Breakfast in a Parisian café can be a lovely way to start your morning, but if you’re not careful it can also turn out to be a sorely overpriced treat. Here are a few pointers for enjoying the most important meal of the day without blowing your budget before lunch.
Avoid the English-Speaking French Breakfast
Experienced travelers don’t need to be told to avoid restaurants and cafes in tourist-heavy areas like the street that runs alongside Notre Dame. If you see a sign that says “French Breakfast” in English, you can guarantee that it has been designed and priced for unwitting tourists, and no more authentically French than a French kiss.
Believe it or not, as long as you order a coffee or something else, it’s socially acceptable in most sidewalk cafés to bring your own croissants. Don’t bother asking first, since the French answer to almost any question is non, just be discreet, and don’t be surprised if the waiter doesn’t care (or even notice).
Go here to read about Paris cafés that offer espresso for a euro.
Boulangerie Breakfast Specials
Some boulangeries have a little counter or a few tables where you can sit down for as long as it takes you to finish off your pain au chocolat or sandwich, but beware of separate café menus and table service where you will pay a hefty price.
Also note that some boulangeries offer breakfast specials where you can get a coffee and a pastry at a discount. The boulangerie at 32 rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais has a handful of tables and stools and offers a coffee and a croissant breakfast special for €1.90, meaning you are paying the regular €1.10 they charge for a decent croissant, plus only 80 cents for a coffee, which is an average of €2.20 elsewhere in the neighborhood, including next door.
Don’t Buy the Milk If You Can Get It For Free
Ever noticed that the price of a two-sip espresso in Paris is often less than half of a coffee with milk? If you want an efficient caffeine hit but need a drop of milk to take the edge off of that bitter espresso, here’s a clever way to get a mini latte for the price of a naked espresso: ask for une noisette. This is simply an espresso with a little added bonus nut of milk, and may be delivered to you already in the coffee, or with a separate pot of milk.
Remember that many Paris cafés serve a little cookie or a caramel or a square of dark chocolate with your coffee, and a glass of water is always free; if they don’t automatically bring it, which they often do, then just ask for un verre d’eau.