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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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.