The French love their food and the social occasion that eating out with family or friends gives them. So, finding somewhere to eat isn't going to be too much of a problem; even the small villages often have somewhere you can eat well. 

In rural areas, restaurants tend to serve lunch between noon and 2pm and dinner between 7.30 and 10pm, and it is not easy to find something in-between those two meal times. But you can usually get a sandwich in a café, and ordinary hot dishes may be available in a brasserie.

In French restaurants and cafés, a service charge is included. Tipping is not necessary, but French people often leave the small change from their bill on their table or about 5 percent for the waiter in a nice restaurant. And if you've had an especially pleasant meal, with attentive service, then tip accordingly; it will be appreciated.


There are restaurants in all towns and cities but usually only open at traditional meal times. Food ranges from regional cooking to nouvelle and haute cuisine – expect to pay anything from €12 upwards for a main course, depending on the type of food available. Many restaurants offer good value set menus at lunch times; the plat du jour is always worth thinking about, not least because you can get 3 or 4 courses very inexpensively. You can often find restaurants specialising in fish and seafood, especially along the coastal resorts, and I was once advised never, as a principle, eat seafood more than five miles from the sea.

High-end, fine-dining restaurants will be found in all the major cities; they may not all be Michelin-starred, but they will be good. But beware, if you're not used to this luxury cuisine, don't overdo it by eating out every night. Apart from damaging your wallet, the rich food can upset your tummy, too. But as a 'Welcome to France', or an 'Au revoir' it's good to splash out.


...are where to have a coffee or breakfast in the morning. You will often find men standing at the counter drinking a pastis (aniseed-flavour alcoholic drink), even early in the day. At lunchtime, the tables are set with cutlery and paper cloths and you’ll find good-value, simple food. Of course quality will vary, so it’s good to go somewhere that seems popular.


Brasseries are found in most cities and towns and often serve food 24/7. The white-aproned waiters buzz between the tables, taking orders for coffee, drinks or food – steak and chips, duck, chicken – from locals and tourists alike.

Restaurants Rapides

The ubiquitous fast-food outlets McDonalds® and Burger King® (France even has its own chain – Quick) can be found in the centre of most French cities and on autoroute service areas these days as well as pizza places, kebab shops, take-away crêperies. Ideal for anyone on a budget or in a hurry.

Relais Routiers

These places are mainly frequented by lorry drivers, and can be found along main roads. But food is cheap and they can be a good option if you’re en route somewhere and don’t want to waste time going into town. If it’s important, do some advance research at www.relais-routiers.com.


As well as serving food, auberges also traditionally offered accommodation to travellers. They are the French equivalent of the English inn, and usually found in the countryside and an attractive option to both eat and stay. They normally serve regional produce; it will be simple but wholesome.


There are thousands of crêperies across France, especially in Brittany. A crêpe is made with sweet batter and a galette is made with salty batter – both are usually available with a choice of fillings.


Vegetarians will be disappointed to know that there are few places that cater exclusively for their needs; vegans even more so. At its simplest, the French don't understand why anyone doesn't want to eat meat. But it isn't impossible, and the key is to ask first. Don't be drawn in by assurances that they can produce a vegetarian meal; try to find out what they can do, otherwise you'll end up with a mushroom omelette – it will be an excellent omelette, but there are only so many omelettes you can put up with. Moreover, if you find a restaurant you like the look of, make a point of asking if the chef can prepare something for you, but maybe do it a day in advance, he/she may need to buy in ingredients. So be sure to book a table at the time; it's only fair.

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