What to Eat for Breakfast in Paris
Breakfast in Paris is a wonderful time because a new day and an empty stomach are both just waiting to be filled, yay!
A typical breakfast in Paris, however, isn’t the usual eggs, bacon, and other savory meats, or even pancakes, waffles, or French toast (which, by the way, isn’t just called “toast” here; it’s pain perdu) we all love so much. For Parisians, these breakfast foods are the antithesis of what they think is palatable in the morning. They’d much rather go deep in…
All the Carbs
A friend who lives in Paris told me that eggs and savory foods, especially cheese, are not typically eaten early in the day. Instead, it’s just lots of coffee. Lots of espresso shots, coffee with milk, or even hot chocolate, maybe accompanied by a simple pastry, like a croissant.
Parisians seem to keep their breakfasts fairly light for what I gather to be one of two (or both) reasons: They eat heavier midday and/or dinner meals, and they also eat dinner late so they’re less likely to be ravenous when they wake. Sure, breakfast in Paris seems very carb-heavy, but it comes down to calories: a single croissant has fewer calories than the average diner-style American eggs and bacon dish, or even a scone from Starbucks. (Learn how to avoid gaining too much weight when you travel long-term in my post How to Track Your Food and Avoid Overeating When You Travel.)
In many cafés, the le petit dejeuner includes a coffee beverage of some sort, orange juice, and a croissant or an open-faced toast called tartine that’s served with jam (confitures) or sometimes with butter (beurre). The variety of jams that’s available in Paris is pretty amazing to me (I saw green tomato jam once!), and the French won’t shy away from chocolate or speculoos spreads. I was a little bummed that nut butters, like our much beloved peanut butter, are not as popular here. You can find them if you look hard and wide enough, but you have as good of a chance of finding a unicorn as you do getting any nut butter at a restaurant.
But more importantly, coffee. Unfortunately, I find coffee in Paris to be mediocre at best. As an aside, it helps that coffee is a bit of an appetite suppressant. Pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and pain aux raisins (a sort of raisin croissant) are options, too, but really, anything from the bakery is fair game.
If it’s not some sort of bread or pastry, then breakfast cereal, muesli, granola, or a breakfast “cookie” (like belVita) are also staples. They’re typically eaten with milk or yogurt or fromage blanc, which is basically like cottage cheese-flavored yogurt. I saw a few recognizable cereals like Cookie Crisp and Special K in the local French supermarket, but one time I came across a box of Lucky Charms for…almost 10 euro! Wow, I lol’d to myself for a lot longer than was verifiably sane.
There are also quite a few bagel shops around like Bagelstein and Ari’s Bagel that are open early enough.
What about crêpes?
They’re typically not eaten in the morning, though you can sometimes find casual, quick ‘n’ grab cafés selling crepes to tourists early in the morning. In fact, most sit-down crêpe places don’t even open until close to noon.
What I Eat for Breakfast
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, but I have to admit that while staying here in Paris my breakfast routine is far from my typical.
A typical breakfast for me at home is pancakes made with protein powder or oatmeal mixed with protein powder. And coffee.
Here I flip-flop between eating breakfast and fasting until 11a.m. or 1p.m. to eat my first meal of the day. Sometimes I have a late enough dinner the previous night that I just don’t feel hungry when I wake. And my usual protein oatmeal isn’t easy to make so I default to what’s locally available: cereal, croissants and other pastries, and coffee.
When/if I do eat, I usually get a fresh croissant or baguette from a boulangerie (bakery) and eat it at home with scrambled eggs and ham; or just a single more decadent pastry, like a chocolate croissant or raisin bread. Paying for breakfast here is just not worth it.
My Favorite Places to Get Breakfast in Paris
Many restaurants aren’t open until later in the day, though some cafés open early in the morning. They’ll serve the same coffee and croissant you could get at a bakery but for two or three times the price. You’ll also find a number of dedicated breakfast spots, and if you really wanted to, you can visit American-inspired breakfast/brunch places. These are the places I really enjoyed:
PAUL is an artisan bakery and café chain that’s all around Paris. They have a killer baguette when it’s warm. It’s got the addictive crunchy outer layer and soft, chewy insides. It was actually the warm baguette from PAUL that triggered my new love affair with butter spread over warm French bread. Their croissants are also a bit above average.
- Price: $
- Location: A lot of places in Paris
Le Pain Quotidien
Another classic bakery café chain that you can find all over Paris. It reminds me of Panera Bread back in the States. It has the classic coffee and pastries, but there are also quick-grab sandwiches and salads. Most have plenty of seats for you to hang out for a couple of hours if you wanted to; or if you’re down for something heartier, you can order sandwiches, salads, and other entreés.
- Price: $
- Location: A lot of places
Carette is a very Parisian pastry café that also serves some of the creamiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. It’s open early so you can enjoy the usual croissants, hot chocolate, chocolate croissants, and other pastries, but you can also get those heavenly eggs and sandwiches.
- Price: $$$
- Location: 4 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris (Click here to view map.)
Holybelly reminds me of one of Portland’s numerous brunch options, but it tries too hard to differentiate itself from the other awesome brunch places and couldn’t make the cut so it went to Paris. Keep in mind, however, that brunch in Portland is as serious as serious can be. So for Paris Holybelly is great. Its brunch menu rotates regularly, but you can depend on them to serve you up some mean American-inspired brunch food. It gets super packed so expect to wait, especially on weekends.
- Price: $$
- Location: 19 rue Lucien Sampaix 75010 Paris (Click here to view map.)
Aki is a totally legit Japanese bakery in the totally legit Asian part of Paris, along Rue des Petits Champs. I have a big soft spot for Japanese baked goods already; so to have discovered a highly rated Japanese bakery that’s nestled in Paris and combined with the level of artistry and pastry-making as the French sweetened my stay.
Aki’s meron pan (melon bread) might be the best melon bread I’ve had, even counting the ones I ate in Japan. It comes in a couple of different flavors: normal, chocolate, matcha, and one other that I believe might change occasionally. You’ll also find a ton of other goodies like matcha mille feuille, matcha eclairs, katsu baguette sandwiches (killer!), and fried curry bread.
- Price: $
- Location: 16 Rue Sainte-Anne, 75001 Paris (Click here to view map.)
If you’re looking for eggs benedict and other killer breakfast classics in Paris with a heaping side of quirky vintage toys and decor, Twinkie Breakfasts is the place to go. They have vegan and gluten-free options, too, and they make all of their jams in-house. I’m not a fan of orange juice, but I hear theirs is great but pricey. Best of all, breakfast is served all day. This place, like Holybelly, swarms with hangry brunch-wanting vultures during the weekends, so try to come on weekdays.
- Price: $$
- Location: 167 Rue St Denis, 75002 Paris (Click here to view map.)
Breakfast in America
Yeah, the name says it all. If you’re jonesing for some ol’ American diner breakfast, then this place is it.
- Price: $$
- Location: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris, France (Click here to view map.)