France | French Food + Wine

A Typical French Breakfast – Pastries, Bread and Coffee

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. And if you are not traveling to Paris and just want to serve breakfast French-style, I’ve got you covered too!

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 le brunch or brunching is trendy now and you can find great spots to brunch on the weekend.)  But taking into account the volume of patisseries overflowing along 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.

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A 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!

Croissant

A Typical French Breakfast_Croissant

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 croissants have 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!

For coffee to go with that croissant – as that is the standard breakfast fare à la française, here is my guide on what and how to order coffee in Paris.

If you want to learn how to make a croissant while in Paris, take a class at La Cuisine Paris! You will learn a skill you can take home 9and impress your friends with), meet locals and fellow tourists from all over the world and have a lot of fun because the team at La Cuisine Paris is really stellar! And if you can’t be in Paris, you can take a virtual class from them!

Some of the best croissants in Paris can be found at:

  • Sébastien Gaudard (1 Rue des Pyramides) in the 1st arrondissement
  • Boulangerie Terroirs d’Avenir (3 Rue du Nil) in the 2nd arrondissement
  • La Maison d’Isabelle (47ter Boulevard Saint-Germain) in the 5th arrondissement
  • Maison Lendemaine (26, rue des Martyrs) in the 9th arrondissement
  • Du Pain et des idées (34, rue Yves Toudic) and Boulangerie Sain (15, rue Marie et Louise) in the 10th arrondissement
  • Boulangerie Utopie (20 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud) and Farine & O (153, rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine) in the 11th arrondissement
  • Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon) in the 12th arrondissement
  • Laurent Duchêne (2 Rue Wurtz) in the 13th arrondissement (also has a spot in the 15eme)
  • Dominique Saibron (77 Avenue du Général Leclerc) in the 14th arrondissement
  • Maison Pichard (88 Rue Cambronne) in the 15th arrondissement
  • Pain Pain (88 Rue des Martyrs,) and Au Duc de la Chapelle (32 Rue Tristan Tzara) in the 18th arrondissement

Make croissants at home following these recipes:

Because French bakeries have so many pastries to choose from, you can pick out a new treat every day. While each patisserie will have its 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

A Typical French Breakfast_Pain au Chocolate

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!

Some of the best pain au chocolat in Paris can be found at:

  • Gérard Mulot (6, rue du Pas de la Mule) in the 3rd arrondissement
  • Miss Manon (87 Rue St Antoine) in the 4th arrondissement
  • Liberté (10e 39 Rue des Vinaigriers) in the 10th arrondissement
  • Au levain du Marais (28 bd Beaumachais) and La Pâtisserie by Cyril Lignac (24 Rue Paul Bert) in the 11th arrondissement
  • Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon) in the 12th arrondissement
  • Le Grenier à Pain (33 bis Rue Saint-Amand) in the 15th arrondissement
  • Béchu (118 avenue Victor Hugo) in the 16th arrondissement
  • La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc (83 Rue Crimée) in the 19th arrondissement
  • AU 140 (140 Rue de Belleville) in the 20th arrondissement

Make pain au chocolat at home following these recipes:

Pain aux raisins/Escargot

A Typical French Breakfast_Escargot

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

Some of the best pain au raisin/escargot in Paris can be found at:

  • Maison Thevenin (5 Rue Notre Dame des Champs) in the 6th arrondissement
  • Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel (187 Rue de Grenelle) in the 7th arrondissement
  • Bread & Roses (25 Rue Boissy d’Anglas) in the 8th arrondissement
  • Du Pain et des Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic) 10th arrondissement
  • Banette (49 rue de Falguière) and Moulin de la Vierge (166 Ave. de Suffren) in the 15th arrondissement

Make pain au raisin/escargot at home following these recipes:

Chausson aux Pommes

A Typical French Breakfast_Chausson auz Pomme

One of my favorites is another classic French breakfast item 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.

Some of the best Chausson aux Pommes in Paris can be found at:

Make Chausson aux Pommes at home following these recipes:

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.

A Typical French Breakfast - Pastries

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 can find great new breakfast spots in my friend Lindsey Tramuta’s book, The New Paris. And the very smart folks at La Cuisine Paris have put together a great map of brunch spots in Paris.


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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!

Illustrations commissioned from Linden Eller.

For a visual summary of this post, check out my French breakfast web story!

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66 Comments

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

  1. 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

    1. @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!

  2. 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! 🙂

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. @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.

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

  6. 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.

    1. @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!

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

  7. 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.

    1. @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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?!

    1. @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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. Everybody knows that I adore Chausson aux pommes. They are delicious with a good cup of freshly brewed coffee. My grand-kids and son-in-law treats me to Chausson aux pommes when I am in France.

  18. And now my mouth is watering! I found a most delightful breakfast at a tiny cafe in Bayeux. We ended up going there all 5 mornings. So delicious!

  19. I used to visit Paris regularly for work and walking past the different boulangerie with all the smells took an iron will! My favourite was an Emmenthal croissant that I could only get from a little old man within sight of Sacrè Couer. Thanks for the memories!

  20. This looks so good!
    I have never been to france and tried their breakfasts, but Paris is on my bucketlist for 2020, so hopefully 🙂

    1. We actually booked that trip to Paris, but as of recent situations, we fear that it will not be happening… we will most likely postpone the trip, but it physically hurts to do so.

  21. I love French breakfasts. The first time I went to France and was offered pain au Chocolat, I thought ooh that sounds disgusting. One bite, however, and it’s my must-have treat on every French trip! I wish there was a French bakery near me!!

  22. I love pan du chocolate! One of my favorite French breakfasts 🙂 Delicious post and thanks for sharing!

  23. This post is literally amazing 🙂 🙂 :). thank you so much. I am French and I never lived in Paris but I come so often here visiting my brother and sister. tI love breakfast and as I lived in London – I missed so much the French viennoiseries. My favourite one is almond croissant – do you have any recommendation?

  24. I am ready to jump on a plane right now for coffee and croissants. I am serious. Covid or no. I need to see the world.