A Typical French Breakfast – Pastries, Bread and Coffee

A typical French breakfast
A typical French breakfast.

If you are planning to go to Paris you are going to want to know what a typical French breakfast is. The city is famous for its pastries, bread, and amazing coffee. So taking your time to have breakfast in Paris is definitely something that should be a  must-do on your “to-do” list while in the city or France in general.

To be honest most Parisians don’t have a big breakfast. Usually, it’s a quick coffee and a croissant at home or on the way to work. (Although brunching is trendy now and you can find great spots to brunch on the weekend.)  But taking into account the volume of patisseries overflowing with the most delicious croissants, you are very likely to end your stay in France with a serious addiction to this simple and typical French breakfast.

The traditional spot for breakfast in Paris is a sidewalk café or neighborhood bar. Very few bakeries serve coffee, but you are starting to see them more and more. “American-style” coffee shops are popping up everywhere and you can get a pastry and coffee in the same place.Some bakeries do have a few small tables and serve coffee and for sure the cost of your breakfast will be lower than in a café.  Other days you may want to have breakfast in your hotel room or rented apartment. You just have to buy the croissants in a bakery and make your own coffee (or get one to go at spots that allow that). Whatever you choose, there is no better way to start your day!

Whatever you choose, there is no better way to start your day!

Croissant

A typical French breakfast-croissants

With all the great things available in the bakery it may be difficult to decide what you want, so a great way to start your French adventure is a typical croissant. You can never go wrong with a croissant. French croissant has the perfect balance of sweetness and puffiness, crispiness, and softness. It will melt in your mouth making you want another one as soon as you finish the first one. For the perfect croissant be sure to get the croissant au beurre (a croissant made with butter). Delicious!

But French bakeries have so many pastries to choose from, you can pick out a new treat every day. While each patisserie will have their own variations and unique creations, there is definitely a standard array of flaky, buttery treats you are sure to find at most bakeries around France. Besides the traditional croissant, other breakfast options you are likely to find are:

Pain au chocolat

Pain au Chocolat
Pain au chocolate, a croissant filled with chocolate! Tasty and delicious traditional French breakfast pastry.

A pain au chocolat is a croissant-type puff pastry containing a thick stripe of chocolate. Being one of French’s favorites, pain au chocolat is best when served hot with the chocolate melting into the pastry. I’m sure you are imagining it melting in your mouth right now…

Pain aux raisins

A-typical-french-breakfast-Pain-aux-raisins
Golden pain aux raisins.

This is a variant on the croissant or pain au chocolat, made with a leavened butter pastry shaped as a spiral and with some raisins and a crème pâtissière filling. On top, it has a thin layer of sugar or icing sugar.

Chausson aux Pommes

 

A-typical-french-breakfast-chausson-aux-pommes
Apple of my eye, a chausson aux pommes.

One of my favorites, this is another classic of French breakfast and it can be found at almost any bakery in France. It is made with a puff pastry crust much like a croissant and a filling akin to applesauce. They are best when served warm and there is just something so delicious about them that it makes them an all-time favorite treat.

Tarte

A Typical French Breakfast Tarte
Apricot Tarte. Photo credit: Larry.

Tartes are usually made with a thin, flat layer of puff pastry and topped with fruit. You will sometimes see a layer of custard in between the pastry and the fruit, but French tartes are always open-faced. You will find tartes of all sizes and fillings but it’s always better if you go for one that uses in-season fruit.

If all these delicious pastries are too sweet for you, another idea would be to grab a baguette, or a puffy brioche, and add some butter and jam on it. This is a great alternative to expensive hotel breakfasts and something you can find in bars and cafes. Typically it is served with fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee or tea. Definitely another great option.

How about you? Have you tried any of these beauties? What is your favorite French breakfast?

You may also enjoy the following posts:

How to order coffee in Paris

Sex and The City Paris

The Best Romantic Strolls in Paris

Bread Baking Class at La Cuisine Paris

Five Fantastic Fall Foods to Eat in Paris

You can also find great new breakfast spots in my friend Lindsey Tramuta’s book, The New Paris.

And if you are heading to Paris anytime soon, consider purchasing a Paris Pass before you go, it will save you money on many Paris attractions, leaving you more money for French pastries!

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A Typical French Breakfast A Typical French Breakfast A Typical French Breakfast
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52 Comments

  1. Lindsey
    May 15, 2012

    I’m an escargot or chaussons aux pommes girl 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andi
      May 15, 2012

      @lindsey, me too, but an escargot it is well done, otherwise I also like the chaussons with cherries!

      Reply
  2. Zara @ Backpack ME
    May 15, 2012

    Pain au chocolate is the way to go!
    In fact, I’d eat one of those right now! 😛

    Reply
  3. Carolyn Jung
    May 15, 2012

    When I was in Paris with my brother years ago, we’d have a breakfast of coffee, croissant, jam and baguette at our little hotel, before venturing out and about. We’d get only two blocks before we’d spy a patisserie and had to have yet another pastry even if we ate breakfast not 15 minutes ago. Hey, when in France…..right? LOL

    Reply
    1. Andi
      May 16, 2012

      @Carolyn, right! That is why I gained weight when I first moved there. I had to realize that I was going to be living there for a while so I better slow down!

      Reply
  4. I am typically not a breakfast person, but I would make an exception for that tarte!

    Reply
    1. Andi
      May 16, 2012

      @Annette, me too!

      Reply
  5. Sara Louise
    May 16, 2012

    I know I’m very lucky to live in the land of the buttery croissant, but sometimes, I’d really love to be able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Andi
      May 17, 2012

      @SaraLouise, I hear you!

      Reply
  6. Lady Jennie
    May 17, 2012

    When I think of breakfasts, I tend to think more of the 1/2 baguette tartine even more than the croissant! (Not that I can eat any of it *sob)

    Reply
    1. Andi
      May 17, 2012

      @LadyJennie, I agree!

      Reply
  7. nathania h
    July 23, 2012

    I wish we had freshly baked goodies like that around here, I think I may have to make a visit to Paris one day! Always dreamed of it!

    Reply
  8. nicolthepickle
    November 21, 2012

    You have made me so hungry. And you’ve inspired me to make Chocolate Croissants. Do you bake? I love James Peterson’s Croissant recipe. Actually why bother to bake when you can get the real thing fresh.
    Is Tarte a breakfast thing?! I never knew that. It always seemed like dessert to me.

    Reply
    1. Andi
      November 29, 2012

      @Nicole, I don’t bake, but I loved to learn how. I want to learn how to bake breads – like baguettes – but I think it would be really dangerous! There are some breakfast tarts, they are less sweet than dessert ones.

      Reply
  9. Arinna Black
    November 27, 2012

    You had me at chocolate for breakfast (and it doesn’t hurt that these pastries are all beautiful, too, either).

    Reply
    1. Andi
      November 29, 2012

      @Arinna, you really can’t beat it!

      Reply
  10. nicolthepickle
    November 30, 2012

    Ok, that makes sense about the tarts.
    I love to bake, all the time. My dad is a baker and I worked there for a long time. He’s Dutch though not French so the bread styles are a little different. My baguettes aren’t very authentic.

    Reply
    1. Andi
      November 30, 2012

      @Nicole, it is a special skill, you are lucky to have it! My hubby is an awesome cook, but can’t bake. I guess that is also why they hire pastry chefs in restaurants, it is specialized!

      Reply
  11. Alex
    January 18, 2014

    Hi,
    good article.
    However, we say “Pain au chocolat” and not “pain au chocolate”.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      January 20, 2014

      @Alex, merci for the correction, I had it spelled write in the copy, but not the subtitle, thanks for spotting that!

      Reply
  12. Jim
    March 29, 2017

    This looks so good. I wish I didn’t have Celiac Disease. Articles like this make me miss this stuff. It was a very well done article. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      March 30, 2017

      @Jim, that is definitely tough. I will say on a positive note, there are more and more gluten-free options in Paris and lots of restaurants that cater to a GF diet these days.

      Reply
  13. Yummy! I love everything you have! Especially the croissants!

    Reply
  14. Janella Panchamsingh
    March 30, 2017

    Well this looks so delish esp because I have not eaten for the day!

    Reply
  15. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle
    March 30, 2017

    Ahhh! That is the best looking breakfast ever! I could definitely stand a breakfast like this every day.

    Reply
  16. Kathy Myers
    March 30, 2017

    I love trying different things for breakfast. This looks amazing!

    Reply
  17. Joely Smith
    March 30, 2017

    My love of the croissant is unstoppable! I ADORE them! It would be a dream to have one in France!! This all looks exactly like the type of breakfast I love.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      April 10, 2017

      @Joely, you can take a cooking class in Paris and learn to make them right there in France!

      Reply
  18. my teen guide
    March 31, 2017

    What a healthy breakfast! It is so yummy and delicious. I love breakfast!

    Reply
  19. Katie
    March 31, 2017

    Okay well this was just cruel. I don’t have a major sweet tooth but looooooove me some pain au chocolat. (And I’ve never even had a *really* good one — just crappy ones from local coffee shops and the frozen kind from Trader Joe’s.) Now I’m salivating. I’m supposed to settle for a bagel with my coffee this morning?!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      April 10, 2017

      @Katie, when I first moved to France, I gained 15 pounds in the first 6 months – I was eating two pastries every morning on the way to work, plus the cafeteria had a 10 ham and cheese croissant break every day and I would eat that as well.

      Reply
  20. Jennifer G
    March 31, 2017

    This looks so good! I am a huge pastry fan so this is right up my alley. Perfect for breakfast. I could really use some now actually.

    Reply
  21. chubskulit
    March 31, 2017

    My lord, these looks so tempting. I would love a breakfast like that! Our breakfast is so different than this, it would be nice to have these for a change.

    Reply
  22. Terri Beavers
    March 31, 2017

    Oh my gosh, those pastries look divine. They’re my favorite choice for breakfast. I’ll have to have a French breakfast tomorrow.

    Reply
  23. up run for life
    March 31, 2017

    There are so many tasty choices and options. I think that I gained 5 pounds just look at the treats. 🙂

    I would be in so much trouble if I went to France. It would be nice to have some healthier options.

    Reply
  24. Lisa Heath
    March 31, 2017

    All of those look delicious! A friend of mine went to France and she said she wanted to just hoard all the food and bring it back lol

    Reply
  25. Christina Sparks
    April 1, 2017

    These look good.

    Reply
  26. April Monty
    April 1, 2017

    Omg I’d eat breakfast every day id it was like this

    Reply
  27. Judy Thomas
    April 1, 2017

    It sounds so delicious!

    Reply
  28. Sara
    April 2, 2017

    This is SO clever! Cotton candy is my girls’ favorite treat of all time, I definitely need to try these pastries!

    Reply
  29. Oyinkan Ogunleye
    April 3, 2017

    Those croissants look sooo buttery and delicious! This is a place I would totally visit.

    Reply
  30. Kimberly Flickinger
    April 3, 2017

    I have never been to France; however, I love this idea, love your pictures!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      April 10, 2017

      @Kim, thanks, there is a lot of great food to explore!

      Reply
  31. April Monty
    April 5, 2017

    This looks so delicious I’d love to eat this every day

    Reply
  32. Jen D
    April 7, 2017

    Bread and coffee – what could be better?! I’ve croissants but I imagine they’re so much better in France. I would love to do a different treat each day.

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      April 10, 2017

      @Jen, actually the best croissant I ever had was in the US if you can imagine. A bakery in Pacific Grove, California!

      Reply
  33. Lauren Schuyler
    April 23, 2017

    Yum! All of these look great. Where do you like to get pastries from in Paris?

    Reply
  34. Vishal Vashisht
    April 24, 2017

    I can only do Croissant and Tarte. The chocolate stuff is not for me as I don’t like chocolate. Looks yummy and making me hungry.

    Reply
  35. Calvin F.
    July 2, 2017

    The french sure know how to live 😛

    Reply
  36. Linda Manns Linneman
    July 24, 2017

    This food looks so good. Great with a good cup of coffee. I would love to visit Paris and sit at one of these cafe’s. It would be awesome. Thank you so much for sharing

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      July 25, 2017

      @Linda, there is nothing better than sitting in a Paris cafe with absolutely nothing planned for the day!

      Reply
  37. […] Uff…it’s going to be long! There are still so many Polish Easter traditions to celebrate!  So…thirdly, we take the food basket to the church on Saturday to have it blessed. It is doable and possible and so easy to do! I love it, I take my French part to the church for easy and short ceremony of blessing the food. It is easier then the following tradition which is eating ‘not that sweet’ Easter Sunday breakfast in France. […]

    Reply

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