Paris Food Tour

Paris Food Tour with Context Tours

Paris through Food – Learning about Paris’ Culinary Culture with Context Tours

Paris is a smorgasbord for the senses: the glittering Eiffel Tower at night, the grandeur of some of the city’s finest hotels, the iconic architecture, the sounds of a bustling capital laced with romantic accents. Yet, arguably above all, there’s the culinary scene, which triggers all of the senses for travelers: the scent of fresh-baked bread, a sip of ruby-red Burgundy at a wine bar, the tanginess of a soft French cheese, the delicateness of a croissant. The French culinary scene is about more than food; it’s about culture and history. In fact, the humble baguette is now listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list which essentially embodies the concept of savoir-faire in Paris. When I’m planning trips to Paris for Compass & Vine clients, there are so many experiences that can make the cut but a food tour is often something that tops the list. During our recent trip to Paris in October 2023, with our 9-month-old in tow, we joined Context Tours for their Paris Food Tour: Essentials of French Cuisine.

Paris Food Tour

Our tour focused on Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Left Bank, which is one of my favorite parts of the city, and centered on three distinct elements of Parisian cuisine: the humble baguette and croissant, cheese, and chocolate. The entire tour was slated for 2.5 hours, led by an industry expert. We had Eric as our guide, a French-American pastry chef with Asian roots, who approached the tour through his lens, teaching us about the foundations of French pastry, the origin of French staples, and the strong cultural heritage and importance of food in French life.

We met at 9AM in Saint-Germain-des-Pres on a drizzly, grey morning at a coffee shop where we sipped café creme while sampling a croissant before heading out to a local French deli with prepared dishes, ready to be divvied up for the day’s patrons. Groups for Context Tours are generally small – normally under 8 people – and our groups was particularly tiny, with just one other couple joining us for a very private experience.

Paris Food Tour

Food tours vary hugely (we’ve done food tours in many places, from Ljubljana and Tallinn to Cairo and Naxos) and many times our food tours serve as a meal, whether we do it over lunch or dinner time. This tour was really more of an educational tour and foundation vs. a meal. If you’re keen on going somewhere for lunch in Paris after your tour, you’ll likely still have room for something light, which could be a pro or con depending on your perspective. Our tour was a series of small samples – in all honesty, upping the sizes and samples or number of stops would be a plus – but we still enjoyed the guided tour and meandering through the picturesque city streets in this part of Paris.

Our first real stop centered around cheese and baguette, sharing a spattering of cheeses sitting in a tucked away bistro (oh, Comté, how have I not properly met you before?!). For any lovers of Brillat Savarin, we visited the place where it originated, Henri Androuët. If you’re keen on taking home cheeses, this is an amazing place to stock up on a range of incredible French products.

Paris Food Tour

A general note that if you are looking at taking home cheese, hard cheeses that are wrapped/packaged are generally okay to cross back into the US. Soft cheeses are a bit suspect per FDA regs (not that anyone has ever checked my bag for contraband on past trips), though the team here may be able to advise which packaging works best for travel! I personally love the idea of stocking up on cheese and baguette on day one of a trip to Paris to enjoy a picnic in the city when the weather allows.

The cheese and baguette were the core of our food stop before heading on to Alain Ducasse’s chocolate outpost to sample chocolate and learn about the process of cacao sourcing. Chocolate lovers will appreciate this as a chance to try cacao from different regions of the globe — and to actually even taste the differences.

Paris Food Tour

Now, if I were designing this tour, I would have ended with a wine bar since that was a glaringly missing component for me but our tour ended at Le Chocolat, and we continued our self-guided tour by wandering the streets of Saint Germain, sipping wine with baby in tow.

Paris Food Tour

Tours with Baby

Paris Food Tour

Are food tours baby-friendly? Well, let’s start by saying that you know your baby better than anyone. Kaia is a pretty easy traveler, generally happy and go-with-the-flow, and will nap anywhere (a skill we’ve cultivated since she was born) so we felt comfortable taking her on a half-day Paris food tour. That said, in general, we opt for private tours (Context offers private as well). We were fortunate in that our group was tiny – four of us in total – but in general we remain very conscious of other travelers’ experiences and don’t want to impact someone else’s tour. We’re always prepared to step out if she begins to seem unsettled at all. Fortunately for this tour, she was great and actually participated in the food tour, which was so fun to watch. She had a bit of French baguette, some local cheeses, and a croissant (I joked that she was eating half of my food tour allocation, but really!).

In general, I suggest booking privately when possible to avoid the stresses of impacting others and to be able to make decisions about when to take mini breaks or even when to call it quits if necessary; a prospect that’s much more difficult when you’re in a group setting. Food tours are a bit more lively and transient by nature so are arguably a bit easier with a little one for something semi-private, while museum tours and places that require a bit more structure are extremely unpredictable. Even if a baby is allowed on a semi-private tour in this instance, I’d still opt for private out of courtesy for other participants. Lastly, when booking, don’t overestimate your baby’s ability to be out and be well-behaved for hours on end. Kaia is an easy-going baby with a pretty high tolerance for being out, and we still generally try to keep our tours to a half-day/four-hour maximum to avoid a meltdown.

Have you done a food tour in Paris before? Any recs for food tours that wowed you in the city?

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.