The art of French breakfast


Food and Wine

Pixabay CC
© Pixabay CC

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 8 February 2024

For many people, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's also a time to get together and start the day off right. What exactly does it consist of? Where can you enjoy it?

When did breakfast appear in the daily life of the French?

Breakfast as we know it today has not always existed. Its history began in the Renaissance, when bread and butter soaked in milk appeared, followed shortly afterwards by coffee, imported from Turkey, which conquered the court of Louis XVI.

But it was not until the 19th century that the term "breakfast" came into use. In the cities, people started the day with toast and coffee with milk or chocolate, while in the countryside bread was still accompanied by soup or even wine.

After the Second World War, breakfast as we know it today became indispensable.

On the French breakfast menu

Called "continental" in hotels, the traditional French breakfast is unchanging. It is built around the star of French breads:

  • the baguette: fresh from the oven or lightly toasted? It's up to you.
  • Tartines: topped with butter, sweet or semi-salty depending on the region, jam and honey.
  • Viennese pastries: croissants with butter, pains au chocolat, brioches or even pains au raisin.
  • Fresh fruit juice: mainly orange or grapefruit,
  • A hot drink: coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Be careful! The French differ from the English in the way they drink their tea: while the British add a splash of milk, the French prefer to drink it straight.

 Ooshot / Atout France
© Ooshot / Atout France

Where do you eat the best breakfasts in France?

In Paris, the famous butter croissant is a must, but for a gourmet breakfast elsewhere, you can indulge in some tasty regional specialities.

Specialities from different regions for a local French breakfast

  • In Occitanie, Bordeaux and much of south-west France, you'll fall in love with the chocolatine, the rectangular croissant nicely filled with one or more chocolate bars (to avoid any diplomatic blunders, the name 'pain au chocolat' is strictly forbidden in the region!)
  • In Alsace, we go for a nice slice of Kougelhopf (the iconic round brioche, high and fluted, decorated with almonds and tasty sultanas marinated in rum or kirsch, beautifully dusted with icing sugar).
    • in Brittany, it's the Kouign Amann that delights our taste buds... with its crunchy caramelized crust and melting puff pastry, this pretty Breton cake is one of the region's culinary emblems, and is an international success, having been ranked among the 40 best recipes of all time by the American magazine Food and Wine!
  • From Provence to the Côte d'Azur, the tarte Tropézienne gently awakens our palate at breakfast. We're delighted by the contrast between the freshness of the unctuous cream, a gourmet brioche and the crunchy grains of sugar...
  • In Normandy, you can choose to enjoy a sweet or savoury breakfast... On the menu, the famous Tergoule (a speciality made from rice, milk and cinnamon with a beautiful golden crust) or a creamy Camembert tartine. Something for everyone!

Some great places for breakfast in Paris

  • On the butte Montmartre: To enjoy breakfast with a breathtaking view over the rooftops of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, head to the Terass'' Hôtel. In the panoramic restaurant or on the rooftop, you can enjoy your coffee with a rich buffet on weekdays and brunch on Sundays. And if you feel like it, take advantage of the weekend to pamper yourself with a gym session, alone or with your baby or children. Terrass'' Hôtel

  • on the place de la Concorde: head for the Café Lapérouse. Located at the entrance to the Hôtel de la Marine, this is the chic place to have breakfast. While the terrace offers a magical view of the Concorde obelisk and the Eiffel Tower, the interior, beautifully decorated by Cordelia de Castellane, is an invitation to travel. For a Parisian breakfast, you can opt for a viennoiserie, a boiled, fried or scrambled egg, or a full breakfast. Café Lapérouse

  • In the heart of Paris: It's impossible to talk about breakfast in Paris without mentioning two timelessly charming institutions: the legendary Café de Flore and the iconic Les Deux Magots. For the former, head to Boulevard Saint-Germain for a delicious hot chocolate (reputedly one of the best in the capital) and the essentials: croissant, brioche, buttered toast with or without jam. For the second, go to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district and choose between a "classic", a "complete", a "Jean-Paul Sartre" or a "Hemingway"... Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots

  • On the roof of the Galeries Lafayettes: the Terasse des Créatures, with a breathtaking view over Paris, offers the creations of pastry chef Shin Rayieu for tasting all day long. For breakfast, you can enjoy tarts, biscuits, muesli and brownies, unless you prefer the very appetising breakfast formula. Créatures Bakery

Suggestions and advice Breakfast is an institution in France. It's usually served from 7.30am in cafés and from 6am in hotels. It usually lasts until 11am. But be sure to check the times, as they can vary greatly from establishment to establishment. Whatever your destination, a word of advice: use soft mobility solutions (walking, cycling...) to enjoy your French breakfast. It's the ideal way to gently wake up your body and work up an appetite. Enjoy your breakfast!


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