Eating Out on a Budget in Paris & France: A Few Key Tips (2023)


Eating Out on a Budget in Paris & France: A Few Key Tips (1)

Harboring more Michelin-starred restaurants within its borders than many other countries combined, France is widely associated with “la haute gastronomie“: high-end cuisine that remains frustratingly inaccessible to many or most of us. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on eating out in Paris and elsewhere in the country. If you plan ahead carefully and avoid a few common mistakes, you can get away with enjoying some of the most delicious and memorable meals you’ve perhaps ever had, without going over your budget. Here are my key tips for eating out on a budget in Paris and around France.

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1. Stay in rented accommodations, and cook some meals at “home”

Eating Out on a Budget in Paris & France: A Few Key Tips (2)

One of the best ways to save money on meals out in France also might shave off some of your expected costs for accommodation. By opting to spend at least some of your trip in holiday rental apartments or other accommodations that offer access to a kitchen (and refrigerator), you can cut back significantly on expensive meals out.

The other advantage to this strategy? You’ll likely end up having a much more “local” experience, as you embark on the adventure of navigating French supermarkets (often fascinating, not to mention mystifying for their layout and logic).

Meanwhile, open-air farmer’s markets such as the Marché d’Aligre (pictured below) are also excellent places to stock up on ingredients. The cheerful, singsong cries of vendors selling everything from fresh purple artichokes to flowers and cheeses will immerse you instantly in the customs of daily life in France.

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Plus, for those who enjoy cooking, this is a great opportunity to try your hand at some of those typical French dishes you’ve been collecting over months and years. Buy a nice bottle of wine, put on our ultimate playlist of songs about Paris, and get cooking. Little will make you feel less like a tourist and more like a temporary resident….I can pretty much guarantee it.

2. Nosh on some delicious, cheap street food.

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When I first moved to Paris, there were (essentially) only three types of street food available: bakery sandwiches, crepes–served warm in triangular-paper-holdie-contraptions from outdoor stands– and…phenomenal falafels, procured mainly from the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais, and the centuries-old Jewish quarter there.

{Where to taste the best falafel in Paris}

Oh, and I suppose ice cream and pastries might be considered street food, too– if we stretch a bit. It just wasn’t thought of in these terms. Eating on the street or on a park bench or riverside quay was mostly considered the province of tourists.

Since then, the concept itself of street food has exploded in the capital, with pop-up restaurants and coffee shops, food trucks, and markets proferring everything from burgers to Vietnamese Pho, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches to Lebanese pizza.

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If you figure out where the good places are and learn to steer away from the bad ones (believe me, after several bouts of food poisoning over the years, I can confirm that recognizing the latter is crucial), substituting a few sit-down restaurant meals for street food can be fun– all the while satisfying your inner Scrooge.

See our guide to the best street food in Paris for suggestions in the French capital, and scroll below for ideas on where to settle with your falafel, Bento box or galette with cheese and egg, watching the world go by as you dig in.

3. Stage a French-style picnic with treats from bakeries and markets.

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If you’d rather put together a delicious spread yourself, the warmer months afford excellent opportunities for staging French-style picnics, from simple to elaborate.

Procure some good-quality bread and pastries from a bakery near your hotel, or on the way to your desired picnic spot. Pick up some cheese from a fromager, fresh fruit from a market stall (you can always wash any produce by bringing along some water specifically for the task), perhaps a bar of chocolate or other sweets, and (if desired) a bottle of wine or bubbly.

Don’t forget to buy a mini bottle-opener (or pack one in your suitcase before your trip). Most wine bottles are not fitted with screw-off tops in France.

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For an idyllic al fresco lunch, choose a spot with good people-watching opportunities, or a lush bit of lawn in one of Paris’ most beautiful parks and gardens. Not only will you cut back on eating in a sit-down restaurant. You’ll get some fresh air and slow down enough to really appreciate wherever you happen to perch for a spell.

See more on the best spots for picnics in Paris (with some useful tips on how to assemble a typical French pique-nique.)

4. Take advantage of less-expensive lunch menus at higher-end restaurants.

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This is hardly a secret, but it’s still an excellent principle to keep in mind: At most restaurants in France, even the most expensive and sought-after, lunch tends to be less expensive than dinner. Sometimes, particularly if you go for fixed-priced menus, it’s possible to taste Michelin-starred culinary creations (or ones of a similar calibre) for relatively reasonable prices.

Before deciding whether to lunch at a restaurant you’ve been dreaming of trying for months, try to visit its official website and get a hold of the lunch menu. If it’s all “a la carte”, it’s unlikely going at lunch will offer any significant savings. But if the restaurant offers fixed “formules déjeuner” or cartes de midi (noon menus), you may be surprised to note that the prices are significantly lower compared to the dinner menus.

{Related: Our Top Paris Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors}

If in doubt or the restaurant doesn’t have online menus, head out a bit early and visit the restaurant in person, asking if they have any aforementioned “formules déjeuner”. Many will include several courses, or a main course accompanied with wine or other beverage.

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In short, don’t despair if you’re aching to try a restaurant you saw profiled on Condé Nast Traveler or your favorite food blog, but believe it’s out of range. Sometimes, the lunch-menu trick can easily solve that issue.

{Related: The Best Free Museums in Paris}

This is especially true if you use some of the other strategies for cutting back on restaurant costs mentioned above and below. Personally, I’d rather splurge on one or two fantastic meals and eat frugally the rest of the time, than spend the same amount on mediocre restaurants for every meal.

5. Go for brunch.

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This one’s admittedly a little paradoxical, because brunch can be ridiculously expensive in France– especially in Paris, where it’s often an occasion less for eating and drinking and more for lounging around in the late afternoon to “see and be seen” in fashionable places.

Luckily, though, there are plenty of places in Paris (and elsewhere in France) that emphasize excellent food (plus tea, coffee, and/or brunch cocktails) alongside or over style and ambience. By holding off on breakfast and enjoying one large meal near the middle of the day, you can often end up saving money– not to mention cutting back on the fatigue of decision-making.

See our full guide to the best places in brunch in Paris, from American-style “greasy-spoon” diners serving huge pancake breakfasts, to places like the where you can indulge in a delicious brunch of savory and sweet crepes, salads, cheeses, and Breton-cider based cocktails, among other fare.

6. Avoid tourist-trap tables and areas.

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I don’t know about you, but little irritates me more when traveling than spending unnecessary money on a mediocre or awful meal. Especially in a place like France, where you’d expect pretty much any restaurant to be serving at least decent fare, it’s both surprising and disappointing when you get a lemon– and ended up forking over a huge chunk of your daily food budget.

One simple way to avoid this scenario, aside from reading reviews of restaurants before venturing to try them out? Steer clear of restaurants in touristy areas that are obvious tourist trips. Usually, the easiest way to spot these sorts of places is the presence of staff standing outside and attempting to usher you to a table, or not giving you the space and time to examine the menu before insisting you’re in for the “best” seafood, steak, pizza, or cassoulet in town.

Avoid these sorts of places at all costs. And while I’m not suggesting that areas with high tourist traffic house only bad restaurants (this is obviously untrue), there are a few ways to figure out which ones to steer clear of. See more on how to avoid tourist traps and scams in Paris and around France.

7. Check for special offers and discounts at select restaurants.

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Finally, it’s possible to lock in significant discounts on lunch or dinner at many restaurants around France, through sites including The Fork. Just search for the type of restaurant you wish to book for, then filter results to show those offering discounts and other offers.

These can rise to around 50% for certain restaurants and meals. If you already have an account with The Fork, you can also use “Yums” reward points towards the price of your meal.

There are hundreds of participating restaurants around France, many of which are decent to excellent. I’ve used The Fork many times to try tables that were otherwise a bit out range for my current budget.

There are, of course, other discount schemes for eating out that might include restaurants in France, but I haven’t tried them and so am unable to vouch for whether they’re any good.

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Eating Out on a Budget in Paris & France: A Few Key Tips? ›

Eat out during lunchtime.

You can try to do it on your last day. Lunch menus are cheaper than dinner menus. Go for a formule. While you can always pick an entree, main course, and dessert separately, one thing we learned after visiting Paris is their set menu.

How to eat cheap and good in Paris? ›

Eat out during lunchtime.

You can try to do it on your last day. Lunch menus are cheaper than dinner menus. Go for a formule. While you can always pick an entree, main course, and dessert separately, one thing we learned after visiting Paris is their set menu.

How to eat cheaply in France? ›

Paris on a Budget: 10 Tips to Spend Less For Great Food
  1. Eat out at lunch instead of dinner. ...
  2. Opt for 'une formule', which is a set menu. ...
  3. Order wine by the glass. ...
  4. Beware of sodas and sparkling waters. ...
  5. Go to the bar inside a café to have your coffee. ...
  6. Order “à emporter” ...
  7. Avoid “le brunch” ...
  8. Eat like a Parisian.
Jun 9, 2021

What are five rules for eating out at a restaurant in Paris? ›

5 Rules You Should Be Following in Paris to Eat like a Local
  • Eat at the right hours.
  • Look for table settings.
  • Get the menu fixe.
  • Understand the order of operations.
  • Take your time!
Sep 6, 2019

Is Paris cheap to eat out? ›

On average, a non-touristy restaurant in Paris will charge between 15 and 25 Euros per set menu, but you can expect to pay more at trendier restaurants or restaurants in tourist-heavy areas. Set menu prices also vary widely, with some costing as little as 10 Euros and others costing well over 100 Euros.

Do you tip on meals in Paris? ›

Tipping is not considered etiquette by French people in French restaurants, but if you enjoyed your meal, it's nice to leave 5 - 10%. If you really enjoyed the meal, or plan on returning to the restaurant and want the wait staff to like you, 15% is a generous tip.

What to eat in Paris if you don't like French food? ›

Don't worry; it's not gastronomic sacrilege—unless you go to McDonald's.
  • Here are our top six non-French food obsessions in Paris:
  • Falafel. The Marais' Rue des Rosiers is famous for its warring falafel purveyors. ...
  • Asian cuisine in Belleville. ...
  • Burgers. ...
  • Ramen. ...
  • Algerian pastries. ...
  • Au P'tit Grec.
Apr 27, 2010

Is bread free at restaurants in France? ›

That bread is included in the price of your meal, much like the tap water and the service, and should never appear on your final bill. If the wait staff didn't bring bread to your table, ask for it. “Est-ce qu'on pourrait avoir du pain, s'il vous plaît?” (May we have some bread, please?) and you shall receive it.

How much is an average meal in Paris? ›

The average cost of food in Paris amounts to approximately €45 per person per day. For those on a tighter budget, it is possible to spend approximately €25 a day to eat. For those who would like to indulge themselves and can afford more, I suggest planning approximately €65 per day.

How do you pay for food in Paris? ›

Paying & Tipping in French restaurants

Parisian meal times are all about being relaxed and paying the cheque is no exception. Instead, wait and ask politely for the bill when you're ready to pay and leave. In general, tips are included with your meal. 'Tipping culture' isn't really a thing in France.

Can I wear jeans to dinner in Paris? ›

When you think “dinner in Paris”, you probably don't think to wear jeans. But, depending on the restaurant, you CAN wear jeans. I would probably opt for the jumpsuit or dress if you're headed to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but if you have a more casual dinner planned, go with your favorite pair of jeans!

Can I wear jeans to a restaurant in Paris? ›

Jeans (besides dark or black-wash) are usually safest to avoid. I'd recommend a skirt, tights, and a nice blouse—paired with either boots or heels. If you're ever unsure of what would be allowed, opt for semi-formal attire: a dress or skirt (always with tights) or slacks.

Is it rude to leave food on plate in France? ›

French waiters are trained not to clear plates until every party is finished eating. It is not necessarily rude to leave food on a plate in Paris, but when someone is finished eating, they should place their knife and fork across their plate to indicate to the waiter they are done.

Do you just sit down at a restaurant in Paris? ›

You will be asked if you want to be seated inside (en salle), at the bar ( au bar), or outside (en terrasse). If you are eating at a café you can usually just pick a seat. Parisians are very intimate so don't worry about sitting close to someone, the tables are very close together.

How much is a good dinner in Paris? ›

One of the best meal deals in Paris is the three-course fixed price lunch menu. You can eat a great meal for 12-15€ at a restaurant that charges 30-45€ and up for dinner. Cafes are also great choices for a light meal. Cafe menus include salads and quiches for 7€ and sandwiches for 5€.

Where to eat in Paris without breaking the bank? ›

Where to eat in Paris without breaking the bank? 10 affordable spots in Paris that are actually good
  • Bouillon Julien.
  • 3. Cafe du Coin.
  • L'Alsacien.
  • Chez Gladines ( Butte Aux Cailles)
  • Les Parigots.

Where to eat cheaper in Paris? ›

The Top 15 Best Cheap Restaurants in Paris
  • Bouillon Pigalle. Ah, Bouillon Pigalle, where great food meets affordable prices! ...
  • L'As du Falafel. ...
  • Breizh Café ...
  • Chez Gladines. ...
  • Deux Fois Plus de Piment. ...
  • Le Café du Coin. ...
  • Miznon. ...
  • Le Comptoir du Relais.
Aug 3, 2023

How much is a meal in Paris on average? ›

TypeAverage PricePrice Range
Meal for one at an inexpensive restaurant€14.00€10.00 - €15.00
Meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant (3 courses)€50.00€35.00 - €70.00
McMeal at McDonalds (or equivalent combo meal)€8.00€7.50 - €9.00
Cappuccino (regular)€3.42€2.00 - €4.50
Jun 10, 2022

How to be frugal in Paris? ›

Cook at home or ask for take away food if you don't finish

Many times I would find myself having wine, cheese, cold cuts, and a baguette for dinner. If you don't finish your meal when you dine out don't be afraid to ask for your food to go. In Paris, it's referred to as “take away.”

What is the cheapest food store in Paris? ›

Top 10 Best Cheap Grocery Store Near Paris, Paris
  • All "Cheap Grocery Store" results in Paris, Paris. Showing 1-60 of 342.
  • K-Mart. 0.4 mi. 4.4 (78 reviews) ...
  • Carrefour Market. 0.6 mi. 3.8 (16 reviews) ...
  • G20. 0.0 mi. 3.6 (5 reviews) ...
  • Sabah. 1.9 mi. 4.4 (5 reviews) ...
  • LIDL. 2.8 mi. 4.4 (5 reviews) ...
  • Tang Frères. 2.4 mi. ...
  • Monoprix. 2.2 mi.

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