Over the years, I’ve come to realise that one of my favourite ways to discover a city is to take a guided tour, preferably right at the start of my stay, so I can get my bearings and make notes of places I want to go back to! “Guided tour” you say? Yes, yes, but guided tours have a come a very long way in the past decade and nowadays, the hop-on, hop-off tour bus which used to be one of the only ways to take a tour (and which is still a very useful option in many cases), is just one of many choices. These days, a walking tour is my tour of choice – they really allow you to get an idea of the layout of a particular (neighbourhood of a) city and are most often led by local guides, who can really give you “insider tips” on places to visit, eat and drink.
Over they years, I’ve been fortunate enough to take a fair number of walking tours (food and otherwise-themed) in Paris and today I’m sharing some of my favourites!
Food-themed walking tours in Paris (sweet treats)
The first walking tour I ever took in Paris was with Context Travel. Context is not a “tour company” per se but rather, a “network of scholars and specialists – in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and classics – who, in addition to their normal work, design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of intellectually curious travellers” (that would be me!).
I’ve taken a number of walks – all culinary-themed – with Context and can highly recommend them. The Chocolate Walk is a fabulous way to discover pastries and sweet treats for every day of your trip to Paris. In a small group, you meander through a series of pâtisseries and chocolatiers, tasting as you go (and making notes of places you will want to go back to!).
Book your own sweet tour of Paris with Context here.
La Cuisine Paris offers a sweet-themed culinary tour on the Right Bank (close to their cooking school).
The tour takes place in the trendy Marais area, taking in about 10 sweet spots from pâtisseries to chocolate stores. You receive a map at the end of the tour so you can plot your way back to your favourite spots! Read all about the tour here and book your tour with La Cuisine Paris here.
Food-themed walking tours in Paris
Flavors of Paris offers a couple of different tours – one sweet-themed and the other with a more general food theme (The “Original Tour”). I checked out the Original Tour a few years ago and was impressed with the careful curation of the tour. Flavors of Paris team has a bank of stores with whom they work closely and thus, tours can change daily based on opening hours (especially over the summer) and, of course, what’s local and seasonal and if you are in a really small group, your guide might even be able to personalise the tour even further according to your interests.
Context offers a couple of food-themed tours – One I couldn’t go past was the “Bobo Palate – New Trends in Parisian Cuisine” tour of the upper Marais (now known as The New Parisian Palate: Modern Tastes of the Marais). “Bobo” is short for “Bourgeois-Bohemian” (in other words, hip!), and the tour takes place in an area of the Marais which is home to one of what Context call “Paris’ most exciting gastronomic districts.”
Context also runs a food-themed tour on the Left Bank focussing on culinary traditions. According to the tour description: “Paris is synonymous for gastronomic refinement and elegance firmly built on its traditions. From les grands restaurants to the thousands of exquisite specialty shops to the neighborhood boulangerie, Parisians make food an art. On this 2.5-hour walk we will delve into the fascinating and delectable world of Parisian culinary traditions in the company of a true food expert.”
If it’s markets you are interested in, Context also offers a wonderful exploration of the Marché d’Aligre area. The Marché d’Aligre is a neighborhood market in the 12th arrondissement which is not so well known by tourists yet well-frequented by locals. The tour offers a leisurely stroll through the market where you’ll learn how Parisians shop for their food and about concepts like terroir. Taking in the market with a local makes it a lot more “do-able” for those who are new to the idea and is a great way to “practice” for when you are on your own later in your trip! Read all about my experience on the Marché d’Aligre tour here and book your place here.
Localers run an interesting tour over in the 7th arrondissement – not somewhere I would necessarily have thought about as being a “foodie” area until I took this tour!
A “gastro-historical” tour of a carefully selected group of merchants and artisans, this tour is led by a passionate young French chef and promises behind-the-scenes tastings at artisanal food merchants, including foie gras, wine, macarons, patisseries and a private wine & cheese workshop at a “fromagerie” when the shop is closed. While there was definitely a food focus, it was not just about the food. Maël, our guide, also shared information about history, architecture and art, so there’s definitely something for everyone to learn about! Read all about my experience here and book your place here.
Localers also run tours in the Canal St-Martin area. Leave the tourist traps behind, this tour in the 10th arrondissement (a neighbourhood you definitely wouldn’t have seen anyone other than locals venturing into back when I lived in Paris over a decade ago!) showcases the Canal Saint-Martin, now home to a thriving artisinal food scene. You’ll check out baked goods, charcuterie, vegetables and fruits and coffee all in the picturesque surrounding of the Canal and the streets around it. You’ll end the tour in a wine bar enjoying some well-paired cheeses. Read all about my experience here and book your place here.
Another tour of the Upper Marais is offered by Paris by Mouth. Of all the Paris food tours I’ve been on, this one has the least amount of walking (and the most sitting down as well as the lengthiest and most pleasant tasting session!) so if that is something you need to keep in mind, it’s an ideal “taster” of the Marais food scene for you (pun intended!). If you’ve only got an afternoon to explore an area you may not know so well, this is a great option too. Or, as one couple on my tour were doing – take this tour on the day you arrive, take advantage of your tour guide’s knowledge and expertise and make copious notes for places you need to return to during your stay!
Food tours outside Paris
If you’re looking for something a little different, how about a day tour to Versailles, checking out the Potager du Roi and enjoying a four course meal in a typical French bistro?
Not your typical Versailles tour, this one doesn’t lead you around the Château at all – rather you are shown something of a hidden gem – the King’s Kitchen Garden – then taken to the local market, then served a four course lunch.
After lunch, to walk off some of the calories, you are given a ticket to the Château so you can visit at your leisure – either that day or anytime for the next two years as that’s how long the tickets are valid. For the price of 180€ per person, it’s a little on the costly side (especially if you are a family) but if you factor in your transport, tickets to the Potager and the Château, the lunch (with wine!) and the guide’s services/ walking tour (which run around 90€ per person in Paris for a regular walking tour), along with the fact that you don’t have to think about the logistics, it’s something to consider, especially if you are short on time. Certainly the tour was sold out over the summer, so it appears the cost isn’t prohibitive (though it’s definitely something to save up for).
Paris walking tours (general)
I’ve taken two excellent walking tours in Paris, both with Urban Adventures. Their “Secret Paris” tour covers a lot of ground and offers a wonderful morning full of stories, history, tasty treats and no shortage of gorgeous things to look at. At €40 it’s one of the cheaper ones too) and would highly recommend it for those visiting Paris with only a short time to visit. Whether you know Paris (or think you do!) or not, there’s something to interest everyone.
The second tour I’ve taken with Urban Adventures in Paris is their version of Bohemian Paris. “Learn about France’s heritage while walking the streets, playing petanque and sampling regional fare.” Sign me up!
This is indeed an epic tour that covers a lot of ground but it really does have something for everyone – history buffs, architecture enthusiasts and foodies. Read about my experience on the Bohemian Paris tour here and book your place here.
Tempted? What tour of Paris would you like to do most?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Urban Adventures, Paris by Mouth, Context and La Cuisine Paris on the tours mentioned in this article. I was not asked to write about them and am not being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.