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Eating Out in Paris: The Art of Dining Solo

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

Before I moved to Paris, I was afraid of eating alone, at a table by myself, in public, for anyone to see. I have no idea why the idea was so terrifying, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who has ever felt that way.

Carin Olsson

It wasn’t until last year during a warm spring day in May that I found myself in this completely new and quite intimidating situation. But to get past your fears you have to face them, right? So that’s what I did. I sat down at Coutume Café and had brunch, all by myself. Sure, the first few minutes were a bit awkward. And no, it did not help that the two gentlemen at the table beside me giggled every time they looked my way. Do I have something on my face? Did the spinach get stuck between my teeth? Did I pronounce ‘jus de fruits’ completely wrong?

TOF alias christophe hue

They probably meant no harm, but when you’re pushing outside of your comfort zone you tend to notice (and in my case over-analyze) everything going on around you just a little bit more than you normally would.

After surviving the first awkward minutes at my table for one (and checking on the teeth-spinach situation in my pocket mirror), I started to relax and actually enjoy myself. My eyes wandered from the waitress taking orders from the table in front of me, to the barista behind the bar and then to the gentlemen next to me chatting rapidly in French. It felt nice. When you’re alone you have no choice but to take it all in, and hopefully even enjoy it. You can’t hide behind conversations or miss the people passing by.

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

Paris is a great city to start your dining alone adventure. Every time I pay a visit to my favorite restaurants here in Paris, I always see a couple people enjoying their meal (a three course meal with wine that is) tout seuls. Even if they’re dining alone they treat themselves to a fantastic lunch or dinner out.

Making Magique

Le Comptoir du Relais has a fabulous terrasse with a view of people strolling the streets of Saint-Germain, and their wine bar next door, L’Avant Comptoir, is perfect if you’re in the mood to chat with a couple of new people hanging out at the bar. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Frenchie’s wine bar also seem to be made for people looking to enjoy a meal on their own. Grab a table along the bar at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon or at the kitchen window at Frenchie’s wine bar and enjoy the talented chefs in action – you get an amazing meal plus great entertainment.

TOF alias christophe hue

I would also suggest finding a quiet corner at Hôtel Amour or Colorova and ordering a pot of tea and one of those gorgeous pastries while disappearing into a great book. Merci’s Used Book Café also feels like it was designed with exactly this type of purpose in mind… Dining options for une personne in Paris are endless!

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

It has taken me a couple of practice rounds to get comfortable dining on my own and, depending on my surroundings, it’s still a little hard from time to time. But practice makes perfect, and I am wholly dedicated to mastering the art of solo dining. If you’re just starting out too, here are some tips to help you get started:

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

Bring something to read
Hiding behind a book or an interesting magazine can feel a bit safer and is a great way to start if you’re not completely comfortable with the the idea of eating alone. Some restaurants and cafés often have a few newspapers lying around as well.

HiP Paris Blog, Carin Olsson, Dining Solo

Carin Olsson

Look for WiFi
If you find yourself without reading material and still want a safety blanket, WiFi is your friend. Surf the web, read articles, and keep up with your favorite blogs while enjoying your meal alone. Café Craft (a freelancer’s paradise), La Cantine, Kooka Boora and Merce and the Muse are just a couple of the many cafés and restaurants that offer free WiFi in Paris today.

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

Dine with a view
If you feel comfortable enough to skip the book, I suggest finding a place with a view that’s easy on the eyes. Let your eyes feast on the passing people, the spectacular architecture or the chefs working in the kitchen. Head to the Saint Régis or the Nemours if you’re in the mood for a glass of wine, or to Le 43 for a cocktail. For a meal, try the Georges at the Centre Pompidou, and Carette by the Trocadero for a couple of macarons to go with your afternoon coffee.

Be creative
I’ve found myself many times without that back-up book, magazine or view to keep me occupied. When that happens, I resort to my immediate surroundings: eavesdrop on the people behind you (come on, everybody does it), make up your own stories about what people are talking about, where they’re from and what they do. Think Steve Carell and Tina Fey in the movie “Date Night”; if you have the imagination, you’re guaranteed a fun night by yourself.

HiP Paris Blog, TOF alias christophe hue, Dining Solo

TOF alias christophe hue

Enjoying Paris by myself is now one of my favorite things to do, so don’t be afraid to give it a go. You never know what might happen!

Related links:

  • Want to find out more about Hotel Amour? Have a look at HiP Paris’ previous article about this lovely hotel
  • At Coutume Café you can finally get some good coffee in Paris, as well a few other places listed in this article
  • Le 43 is a great hotel bar, we’ve listed a few other ones that you need to pay a visit to while in Paris

Written by Carin Olsson for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Carin Olsson

Carin OlssonCarin Olsson left both her job and family back in Sweden to pursue her longtime dream of moving to Paris. A big passion for food, sweets, the city itself and photography resulted in her blog, Paris in Four Months, where she shares her time in the city of light.

Website: Paris in Four Months

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Posted in Parisian Living | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Eating Out in Paris: The Art of Dining Solo”

  • darren says:

    Thank you very much for this article, it’s almost therapeutic! I’m heading to Paris (solo) for most of September, and while I’m extremely excited to explore the city I confess I’m an introvert (who also loves solo travel, is that a contradiction?). The only thing I’m stressed about is eating alone; waiting in a queue, potentially sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, trying to understand how the restaurant “works” (i.e. menu vs. carte) while attempting to use the French I’ve been learning… The whole process feels so daunting, but I have to suck it up and do what it takes to make sure the anxiety doesn’t ruin my trip.

    I hope what you say is true, that it just takes a few awkward trial runs before I can fully enjoy the experience. I’m not much of a reader but I’ll definitely get a book as you suggest.

  • londoner says:

    I am attending a friend’s wedding in August and will be alone in Paris. I have arranged to stay in the city for a few days to make the most of the trip and your article encourages me that I would not be the only person to dine solo. To complicate matters I do not speak French at all so hope that won’t be a total hindrance. Anyway your article makes me want to give it a go.

  • Bill F says:

    Very cool article with great advice. One thing is that if you can go it alone in Paris, you can do it anywhere. For me, a frequent solo traveller, Paris was the most difficult due to the very long eating times customary in France. I’ve been to many a restaurant for dinner and was annoyed that the service wasn’t sped up a little to accommodate my soloness. (“Don’t they see that it’s just me?”) This mainly applied to dinner, lunch was never a problem. Having a book with me or some another thing to occupy my time was an absolute must in those cases. I never felt comfortable hurrying up the service for fear of being the ugly American “always in a hurry”–but when you’re dining alone, sometimes you really don’t want to be there for 2 hours. If you have any advice regarding this, I’d be all ears. – thanks, Bill.

  • Madeleine says:

    Wonderful! I’m not an expert, but it seems that the tables in Paris are much smaller in general than in America. The smaller tables are an advantage for dining alone. I only feel weird when I’m seated at a giant table in the middle of the room!

    In general, I don’t mind eating alone. I did it recently and took the time to read about a new coffee shop close by and tried it out. I wouldn’t have known about it if I had been talking to someone instead of reading. I don’t know if this matters, but I’m introverted. I think it may be more difficult for an extroverted person to dine alone.

  • Pamela McDonald says:

    Hi Carin
    Late to the party because I’ve only recently returned from a solo trip to Paris and London (husband couldn’t get away). Often lunched alone in nice restaurants. The staff looked after me beautifully everywhere – was never placed at a bad table. It’s great to enjoy the ambience and to people watch rather than reading a book and missing the experience. At Le Grand Colbert I was seated in an area where there were three men all dining alone at separate tables. The older man next to me was an artist from St Remy. We struck up a conversation and chatted and laughed through the meal. At the end he gave me his card and asked me to bring my husband to visit him next time I’m in St Remy. For me, dining solo on all these occasions was a pleasurable experience and allowed me to observe so much of the places and the people and to really enjoy the moment. Much as I love going out with my husband or friends I realised that if I’d been absorbed in conversations with them I’d have missed a lot. Best wishes, Pamela

  • Justin says:

    What a nice article Carin! I just found this site, as I will be making a solo 2-week trip to Europe from the USA, and will be stopping in Paris. I, for one, savor the time I have alone, and some of the best moments in my life, have happened while I was going solo. Love my family & friends to death, but I do love that time when I am just with myself, taking in all life has to offer.

  • This topic is quite interesting. It takes a lot of time (especially for a French)to eat out alone.
    I started it a few months ago and now I LOVE it. Mostly for lunch, on Saturdays (I still find it kinda creepy for dinner time). I can go where I want, eat what I want.
    Besides checking internet and reading a book, I like observing what’s going on around me – I don’t mean spying right. You feel like time is stopping and it’s like your senses are more opened.
    Honestly it’s something to try!

  • Beautiful Pics!! This is really a great post. Paris is a perfect place to enjoy the vacations.

  • Mumbai says:

    Great theme. Yes, as you get used to it you can
    enjoy it. It takes me centuries but suddenly oooh, I could do it. I’m quite proud. But I would never
    go out alone having dinner at Ritz.

  • Ally says:

    I’m so glad I found this article – after a series of events (how vague) I will be in Paris alone next weekend and the only thing that worried me was eating alone. Thanks for the tips!

  • Helen says:

    Out of necessity I started dining alone and now I’ve grown to love it. I have found that from time to time you need to be a little firm with waiters who try to seat you in the corner, by the loo or the kitchen door/servery and even once at a very poorly lit table under some stairs by the coat rack. I pointed out a small table in the centre of the restaurant where I would sit to enjoy my meal. They happily placed me there and I had one of the most enjoyable dining experiences of my life.
    In Italy the waiters will look over your shoulder for the other member of your party and then when discovering you are ‘solo’ they will flirt and fuss over you in a way that cannot fail to make you smile.
    In Venice, when having an afternoon glass of wine by myself in a small bar, I was swept up by a group of locals on a bar crawl and I experienced one of the best parties I’ve ever been to.
    In Paris I met a man who was going to visit his adult son for the first time in 20 years on the eve of the son’s marriage. He was nervous about being out of place, of wanting to present himself well and so at his invitation we spent a wonderful afternoon purchasing him some new clothes to wear to this very important engagement.
    Go it alone, take a book for backup, don’t forget to look up and see the world and chat to people who are daring enough to initiate a conversation. You’ll have far more fun that you expect.

  • Erica says:

    Eat alone. At the bar. With a book. You will be sure to meet new and interesting people. People you would never meet if you were not eating alone, at the bar – with a book! Being alone often opens so many doors for new encounters we would never have if we were in a group. Enjoy and bon appetit!

  • Marsha says:

    Great post, Carin. In America, we are given the message that if you are out alone, at a movie or for a meal, that you have no friends – an awful prospect when you’re still school age. When I was still school-aged I idolized anyone who had the self-confidence to go solo. I’m now that person too. So are you.

  • Vicki Archer says:

    I have grown to love eating out alone, but I must agree it does take a lot of getting used to!…I do always have a book as a back-up though!…xv

  • I love this article! I’m a huge proponent of dining solo. Partly because I naturally eat incredibly slowly, and when I dine with a group I tend to feel rushed. There should be absolutely no shame in dining alone, either, especially in Paris. It’s a great way to slow down and chill out and have some time to yourself while enjoying the best of what the city can offer.

  • gourmandsolo says:

    not one foto shows an actual tavern or restaurant ..
    which is good ……
    ..
    eating during midday is also much easier than dining at night in a restaurant alone…
    small plates / cold plate at a cafe or bistro very nice ..
    daytme eating makes it easier ….

  • Judy says:

    What a great post Carin! I’ve been a flight attendant for over 15 years so exploring and dining solo has always been something I’ve done. The crew doesn’t always go out together. It did make me nervous at first too. Paris is perfect to experience the city by yourself and so many places to dine solo comfortably. Great list of tips!

  • This is something I struggle with and have tried very hard to push through. Still need the book or magazine to feel comfortable. I have never been alone in Paris but I have seen many people dining alone in Paris. One in particular in a bistro in the Marais, a woman had set herself up on Sunday lunch with a big newspaper and a few course meal. It amazed me how relaxed she seemed, she was even served coffee and cake and didn’t take a bite or sip for some time. Indeed she seemed to languish and draw out the experience! It is not something you see a lot of in Australia but is so much more common in France- so Paris to me is a perfect place to practice the art of solo dining xx Corrina Tough

  • Julia says:

    Hello Carin. I’m really glad you posted this!Dining solo, once mastered, can be really enjoyable. I especially a fan of eating at the restaurant bar. My first trip to Paris was a solo one, and so I made sure to grab a spot at the bar whenever possible. It’s the perfect spot to observe your surroundings – the food, the drink, the waitstaff, customers – and it makes you feel like part of the action as opposed to alone and on the sidelines. In Paris, my most memorable experience was at Grazie, which was so welcoming and convivial that I actually went twice on my trip: http://juliachewsthefat.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/finding-warmth-in-the-3rd/

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