Traditional French Breakfast
In Paris, there’s no better way to start your day than with a delicious French breakfast. Petit déjeuner is the word to say breakfast in French, which literally means ‘little lunch’ since déjeuner is the French word used for lunch.
The typical French breakfast is sweet (more on this later). It is not a big sit-down meal, and it’s definitely simpler and lighter than in other countries since it does not include things like scrambled eggs, beans, omelets, or sausages. This is because the French like to eat a heartier meal for lunch.
So what do the French eat for breakfast? What is a typical French breakfast? Here are the most common foods that you will find on a typical breakfast in France:
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Classic French Breakfast Foods
Bread is a must of any traditional French breakfast, and it is usually a warm and crusty baguette. French people buy their baguettes in their favorite boulangerie (bakery), even if it is possible to find baguettes in some supermarkets too.
In a boulangerie, you have normal baguettes and ‘baguettes tradition’. The second is smaller but of better quality, baked on the spot without additives. They are a bit more expensive too.
2. Jam, Butter
When we have good bread, we like to eat it with something good on it. The most common options in a classic French breakfast are jam, ideally homemade. Some people like it with butter too, which needs to be of good quality.
The result of this combination (a piece of bread with jam or butter on it), we call it tartine, and we have a verb for it too: tartiner (to spread something good on the bread).
It is possible to combine jam and butter: first, spread the butter on the bread, then top it with your favorite jam.
3. Hot Drink
A traditional French breakfast needs a cup of hot coffee, which helps to wake up and switch on all the neurons in the brain. It is possible to take coffee with or without sugar or milk.
Of course, tea is also possible, but unlike in the UK, French people prefer to drink it without anything (apart from sugar). Therefore, don’t expect milk or lemon when you order tea in France.
4. Fresh Juice
Next to the bread, a classic French breakfast usually includes a glass of fresh juice, a source of vitamins that also helps to wash everything down.
A luxury French breakfast comes with fresh-squeezed juice, usually orange juice, but sadly this is not guaranteed in budget hotels. You can also find pineapple juice, peach juice, or grapefruit juice, but they are not fresh.
5. Viennoiserie (Pastry)
On Instagram, it is not unusual to see pictures of a typical French breakfast with different pastries, what we call ‘viennoiseries.’ Can you imagine us eating a croissant or a pain au chocolat every day? We wouldn’t definitely be that slim!
In France, most people will grab a fresh croissant here and there, and eventually, they will add it to their breakfast on Sunday or a special day, but it’s certainly not a daily occurrence, despite what you see on Instagram.
However, you are on holiday in Paris, so don’t hesitate to spoil yourself: one or two croissants in a week won’t hurt, especially if you spend the rest of the day exploring the streets of Paris. The most common viennoiseries to be found in your breakfast in France are croissant, pain au chocolat, or brioche.
Typical French Breakfast in Hotels
The typical breakfast in France is often called ‘continental breakfast’ in hotels. Sometimes, it is presented as a buffet with self-service.
The variety of the buffet usually depends on the hotel standard. Apart from the French breakfast foods mentioned above, you may also find yogurt, fruit, honey, cereals, milk, local cheese, and even eggs. In some luxury places, they may have a person to prepare hot crêpes.
Many hotels in Paris offer breakfast as an option, and it usually costs between 12-18 euros. Usually, you can book your hotel room without breakfast and decide about it later when you do check-in.
French Breakfast Foods in Cafés
Cafés and brasseries in France open early in the morning and also offer breakfasts. The most common breakfast in a café is a coffee and croissant (café et croissant) or another viennoiserie. Some Parisian cafés also offer cheap eats like a croque monsieur, croque madame, o jambon-beurre on their menus, and they are filling and delicious with a coffee.
You can eat your breakfast in the comptoir (the café’s counter), and it is usually cheaper than in the room or the terrace if they have one.
Some places also propose set breakfast menus with a hot drink, orange juice, and a viennoiserie of your choice.
More original and quiet, but also more expensive, there are also cake shops or tea houses where you can find great breakfasts, all house-made.
Breakfast in French Homes
If you decide to rent a furnished apartment in Paris, do like the French and buy the different French breakfast foods mentioned above at the supermarket once a week, and then bread and pastries day by day at the boulangerie.