French cuisine is regarded by gourmets as the best in the world and dining is a way of life in France. Restaurateurs all over the country take enormous pride in providing delicious examples of traditional regional dishes, made using fresh ingredients and accompanied by robust local wines. For fine dining, an insane number of 571 Michelin-starred eateries were designated across the country in 2011, meaning you’ll never be short on options. Paris is the heart of the foodie scene, as well as a hub for sophisticated nightlife and picturesque riverside bars, with a choice of venues to suit all pockets.
Bars and Pubbing in France
The pub and bar scene in Paris is one or the world’s best, centered on the Left Bank of the romantic River Seine, but also scattered around all the city’s districts. The Latin Quarter and St Germain districts abut the river and, for generations, have been the haunts of artists, writers, and bohemians. Café de Flore (172 Blvd St Germain, Paris) played host to Hemingway and Jean Paul Sartre, and is great for a chic beginning to a night out. La Perle (Rue de la Perle, Paris) is the fashionista hang-out and La Bar Dix (10 Rue de l’Odeon, Paris) is quintessential Left Bank, set in a crumbling basement.
Nice is a favorite destination for visitors looking for evening fun, and is crammed with bars and pubs catering for all ages and tastes. Ma Nolan’s (Old Town, Nice) is an Irish pub offering nightly live music, four giant screens covering sports events, and friendly bar staff. For drinks past midnight, Blue Whales (1, Rue Mascoinat, 6300, Nice) is the choice for its live music, downstairs bar, and quieter terrace. Lyon’s Place des Terreaux district has a great selection of watering holes, including L’Abreuvoir (18 Rue St Catherine, 69001, Lyon), which is very French with its music, and L’Amsterdam (21 Quai Romain Rolland, Lyon).
Carcassonne, France has a few bars located around the New Town’s rail station and the main square, as well as in the exquisite Old Town, and Chamonix is packed with après-ski style clubs and bars. Chambre Neuf (272 Ave Michel Croz, Chamonix) is a classy cocktail joint and Le Garage (270 Ave de l’Aguille de Midi, Chamonix) is the town’s most happening late-night dance club. Nimes offers late night bars around Ave Victor Hugo, with Lulu’s (10 Impasse Carutarie, Nimes) not even opening until 11:00 p.m..
Dining and Cuisine in France
Dining out is a passion with the French, and they’re extremely proud of their national cuisine’s world-class reputation. The cities, especially Paris, give an unbelievable choice of eateries at all levels, from top-of-the-line to street food, all serving the best French dishes and international cuisine. For old-style French, the restaurant at the Hotel Maurice (228 Rye de Rivoli, Paris) is a grand-slam of an experience at a price to match, but great for a special occasion. For dessert, all the pastries are divine, but don't miss the famous French macarons (not to be confused with macaroons).
Atlantic oysters are the specialty at Huitrerie Regis (3, Rue de Monfalcon, St Germaine de Pres, Paris) and are served with Loire Valley white wines for an unforgettable fruits de mer feast. One of the last independent brasseries in the city, Le Stella (133 Ave. Victor Hugo, Paris) is full of character and serves delectable Gallic classics such as French onion soup, steak tartare, and escargots at value prices. The birthright of great food is alive and well at A la Biche au Bois (45 Ave Ledru-Rollin, Paris), a fine example of the traditional French bistro.
The city of Lyon is no slouch when it comes to great food, with the oddly-named Le Bananas (1, Place du Gouvenrment, Lyon) serving the best French and European cuisine until 1:00 a.m. at its tables set in a cobblestoned alleyway. L’Arc en Ciel (129 Rue Servient, Lyon) is chef-driven inspired French and European cuisine with fine wines in its chic location at the top of the Radisson Hotel. L’Ourson qui Boit (23 Rue Royale, Lyon) offers a fusion of Gallic and Japanese food that’s a delight for the eyes, as well as the taste-buds.
Nice’s culinary scene has developed along with the city’s renovations and now boasts a slew of new contemporary bistros and eateries with up-and-coming young French chefs determined to make their creative mark in this buzzing city. Acchiardo (Rue Droite, Nice) is set in an ancient, stone-built house and serves Nicosia specialties, and the long-established Café Turin (Place Garibaldi, Nice) is famous for its oyster, sea urchin, sea snail and other marine-inspired dishes. For stunning Japanese delicacies, the Michelin-starred Keisuke Matsushima (22 Ter Rue de France, Nice) is unbeatable and Les Viviers (22 Rue Alphonse-Karr, Nice) has both an informal bistro and a full-service restaurant on site.
For a truly authentic experience though, one must taste French street food. From ham and cheese baguettes to crepes made with any combination of fruit and sweets, desert lovers will revel in the carts and stands on virtually every corner.