuisine. With its welcoming atmosphere, traditional textiles adorning the dining room and exceptional food, this restaurant is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. Don’t miss their delicious gâteau Basque—their take on this signature Basque dessert is a must.
Run by the self-taught Senegalese chef Eugénie Tine and her baker husband Philippe, Sequana focuses on French cuisine with a Senegal-inspired twist. Eugénie combines seasonal ingredients from her own vegetable garden into exquisite dishes. Choose between a four-course and six-course menu and taste delicious offerings such as the summer truffles or the exclusive Challans duck.
6. Au Bougnat
Au Bougnat was founded by a coal seller from Aveyron who came to Paris to start a café in the 18th century. With its low ceiling, open beams and wooden benches, this traditional bistro still maintains much of its medieval charm. Most importantly, the food is excellent. Tuck into the likes of coq au vin, snails, frog legs and other savory French classics.
7. La Réserve de Quasimodo
Tucked away on a tiny street behind the Notre Dame Cathedral, La Réserve de Quasimodo is one of the oldest wine bars in Paris, dating all the way back to the 13th century. Order their specialty fondue vigneronne, beef cooked in white wine right at your table. Be sure to check out their fantastic selection of cheeses and of course, wines. You can either buy a bottle from the cellar to take home or, for a small corkage fee, enjoy it with your meal at the restaurant.