Many regular readers will know I love taking food tours wherever I go and that food tours in Paris are amongst my favourites! Last summer, I was excited to check out a couple of newcomers to the Paris walking tour scene – like Localers, whose Paris tour offerings are so varied you’ll want to take them all! Romain and Thomas from Localers invited me to join one of their tours last summer which is how I found myself on the Eiffel Tower food tour where I learned a lot about a neighbourhood I didn’t really know very well, especially not in the context of its food offerings.
This year, Localers kindly extended another invitation to to join one of their tours and after spending a fair bit of time trying to decide which one, I couldn’t go past the Food Tour of Canal St Martin (89€ per person based on 4 people in a group). Back in the days when I lived in Paris, the Canal St Martin was somewhere I didn’t go often and certainly not on my own at night. Not dangerous, just a touch “louche“. That was 15 years ago and lots can change in that time. I keep my eye on culinary trends in Paris fairly closely and have known for some time that this area was one of those “up and coming” ones so I was keen to check out the food scene here – hoping to be surprised like I was last year by the food offerings in a neighbourhood not so well known for them.
The tour description certainly sounded right up my alley: Leave the tourist traps behind and uncover one of the most beautiful and romantic areas in the city, the Canal Saint-Martin, home to culinary artisans who are setting a new standard for French food. Your […] guide will accompany you on a walk through the trendy stomping grounds of the city’s “bobos” – a nickname given to the bourgeois bohemians in the area. Sink your teeth into the local culture – and we mean that literally – as you nibble your way through some of Paris’s most talked-about eateries. Start with a bakery that many believe to be hands-down the best in Paris, specializing in pure all-natural ingredients and meticulous savoir-faire. Add some high quality charcuterie, organic vegetables, coffee, and other mouthwatering specialties as you take a picturesque stroll along the water’s edge. A highlight of the tour will be a chance to meet two passionate connoisseurs: a young oenologist and master cheese maker who have combined their passions to launch one of the most promising new gourmet hot spots on the canal. You’ll sit down and enjoy perfect pairings of wine and cheese arranged by experts in their fields. For an experience that’s as delicious as it is authentically Parisian, a tour around the Canal Saint-Martin can’t be beat.
Where do I sign up?
Our guide, a local, Maria, was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up living both the French and Latin American cultures. She moved to Paris in 2006 and became very interested in gastronomy and has subsequently traveled around France to become better acquainted with its terroirs. She has started taking wine classes and she certainly knew her stuff when it came to both food and wine. She was an absolute delight!
Our first stop was a covered market – the Marché Couvert St Martin – where I had, in all my years living in and visits to Paris had never been in! Even though it was quieter because of the summer holidays (not all vendors were there), there was still a lot to see and learn about…
Each market is a little different, of course, but what I love is to discover these markets with locals who live and shop there. Everyone has their own favourite vendors and areas of interest – you could honestly visit the same market with five different people and have five completely different experiences! Maria gave us a lot of information about the cheeses in particular which suited my tour group (an extended family group from Australia and England) very well! As any good guide, Maria read the group pretty quickly to determine the sorts of things we were interested in and focus on those (cheese!).
Marché Couvert St Martin
Tuesday – Saturday: 9.00am – 8.00pm
Sunday: 9.00am – 2.00pm
Our next stop was La Crèmerie – a charming cheese and charcuterie store in a street I had previously known as the one where the only thing of interest was my friend’s apartment which I sometimes visited. I was so surprised to see this street transformed into a much more upbeat destination than the street I had known.
And yes, we got to sample… and introduce our Australian friends to andouillette (the reactions were, shall we say, mixed…)
The store boasts an amazing array of Bordier dairy products…
It was a wonderful visit to this little gem of a store – Maria’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for all things cheese coupled with the owner’s kind explanations and generous samplings made it difficult to leave. In fact a few of us were already waiting out on the sidewalk when we were beckoned back in to taste “just one more cheese – you can’t miss this one”. It’s that kind of place.
41 Rue de Lancry
75010, Paris, France
Sunday and Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Friday: 9:30 am – 1:30 pm, 4:00 – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Tel: 09 67 30 17 87
From there we took a little stroll through the neighbourhood – including more streets I remember being much more seedy 15 years ago! These days, it’s more hipster than seedy although there is definitely a much less touristy feel than many other neighbourhoods in Paris.
Indeed, graffiti shares wall space with your “typical Parisian café” in this hood. And in the same street, you might find remnants of the hood’s past identity rubbing shoulders with the new “coworking” coffee shops! For my part, I was thrilled to see La Patache still exists. It was a regular haunt back in the day 😉 (and a little aghast that it’s hipster now. Because way back when, it most definitely was not!)
Amongst the nouveau-hipster crossed with “old man chic” (you all totally know what I mean when I talk about an “old man bar” right?) there are these croissants. And they are most definitely worth seeking out.
This would be the croissant au beurre from Liberté par Benoît Castel. A new-ish spot serving viennoiseries, cakes, pastries, sandwiches and bread, it’s not your typical boulangerie – stark modern lines and lots of bright light. There are a few tiny tables and chairs inside (the doors open in the nice weather and the tables and chairs spill out onto the sidewalk) but your best bet is to grab a croissant or a pain au chocolat and a coffee and wander down by the canal to enjoy it! I only tasted the croissant and pain au chocolat here and while both are good, the croissant is the reason to go. Break it in half and look at the layers. Just sayin…
Liberté par Benoît Castel
39 rue des Vinaigriers,
Métro: Jacques Bonsergent (LIne 5)
Open Tuesday-Sunday 7am-8pm
Tel: 01 42 60 20 39
Bellies satisfied with buttery goodness, we headed towards the canal and crossed over the other side…
This side of the Canal (Quai de Jemmapes) definitely felt even less touristy than the Quai de Valmy side although with the recent influx of new coffee shops (like Ten Belles) this is changing too…
Our final destination was the adorable La Vache dans les Vignes.
Just over a year old, this place is part wine store, part wine bar (with fab cheese and charcuterie) and was the place we got to sit down and put some of our new cheese knowledge into action and learn a little about wine and cheese pairing. Owned and run by two friends – a cheesemaker and a caviste, (I mean what more perfect combination?) this place is somewhere that would be a regular haunt if I lived in the neighbourhood! Wines are available to buy by the bottle or you can enjoy them by the glass in-house, accompanied by a plate of cheese and/ or charcuterie.
This was a really nice touch on this tour – only a few other food tours I’ve been on (including the Localers’ Eiffel Tower Food Tour) include a tasting where you stop to enjoy the samples – many other food tours have you sampling all along the way, on the go. I loved that we got to sit down and enjoy the cheese and wine and actually had the time to properly enjoy both. The tour isn’t a lot of walking per se so it’s not that you need to sit down because you are tired, rather, it’s just nice to sit down with new found friends and continue the learning in a more comfortable fashion. Between Maria and the caviste, we learned a LOT about the wines we were tasting and how to pair them with cheeses. Definitely a place I’d go back to on a future trip to Paris!
La Vache dans les Vignes
46 quai de Jemmapes
Monday and Tuesday: 4pm – 10pm
Wednesday- Friday 10.30am – 2pm then 4pm – 10pm
Saturday: 10.30 – 2pm then 3pm – 10pm
Tel: 01 77 10 88 36
I really enjoyed my leisurely afternoon strolling around this new (again)-to-me neighbourhood – this was a great way for me to see the transformation of an area of Paris that previously hadn’t been on my radar in terms of coffee, croissants, wine or cheese. Now, it most definitely is! As with most tours, I’d suggest you take this at the beginning of your trip to Paris as there are surely places you will want to go back to visit! Highly recommended!
Check out all the Localers’ Paris tours here.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Localers on the “Food Tour of the Canal St Martin”. I was not asked to write about this, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions are 100% my own.
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