French Breakfast Guide: How to Enjoy Breakfast in France

Planning a trip to France and curious about what a typical French breakfast (petit déjeuner) is like?

Like in much of Europe, breakfast in France is typically a very simple affair, with a heavy focus on carbs (hello, croissants) and coffee.

We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy hundreds of traditional French breakfasts over the years (and some not-so-traditional ones as well), and have used all of those memories of cafes, boulangeries, and hotel buffets to create this guide to enjoying breakfast in France.

Here’s how to enjoy a typical French breakfast, whether you’ll be eating breakfast at a hotel in Paris or a cafe in Nice!

kate storm drinking coffee at a cafe in paris france breakfast

Typical French Breakfast at a Cafe

As a visitor to the country, odds are high that you’ll want to eat some of your breakfasts in France at an idyllic, outdoor cafe.

Here’s what you’re likely to find there!

Cafe in France with black chairs lined up against a teal building. Eat a typical breakfast in France at a cafe is a great experience!

Coffee

While café au lait (coffee with hot milk) is known as a typical French breakfast drink, these days you’re just as likely to find an espresso or a simple black drip coffee being served at a French cafe.

READ NEXT
Sublime Saint-Emilion, France: Things to Do + Travel Guide

And if you do order a café au lait?

It will almost certainly be served in a bowl!

Woman drinking coffee by canal in Annecy, France--fun things to do in Annecy

Pastries + Breads

Croissants and pain au chocolats are among the most popular French breakfast foods, but simple breads served with butter and jam are also very common.

READ NEXT
25+ Prettiest Small Towns in France (+ Map!)

A tartine, or slices of bread traditionally served with butter and jam (though you’ll sometimes find more elaborate toppings in less-traditional restaurants), is an extremely common French breakfast food.

Frequently, at cafes, you’ll see an offering of a coffee (usually espresso) and a tartine or croissant listed as a sort of breakfast “combo”.

This often costs around 3-4 Euro, depending on which city and neighborhood you’re visiting at the time.

Breakfast in France served on white dishes with coffee, croissants, jam, and butter

Juice

If you order a breakfast combo at a cafe in France, odds are that it will come with a selection of bread and/or pastries, butter, jam, coffee or tea, and last but not least, fresh juice.

Orange juice is the most common offering, but you’ll frequently find other fruits available as well!

Typical breakfast in France of croissants with coffee and juice, along with jam and butter

Breakfast in France When Sightseeing

Prefer to eat a small breakfast in France while setting off to your first travel destination of the day?

For a classic experience of ordering breakfast in France, head to a boulangerie (bakery) and order a warm croissant or pain au chocolat to go, fresh from the oven!

READ NEXT
17 Best Day Trips from Paris, France (+ How to Get There!)

This is a delightful way to enjoy a typical French breakfast, but be aware that French people generally frown on eating while walking down the street.

Instead, if you want to eat breakfast the French way, find a park bench with a pretty view before diving into your pastry!

Pain au chocolat being held up in front of the Seine in Paris. Pain au chocolats are one of the most popular French breakfast foods

A Note on Visiting a Boulangerie vs. a Pâtisserie

Quick note: a boulangerie in France is a bakery, and that’s where you’ll find fresh breads and bread products, including croissants and pain au chocolats.

In other words, that’s where you want to head when looking for breakfast in France.

READ NEXT
15 Best France Road Trip Itinerary Ideas (+ Driving Tips!)

A pâtisserie is, in essence, a pastry shop–but a different kind of pastry than a croissant.

In France, a pâtisserie is where you’ll find sweets, candies, and cakes. Think eclairs, mille-feuilles, and petit fours. 

In other words, pâtisseries are home to all kinds of delicious treats, but nothing you’d typically eat for breakfast!

Shelf of a boulangerie in France displaying various breads on wooden shelves

Typical French Breakfast at a Hotel or Bed and Breakfast

If you’re headed to a hotel that offers breakfast in France, here’s what you can generally expect!

Service Style

Depending on the hotel, breakfast at a hotel or bed and breakfast in France may be served buffet-style, as ordered at the table, or as a combination of the two styles.

READ NEXT
The Ultimate 3 Days in Paris Itinerary

For example, coffee and tea may be set out and self-served, while eggs may be offered as cooked to order.

If you’re concerned about your travel budget, be sure to ask about the cost of anything “extra” that is available to be ordered to your breakfast table, like eggs.

If most of the breakfast is set out as a buffet, there may be a charge for additional dishes.

2 people holding coffee cups over a brown table in France with croissants by their sides. The focus of the image is the food.

Common French Breakfast Foods Served at a Hotel

Coffee

This is generally fairly basic coffee, sometimes served out of a Keurig-style machine, sometimes an espresso machine, and sometimes served as a fresh drip coffee.

Occasionally, at a budget hotel, it will be instant coffee.

Tea is generally also available, but it is far less common as a breakfast drink in France than coffee.

READ NEXT
35 Best Cities to Visit in Europe (Bucket List for City Lovers!)

Pastries + Breads

Much like in a cafe, croissants, pain au chocolats, and simple breads served with butter and jam can be expected with a continental breakfast at a hotel.

Basket of French pastries served for breakfast in France
At a hotel in Paris, a waiter brought this basket of pastries to our table as part of the included breakfast!

Fruit

When eating breakfast in France in a hotel or bed and breakfast, a side of sliced fruit is commonly served with the meal.

Yogurt + Muesli

If the hotel or bed and breakfast offers a heartier breakfast, you’ll often see a choice of yogurt with muesli (similar to granola).

Bowl of yogurt with muesli on top on a white bowl with a spoon to the left of the bowl.

Meats + Cheeses

Cured meats like salamis, as well as a selection of cheeses, are frequently offered in the morning at nicer French hotels and bed and breakfasts. 

If there is a choice to order eggs, they’re typically served soft-boiled, but some places will also offer omelets or scrambled eggs in order to cater to foreign guests.

READ NEXT
Ultimate South of France Itinerary: Provence + French Riviera

Other French Breakfast Foods You Might See

Depending on how expansive the breakfast is, you may also see cold cereals, milk, and crackers on a French breakfast buffet.

In addition to butter and jam, honey or Nutella is sometimes also available as a spread.

pain au chocolat with side of fruit and meat at french breakfast hotel buffet
We enjoyed this breakfast at our hotel when visiting Dijon!

Should You Book a Hotel With an Included Breakfast in France?

It depends on your travel style, but possibly!

READ NEXT
Secret Paris: Off the Beaten Path Spots + Cool Hidden Gems in Paris

If you like having breakfast before sightseeing and would prefer something heartier than stopping at a boulangerie or cafe but more of a typical French breakfast than ordering an omelet at a brasserie, an included hotel breakfast can be nice.

However, this is generally more true for mid-range and luxury options.

Budget hotel breakfasts in France can often be so uninspired that you’re better off ordering an affordable croissant at a boulangerie than sticking around your hotel in the morning.

coffee on a red checkered table cloth in carcassonne france

What About Omelets?

Omelets are an extremely popular–and delicious–food in France, made with lots of butter and a smooth, soft texture (you won’t catch a French person overcooking their eggs!).

READ NEXT
11 Things to Do in Annecy, France’s Lakeside Gem

You’ll generally find them on the menu at brasseries (informal, diner-like restaurants in France), and while they’re often served all day, they’re typically eaten by French people for lunch or dinner.

If you see someone eating an omelet for breakfast in France, they’re probably a foreigner.

French omelet on a white plate with a side of salad and roasted potatoes. Omelets are not a typical French breakfast food!
I absolutely devoured this omelet in Paris… for lunch!

What Do French People Eat for Breakfast at Home?

While the bulk of this French breakfast guide is focused on those of us who travel from outside the country to visit, if you’re staying with a local family in France or simply renting an apartment, you may be curious to know what French people eat for breakfast at home!

While the idea of waiting in line at the boulangerie for a fresh croissant every morning is a nice image, in reality, that’s about as common as American families sitting down to fresh-cooked pancakes every morning.

In other words, it’s an occasional treat, mostly done on the weekends, not a daily occurrence!

READ NEXT
19 Best Things to Do in Strasbourg, France

Breakfast at home in France is generally a light affair, with coffee (sometimes even instant coffee), bread or crackers served with butter and or jam, and sometimes cereal or muesli.

For the French, keeping breakfast simple ensures that they leave plenty of room for the incredible lunch they’re probably planning on eating later in the day!


2 photos, one of a French cafe with red checkered chairs and one of croissants with jam. Black text on a white background reads "the ultimate french breakfast guide"
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

Leave a Comment