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Enjoying French cuisine

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French gastronomy is world-famous and delights visiting tourists every year. Fresh produce, traditional eating habits, regional specialities, a rich culinary culture… there are many good reasons to come and appreciate the best of France's cuisine.

Enjoying French cuisine

Eating habits

For several centuries now, gastronomy and the culinary art have played an important part in French culture. Although lifestyles are changing, French people are still very attached to certain traditions that are part of their charm.

  • In France, people usually have three square meals a day, which is a real exception in Europe. It's rare for them not to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner. French people sometimes have tea at around 4 pm, but it's just a snack, with none of the ceremony of British teatime.
  • Their breakfast in particular is an institution which is appreciated throughout the rest of the world. It's generally eaten at around 8 am except on weekdays for those who work. Known as continental breakfast in hotels around the world, this meal usually consists of a hot drink (traditionally coffee, but it can be plain tea or hot chocolate), fruit juice, pastries (butter croissant, pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, brioche, etc.), and finally baguette. The latter, a real symbol of French gastronomy, is eaten spread with butter and jam, fresh or toasted. Very early in the morning, you can enjoy this French breakfast in cafés or brasseries, as well as in luxury hotels.
  • Traditionally, lunch is eaten at around 1 pm and dinner around 8 or 8.30 pm. In recent years, lunch at work has become less sociable in some places, and some French people just have a sandwich for a very quick break. Dinner, however, remains a time to share a meal with the family.
  • In France, the meal itself is an institution. It's seen as a social occasion to be shared with friends or family, with good food and wine. French people take the time to enjoy their food and make conversation, and meals can last several hours!

French drinks

France makes many drinks, but some are more famous than others, and some are internationally renowned. Alcoholic drinks are the most common exports.

  • Who hasn't heard of France's famous wine? A gastronomic institution like the baguette, the wine has been exported throughout the world for several centuries already. Whether it's from Alsace, Aquitaine, the Rhône Valley, the Centre region or Provence, this elixir is available in white, red or rosé, to the delight of wine-lovers. And let's not forget one of the most famous wines, champagne, which is served at all big celebrations throughout the world.
  • French regional drinks are also very popular all over the world. France is still famous for its Norman cider, cognac, absinthe (which fell out of favour after the 19th century), and calvados. It's also hard to miss pastis, which sets the tone in the south-east of the country!
  • Thanks to its overseas departments, France is famous for its rum, which comes straight from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion, as well as all the drinks made with it. Ti-punch and macerated flavoured rums (rhums arrangés) are variations that conjure up the exotic flavour of the French islands.
  • Although it doesn't come from France originally, coffee, especially when served with cream (café-crème) is very popular in France. Often served at breakfast, this drink is enjoyed by French people throughout the day, especially at break times during the working day.

Regional specialities

French gastronomy offers many delicious and unique dishes that delight the taste buds of travellers from all over the world.

  • While people abroad may think French food is all about frog's legs and Burgundy snails, there are many other specialities. When you're exploring the country, you can't miss dishes such as cassoulet, a mixture of goose confit, white beans, bacon, pork rind and pork from Castlenaudary, or Alsace sauerkraut, potée (stew), veal blanquette and coq au vin. All these names are sure to whet the appetite of anyone who has had the chance to try them already.
  • Foie gras is also a symbolic product of French cuisine. Made from goose or duck, this refined terrine is made in south-west France or Alsace, the region where it was invented. Spread on grilled toast or fresh bread, with onion confit or fig chutney, foie gras is eaten in all its forms and is commonly found on the menu at leading restaurants.
  • Cheese in all its forms is also a pillar of French cuisine: camembert, livarot, cantal, fourme d'Ambert, roquefort… The list is long because there are hundreds even if you only count the best-known ones. Cheese is also used in regional dishes that are loved by gourmets, such as aligot, fondue savoyarde or raclette with its delicious cured meats.
  • French gastronomy is also known for its sweet treats. From pastries such as the Saint-Honoré, Paris-Brest, chocolate éclair, etc., to cakes such as the Tarte Tatin and its caramelised apples. More regional desserts such as Kouing-amann and pancakes (crêpes) also have their devotees.

Places to eat during your stay

Your choice of restaurant should be based on what you feel like eating and the time you want to spend eating while on holiday.

  • If you're looking for fine cuisine and nice little dishes, it's best to choose a traditional restaurant. It's a way to enjoy original recipes while sitting comfortably in pleasant surroundings. It's important to avoid restaurants aimed only at tourists, which don't always serve quality products. There are great dining establishments all over the country - you just need to do your homework beforehand. Advance bookings are often not possible for the top restaurants. It's also worth noting that lunch prices are often cheaper than dinner prices, especially on weekdays.
  • For lunch on the go, small brasseries, bars and bakeries welcome hungry visitors. You can enjoy quick snacks, all kinds of sandwiches, salads and croque-monsieur.
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