Parisian Living

Eating Out in Paris: The Art of Dining Solo

by Carin Olsson
Written By

Carin Olsson

Carin 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. View Carin Olsson's Website

23 comments on “Eating Out in Paris: The Art of Dining Solo

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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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!

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

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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 ….

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

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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