Famed for its haute cuisine, discover our guide to the best French foodie spots and their specialities
Think of France and your thoughts will quickly turn to food.
With rich, meaty mains, deliciously creamy (and often delightfully stinky) cheeses, and some of the world’s finest wines, France is the perfect destination for the epicurean traveller.
Looking to take a food holiday in France? Here are the French cities that should be on every food lover’s list – plus what to eat when you’re there.
Mussels in Lille
Lille sits on the Belgian border in northern France, so it’s no surprise that the gastronomy of this university city has a strong Flemish influence.
The historic centre’s cobbled streets are dotted with restaurants serving up delicious bowls of freshly steamed mussels. Meanwhile, the local ports of Boulogne and Dunkerque also supply the city with fantastic fresh fish.
Other dishes to try include carbonnade de boeuf (a hearty beef and ale stew) and potjevleesch, a meat and vegetable terrine often served with chips.
You’ll also find multiple patisseries across the city serving up creamy meringue cakes that are a must-try.
Boozy stews in Bordeaux
Perched on the Garonne River in south-west France, Bordeaux is home to a busy port, gothic cathedral and elegant townhouses.
The hub of a vast wine industry and host to a biannual wine festival, the city has a great culinary tradition based on fusing local wines with the region’s best meat and seafood from the Atlantic.
For meat lovers, the most popular dish is entrecote bordelaise – rib steak cooked in Bordeaux wine with shallots and herbs. Oysters from the nearby Bassin d’Arcachon are also a delicacy.
And for desert? Specialities include cannels – small pastries with a custard centre – and roasted hazelnuts rolled in sugar, known as noisettines. A foodie must-visit.
Escargots in Dijon
Possibly most famous for its mustard, Dijon is capital of the Burgundy region in eastern France. It’s a striking city, with distinctive glazed roof tiles and a historical centre that has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
It’s also the centre of the world-famous Côte d’Or wine-growing region, and host to the Dijon International Gastronomy fair every autumn. As such, there’s plenty to keep many an appetite sated here.
Best-known regional dishes include escargots á la bourguignonne (snails in garlic and butter) and boeuf bourguignon. Pungent local cheese Epoisses is also worth a try.
Locally-grown produce is key here, with delicious mushrooms and truffles harvested from local woodland. Meanwhile, blackcurrants are grown locally to make delicious crème de cassis and tangy, fruit-based sauces.
Champagne in Reims
Champagne is home to some of the most famous names in fizz, including Mumm, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger. As such, there’s plenty of opportunity for tastings and tours of surrounding vineyards.
Alongside the bubbly, try the region’s delicious sweet treats. They include macaroons, gingerbread and delicate pink biscuits, traditionally dipped in red wine before eating.
There restaurants and shops around the thirteenth-century Cathedral of Notre-Dame (where French kings were crowned for 1,000 years) is a particular foodie hotspot. Here you’ll find locally-produced ham terrines and condiments including mustards and vinegars to take home.
Dumplings in Lyon
Lyon isn’t only the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes; it’s also the French capital of gastronomy.
This sprawling city is packed with rustic-style restaurants called bouchons that specialise in the region’s earthy meat- and fish-based cuisine.
The Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse in Cours Lafayette is a foodie haven. Here you’ll find stalls piled high with cheese from the Auvergne, Charolais beef and wines from the Rhône valley.
Lake and river fish are also popular. Lyonnaise specialities including quenelles, a creamy dumpling-style dish typically made from pike.
Blue cheese in Grenoble
Grenoble lies just south of Lyon in a scenic spot at the foot of the Alps, but has a distinctive cuisine of its own.
This is a top destination for cheese lovers. Blue, cow’s milk cheeses, including the mild Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage and creamy Saint-Marcellin, have been traditionally produced in the area for centuries.
Meanwhile, Ravioles du Dauphin is a popular pasta dish with a cheese and herb filling. It’s generally made using a distinctively green-coloured herb-based Chartreuse liqueur that has been distilled by local monks since 1737.
Steak-frites in Paris
France’s cosmopolitan capital needs little introduction, leading the world in its high standards of gastronomy.
Whether you prefer a traditional bistro for classic dishes steak-frites and pot-au-feu (boiled beef with onion, carrots and leek) or fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, this city has it all.
It’s also worth paying a visit to the city’s excellent food markets, such as Marche d’Aligre in Place d’Aligre. Marche des Enfants Rouges in Rue de Bretagne in Le Marais – the capital’s oldest covered market, dating from 1615 – is also worth a visit.
Truffles in Périgueux
This historic town in the France’s Dordogne region is great for more adventurous foodies.
Fresh, local produce can be found at the food stalls on Place du Coderc and the covered market. Depending on the season, you could find tasty chestnuts, flavoursome cèpes (a type of wild mushrooms), lusciously-ripe strawberries or strong, black truffles.
Meanwhile in restaurants, confit de canard (slow-cooked duck) is a local speciality alongside foie gras and terrines. Local Rocamadour cheeses are served in salads with walnuts, and good local wines include Bergerac, Montravel and Monbazillac.
And when you’ve had your fill, there’s also the town’s Roman tower, medieval centre and Byzantine cathedral to enjoy.
Sausages in Strasbourg
It’s no surprise that Strasbourg’s delicious Alsatian cuisine has a strong Germanic influence, with Germany lying just the other side of the Rhine.
Here you’ll find a choice of spicy sausages in variety of flavours. They’re usually served with choucroute – shredded cabbage layered with salt and juniper.
Tarte flambée – a thin dough base topped with crème fraîche, thin-cut onions and lardons – and coq au riesling are other mouthwatering local specialities.
Wine buffs can follow a 106-mile Alsace wine route to discover welcoming, family-run wineries in the foothills of the Vosges.