This blog post was originally posted on December 19, 2019 and was updated on September 17, 2020.
Traditionally, lunch in Paris is the biggest meal of the day.
Kids in school get two hours off for what would have, in generations past, been a home-cooked lunch. And while most parents work in most households today, making lunch at home an impossibility, French children still enjoy a four-course meal at school.
It’s also not uncommon for working adults to enjoy a leisurely restaurant lunch with their colleagues, complete with wine, several courses and lengthy conversations. To take full advantage of this French tradition and enjoy lunch in Paris, here’s what you need to know.
Lunch in Paris: What to Know Before You Go
If you’re enjoying lunch in a restaurant, know that most spots will have both a carte and a menu. The latter is a fixed menu which might have a handful of choices (or none at all—what you see is what you get), but will undoubtedly be a steal as compared to the carte.
If eating on the go, know that Paris has a host of options to choose from, from sandwiches to crêpes to shawarma. The French frown upon walking and eating, so if you opt for street food in Paris, consider finding a local park to sit in and enjoy.
Lunchtime in France is usually fixed between noon and 2 p.m.. Stop by a restaurant too early or too late, and you might be out of luck.
If you’re looking for lunch outside of these set times, seek out a service continu restaurant, which will remain open between lunch and dinner.
Finally, know that the French aren’t afraid of having a bit of wine with lunch. If you want just a glass or two, consider opting for a carafe or pichet of house wine. At 25 or 46 centiliters (as opposed to the 75 in a bottle), this is often a good option if you want more than one glass but less than a full bottle.
Where to Eat Lunch in Paris
1. L’As du Fallafel
There are several different spots for falafel along the busy rue des Rosiers in the heart of the Marais, but L’As du Fallafel (44, rue des Rosiers) is the original and—in our opinion—still the best.
The pita is generously filled with raw and cooked veggies, fried falafel balls, and a tasty assortment of sauces. Walk up the cobbled street to the pretty Jardin Joseph Migneret and enjoy your lunch on a park bench in the sunshine.
2. Chez Aline
While the sandwich was originally invented in England, there’s one iteration of this classic lunch item so French it bears the name “Le Parisien”: ham and butter.
At Chez Aline (85, rue de la Roquette), this local classic is done up right. A baguette from award-winning organic bakery Landemaine is spread with artisanal butter and piled with slices of Paris ham from the last producer of the city’s eponymous charcuterie still operating in the French capital.
The resulting sandwich is an absolute delight, and a testament to the simple beauty of French cuisine.
3. Chez Alain Miam Miam
Within the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in Paris, sits sandwich stand Chez Alain Miam Miam, famous for its massive crêpes stuffed with all kinds of tasty ingredients like ham, cheese and vegetables. They’re definitely worth the wait in the serpentine line that forms each day around noon.
In the trendy 11th arrondissement, Massale is a modern, seasonal restaurant with an almost impossibly reasonable lunch menu. €22 gets you a choice of one each of three appetizers, two mains, and two desserts. The light, airy dining room is the perfect place to enjoy these contemporary dishes.
5. Le Nemrod
For something a touch more classic, Le Nemrod is a traditional French café with an expansive sidewalk terrace and one of the city’s better croques. Instead of the typical croque monsieur—a sandwich of ham, cheese, and béchamel sauce made on sandwich bread—opt for a croque Poilâne, made as an open-face sandwich on artisanal country bread.
The almost-pedestrian rue de Seine is home to a handful of restaurants, but perhaps none is as welcoming for lunch as Freddy’s. This wine bar offers an unbeatable lunchtime prix fixe during the week, with an assortment of tasty small plates that change with the seasons. Choose one of a fantastic selection of wines by the glass to accompany your meal.
One of the city’s top modern bistros, Robert serves a lovely €25 prix fixe made up of seasonal French dishes that often boast a touch of Thai influence, thanks to Chef Peter Orr’s past work at London’s Nahm.
8. Le Christine
Just steps from Notre Dame, contemporary bistro Le Christine serves a daily “market menu” of modern French fare at €29 for three courses. These slightly modernized French dishes are a real treat for the discerning diner.