Pleasures of the Underworld


Before the restoration of historical monuments and the creation of tourist attractions, leisure in the public space was rare in Paris. The main attraction for visitors was the Parisians themselves. In the early 19th century, most city-dwellers lived in what would be considered slums today, but their rowdy gatherings, noisy bals and smoke-filled cafés fascinated the first tourists in search of powerful sensations different from their normal lives.

This tour follows the tradition of the “underworld tour” and takes you through the spots where students and the underworld enjoyed freedom, drinks and more. If the danger is gone, the thrill remains, and your foodographer will take you to out of the way historical landmarks, while food breaks will give you a glimpse of the least forbidden of these pleasures. 

Price per private group of 1 to 4:

In 1831, when Victor Hugo described a medieval Paris in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, he simply described what he was seeing. Paris would be modernized only twenty years later. Hugo faithfully described the narrow dark lanes with sewers in the middle; the ladies carrying umbrellas against garbage or the content of various pots falling from the windows; as well as the old ladies cooking street soups made of scraps in giant cauldrons. This was the Paris of Hugo and Balzac, a city full of life, noisy, witty, thrilling, and many were the Parisians who regretted its disappearance when the City of Light emerged from Hausmann's destructions.

Our tour will take us through the history of this transformation, first with a walk through the markets and streets full of grazing sheeps of middle age Paris at Saint Sulpice, to the present of a neighborhood which is today more respectable, but still a boisterous center of the city. 


During lunch in one of the oldest restaurants of the city, your guide will evoke the popular French food traditions and gastronomy. Then, venturing further into the underworld of Paris, where the first tourists came in search of cultural immersion on Place de La Sorbonne, your foodographer will tell you about the diets and habits of students – because food was one of the way they distinguished themselves from the bourgeoisie and their pompous dinners.

This tour follows a long tradition : tours of the underworld of Paris were organized as early as the 18th century. These itineraries involved the most dangerous cabarets, the infamous red light district, the bawdy and lowly taverns, and even dreadful “hospitals” on their menus. On ours, this will be mostly stories and sights, ending with a delectable cup of hot chocolate prepared just as King Louis XIV used to drink at Versailles. 


The dangers of lobster on the grass

“Come Sunday, there is an invasion of the Gare Saint-Lazare, lady fruit sellers from the Rue Saint-Denis, cabinetmakers from the Rue de Cléry, girls who make chocolate in rue Vivienne... and when there trots a Parisienne, a Parisien is sure to follow.

There is singing and shouting, dancing, running about, falling down, and going astray. It all begins with entrecôtes au cresson and ends with aching limbs. The banks of the Seine are full of mysteries that day, mysteries of the private and pastoral life.

Here we serve lobster salad on the grass, messieurs!”


Louis Blairet, 'Autour de Paris', 1884. 

-Lunch in the oldest popular restaurant of Paris approx 20€pp

-Latin quarter and La Sorbonne.

-Luxembourg Garden.

-Hot chocolate prepared like in Versailles in front of the oldest café in Paris. 


Available:  Daily
Start Time: 12pm
Duration: 4 Hrs
Meeting Point:

 Exit of Metro Etienne Marcel

Includes: Private Guide
Excludes: Cost of Transfers, Meals,Tastings

Additional Info


"Absolutely wonderful from start to finish! Larry is great, extremely helpful with prompt, friendly service.

Our family of 5 (2 adults and three kids ages 16,11,9) took a gourmet food tour in Paris with Aurore. She was delightful."



During this tour, your foodographer will tell you the story of the origin of tourism. Once upon a time, the world's elites all came to Paris to finish their education and have fun, Paris being the first stop in the Grand Tour. Starting with the fundamental Parisian delight—a good meal—these excursions will bring back to life the secrets of the traditional French Tour : its rowdy and illicit pleasures, its refinements and delicacies, its dangers and brilliancy, all the ambiguities of Gai Paris.

The Grand Tour is a journey into the history of entertainment. We will follow the footsteps, if not the example of Russians dukes in the underworld of the early 19th century.




“You wanted to sit down in front of a new café forming the corner of a new boulevard still littered with rubbish but that already displayed its unfinished splendors. The café was dazzling." Baudelaire (The Eyes of the Poor)