French food is definitely a highlight of any holiday in France. Whether it is exploring the local markets or dining at the best restaurant in town, there is something for food lovers of all types.
Eating out in France
The French are very passionate about their food and equally proud of the local region from which it is produced. On our many trips to France, we always make a point of trying the specialty of the region and tasting the local cuisine. The size of the town or village you are visiting will determine how many dining options are available to choose from. In smaller villages, there may not be many options for dining at all other than the local café or brasserie. When in doubt we recommend browsing Trip Advisor and researching the village you are staying in to discover the local cuisine and best places to try it.
For any French food lover a trip to the local village market, or le marché, is a must during your holiday in France. Indeed even if you aren’t a food lover we still recommend you pay the local markets a visit. The local markets provide a great insight into the local specialties of the region, as well as to the French cuisine itself. The French are very proud of the produce grown locally in their region. Stallholders proudly display their wares of freshly picked vegetables, reared meat, and locally made bread and cheeses.
Many villages have a regular weekly market and some larger towns will have markets that are run twice a week or even daily. Indeed there are said to be over 10,000 local markets in France. If a trip to the village market is on your agenda be sure to go early, as many markets will be packed up and closed by lunchtime.
A Boulangerie – bakery – can be found in almost any village in France and is without a doubt the best place to go for your fix of freshly baked bread, croissants, and the like. Typically these are open very early in the morning and throughout the day – even when most restaurants and cafes are closed. You may notice a sign saying ‘Artisan Boulangerie’ and this indicates that everything on display is made on site.
If you have a sweet tooth then French Patisserie shops are a must for you. Here you will be able to find beautiful French pastries, cakes, and chocolates. Each area in France generally has its own specialty so ask the shop assistant for their recommendation.
Some would contend a trip to France without sitting at a café and people watching, isn’t really a trip to France! Cafés are a great place to find some smaller meals to have with your drink. Furthermore, they are often cheaper than a meal at a restaurant and can offer up quick service.
Bistros and Brasseries
Bistros are typically a family-run smaller establishment that offers a more casual dining setting. Brasseries are more akin to a pub. indeed, the term brasserie translates to mean brewery. They generally offer up longer trading hours and food can normally be purchased all day long.
Restaurants offer up a more formal atmosphere and dining experience. The menus both for food and drinks are generally at the higher end of the price scale and as such the quality of the food is also likelier to be of a higher standard. This is not to say you need to be dining at a restaurant to eat good quality food in France – some of the tastiest meals are often the cheapest too!
General tips for eating out
- Breakfast – the French don’t typically eat a huge amount for breakfast – especially compared with English speaking countries. A typical French breakfast would consist of a slice of baguette with jam and perhaps a croissant or pain au chocolate (croissant with chocolate filling.
- Be aware of opening hours. It is quite common to find that a lot of restaurants, cafés and shops are actually closed in the middle of the day – so keep this in mind if you are looking to have a late lunch.
- The French typically eat the largest meal of the day at lunchtime and it can be common for a lunch sitting to run over the course of two hours.
- You will never feel rushed at a restaurant. If you need to have a quick meal, we recommend going to a smaller café or brasserie.
- Bread is generally served complimentary with your meal.
- The term ‘la Maison’ indicates that particular item on the menu is home made.
- Many restaurants and cafes offer a menu du jour which offers an option of a two or three course meal at a set price. It often is very good value for money.
- The plat du jour or dish of the day is the house special for that particular day. It is often great quality and certainly not a tourist trap so do try it!
- The French normally sit for dinner around 8:00pm, which depending on where you are from, could be later than you are used to. Some places will serve meals earlier than this, just don’t be surprised to be the only diners eating at that time.
- Tipping is not a requirement in France and there is no set amount to ‘tip’ for good service. Typically if you wish to show your appreciation a few euro dollar coins will suffice.
- In restaurants you will need to ask for the bill – l’addition – from your waiter/waitress. Typically this is never brought out to you until you request it – this goes back to the French not wanting you to feel rushed when eating out. We normally find it takes a few days to remind ourselves of this when we are eating out!
- Smoking is not permitted inside eating areas but is allowed outdoors.