May 23rd, 2011
12:45 PM ET
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Alexandra Willingham is a CNN video journalist. She previously introduced us to the culinary delights of Key West.

For all Paris has to offer – history, scenery, romance – food is still a main claim to fame. While it would be impossible to list all of the delicious and varied French dishes you may come across, this a good starter for those lucky enough to visit the City of Lights.

1. French Onion Soup
This savory soup is a common example of a popular stateside dish that has its roots in French cuisine. It is a symphony in three parts: a caramelized onion-laced broth, croutons, and a layer of crunchy, bubbly cheese. Onion soup is on the menu at nearly every restaurant, which means the variety is endless - from light broths to rich, heavy brown stew and a particularly compelling presentation where the soup is poured, tableside, over fried onions atop an onion soufflé.

2. Pastries and Desserts
If you think you’ve had great pastries, think again. Everywhere you turn in Paris, there is a new rainbow of sweets to enjoy. One really delicious pick is the habit-forming macaron.

French macarons consist of two light cookies hugging jam or crème fillings in a staggering array of flavors like pistachio and rose. They usually come in bite-sized portions, but you may come across le grande macaron, a larger version that is well worth the indulgence.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with other traditional French treats like chocolate mousse or crème brulee. If you’re in the mood for crepes, order one filled with Nutella. The hazelnut spread is known in the US, but enjoys a much heavier popularity in Europe. It’s delicious no matter where you eat it.

3. Cheese
Whether melted over a cup of soup, bubbling atop a savory croque monsieur or just enjoyed unadorned, France has some of the best cheese in the world. In fact, the country takes their cheese so seriously that nearly 60 types of cheeses are protected and regulated under French law.

Visit a cheese shop - a fromagerie - and try a pungent Camembert or Roquefort or experience the creamy comfort of a simple white cheese or a soft, spreadable goat cheese. Each region of France boasts its own collection of cheeses in addition to the more famous ones, so if you travel outside Paris, be sure to give the regional specialty a try.

4. Foie Gras
If you are game enough to try foie gras, typically a duck or goose liver pate, you may already know how it is made. At the risk of spoiling your appetite, preparation starts with the force-feeding of a duck or goose, which enlarges the liver and gives it a tender, almost buttery quality.

Foie gras, which means “fat liver” in French, has been banned in many countries because of its controversial methods of manufacture. However, traditional feeding practices persist in France, and it is thought to be an important aspect of French heritage. Although often considered a rare and luxurious offering, foie gras is widely offered, fried, or served hot or cold. One Paris restaurant’s starting course features a foie gras sushi roll - certainly not for the faint of palate.

5. Food with a View
In one of the world’s most beautiful cities, you shouldn’t let your tastebuds have all the fun. Feast on some unbeatable views at one of the two restaurants atop the Eiffel Tower or perhaps on a river cruise on the Seine. Be prepared to pay though – these lavish destinations often have pre-fixed menus with a hefty price tag.

If big budget eats aren’t your thing, you’ll probably be just as happy sitting shoulder-to-shoulder outside one of Paris’ many cafes, watching the crowds go by. It may seem clichéd, but pick up a baguette from a boulangerie and a wheel of fresh cheese and roam about the city. You may be surprised how simple food, paired with great scenery, could be one of your favorite experiences.

Read CNN Travel's 5 to Go series

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Filed under: Best in Life • France • French • Lick the Screen • Travel

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. mc

    Love, Love their Brie avec baguette, fresh crepe avec nutella and their tasty pomme frite!!!!

    June 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  2. Frenchy

    Moules frites! How come moules frites isn't on the list? It's a classic French dish!

    May 28, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  3. TI

    i'll remember this when i have money to go to france, never.

    May 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  4. Luci

    There are so many foods to try in France!! I did a short video about a really cool place to get food Paris, and how not to go overboard!!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  5. Kevin

    With all due suggest that these five things are what to do about food in France is to suggest that the five things American one should do include Disneyworld, McDonald's, "The View", Times Square and Mall of America.

    Have you ever even been to France or eaten there? Start with a Sandwich Jambon and keep going...what about escargots and cuisses de grenouille...? Or tete de veau or countless other typical, quotidienne French foods...and what about Les Puces instead of the Eiffel Tower...or Pere LaChaise...?

    French Onion Soup? PUHLEEZ!!

    May 24, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Patrick

      I once had the finest red wine and pimento cheese sandwich while vacationing in Spain.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  6. Gene Simmons from KIZZ

    I like my french fries WELL Frenched.

    May 24, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Mr. French from Family Affair

      I like my lady friends to be well Frenched! French fluff pie is so good!

      May 24, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  7. Dee

    No mention of croissants?

    May 24, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  8. Soleada

    I would -love- to go to paris some day. Anyhow, for me, it always seems like the littLe hole-in-the wall places have the best foods – like the mexican taco trucks or the smaller-sized sushi bars. The Panaderia (bakery) near our house has some of the -best- pan dulce (sweet bread).. I love the ones filled with cream cheese!

    May 24, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  9. Bb

    An absolute must: French fries and French toast..,,

    May 24, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Flippity Flappity

      ...with French's mustard all while at the French Open...

      May 24, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  10. Dave

    Love the French. They are extremely nice people. My friend took me to see his grandparents in Paris once. It was such an enjoyable vacation. If you just attempt to speak their language they treat you as one of their own. Great food too. Although I'm not a big fan of chocolate stuff, I tried tones of other things – all great. The only thing I didn't like a lot was the escargot – pretty damn nasty if you ask me. I was thinking it just seemed nasty but was actually good but I was wrong....

    May 24, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  11. Stacy C

    It is a perversion that CNN would publish an article that recommends the merely curious whim of eating a dish that required the extended and unnecessary, brutal torture and suffering of another living, thinking animal. What does that say about that animal species that is us?

    May 24, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Dave

      ...It's nature. Get over yourself.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:22 am |
      • Dee

        Wrong, Dave. There is nothing natural about force feeding a goose until its liver bursts. That is how foie gras is made.

        May 24, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Dee

      Completely agree. Foie gras is made by a cruel and inhumane that is banned in many places, and should be banned everywhere.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:13 am |
      • DocJ

        Seriously? Have you ever tried foie gras? It's pretty amazing. And for the cruelty thing, these birds are being raised to be eaten, so making them taste even better, how can that be bad. Now if they were force feeding people and eating their liver that might be a problem. If you don't like it then don't order it, if you don't like eating baby cows or baby sheep then don't order it. Just because you feel guilty about eating overfed birds doesn't make it a crime. Seriously?

        May 25, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Carnie Vore

      "It is a perversion that CNN would publish an article that recommends the merely curious whim of eating a dish that required the extended and unnecessary, brutal torture and suffering of another living, thinking animal. What does that say about that animal species that is us?"

      That being at the top of the food chain rocks?

      May 24, 2011 at 9:59 am |
      • Meat Is Tasty Tasty Murder

        I say we fatten the livers of vegans so we can turn them into fois gras when we run out of ducks.

        May 28, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  12. Alex

    gateau, I love to eat anytime
    mmmmmmm gaaaaaateau

    May 24, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  13. Parisian Girl Living in the US

    First of all...I would like to say that not all French stink.....and yes I agree Brie is not stinky compared to other cheeses like boulette d'Avesnes, port salut, maroille, epoisse and so's only known as "stinky" like camembert here in the US...and I would agree with one of the blogger that say that the bateau mouche (the boat ride on the Seine) doesn't have the best food in Paris...and no, French Onion Soup is not the real name, it's only "soupe a l'oignon" (onion soup) French Vanilla or French Blue or French doors, or French Fries, etc. are only names in the US....and yes, I agree, Paris has a lot of problems with dogs and cleanliness. I agree instead of saying that Parisians are rude, maybe try 1 or 2 words in French and a smile, and it'll be magic :-) And maybe in case you didn't notice, I speak 2 languages fluently and some Spanish and are the French so dumb and ignorant, like I have heard one day from students in a high school "do you still live in caves?" a big thank you to "frogprof" :-) and to answer Laura....the food that French people crave in the US (or maybe just my Parisian friends) are: peanut brittle, cheesecake, pastrami, oreo cookies, and steaks....

    May 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  14. Laura Flowers

    These are pretty standard so lets have some fun. What 5 things would you recommend Parisians eat in America?

    May 23, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  15. Nancoise Doudiet

    When I'm in France I'm on a french onion soup hunt! The food is nothing like in the States. It's real food with all the tastes and smells you will never experience unless you go there and spend some time there. I like to cook with all the fresh ingredients France has to offer, and it tastes so good your taste buds are so satisfied that you don't overindulge! France dosen't process their foods like they are everywhere else. The end result is, when I go there I eat everything I want and lose weight because I'm satisfied. The French onion soup is another matter. I've had the best and not so good. I have a great time tasting though!!!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  16. jdoe

    Also, you don't need to eat foie gras if you object to it. There's plenty good "pate" to sample.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  17. jdoe

    No mention of the ubiquitous "jambon" (French ham) sandwiches sold at nearly every corner? Beats everything stateside.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  18. ArtInChicago

    Didn't do the onion soup nor the foie gras, but did have a crepe with nutella and the pizza with egg.

    May 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  19. Celestial1

    You're kidding, how on earth did you forget to put croissants on the list?

    May 23, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  20. YeahItsMe

    I'll bet their French Fries are amazing.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Paratroop

      Except that they're actually Belgian. Belgian friteries ("fry shops", a.k.a fast food joints) cook them in the French style: twice fried – initailly flash fried for the outer crust, then more deep fried when you order them so they are fresh out of the fryer when you're ready to eat them. Don't even get me started with all of the wonderful sauces available in which to dip your "pommes frites".

      May 24, 2011 at 4:01 am |
      • jack


        May 31, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  21. Rick

    60 Kinds of cheese? Whatever way you slice it there are many many more than 60. try 300-400. Any given cheese shop will have more than 60. Whether or not they are all "protected and regulated under French law. " is moot. The fact is they are all different.

    May 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  22. DYBO

    Ahhh- The one and only thing the French can do well.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  23. Fiona

    French onion soup is so easy to prepare I could do it in my sleep. I wouldn't waste time having it in Paris, when there are so many more interesting things to choose (although the broth-over-souffle thing sounds interesting). When I go there I stick mostly to pastries, cheese and bread, and splurge on a couple haut-cuisine meals. I don't care about "food with a view"; I care about what's on my plate. I've had some memorable meals in working-man's eateries. I've had great food purchased in farmers' markets. I've had North African meals there that were excellent. If you keep an open mind you will find excellent food for every budget in Paris.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Dorothy

      You are absolutely right. I think you can't go wrong if you avoid the tourist traps and seek out the places where the natives eat.

      June 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  24. JACK

    "have a glass of champagne...from top the eiffel tower" "enjoy...caviar – topped fish atop the eiffel tower in le jules verne" "...french macarons " HA are you kidding me ?! do you think im some billionaire? or maybe just a hundred thousandaire ? show me what the REAL parisians eat, as in NOT the top 1%.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  25. Rich

    Cheese! The French say there are more varieties of cheese in France than there are days in the year. Be adventurous! Try the most pungeont cheeses (e.g. Roblachon, Epoisses, Munster (from Alsace) with an honest table wine–heaven.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  26. Wayne

    I'd go back to Paris just for the bread.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  27. Fokjoudoos

    Haha...I thought this was a story about Paris Hilton...

    May 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  28. karen

    some of the beast food I had in paris, was a ham sandwich with pomme frite from a food cart by a park. We sat in the park and opened up a bottle of wine and had a wonderful picnic. I also had wonderful crepes at a little restaurant in a small town in Brittany.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  29. Nel

    If you're game for eating foie gras? Are you kidding me? Who needs to muster any courage? Those sophisticated foods are awesome. We also have all of those wonderful foods, and more, right here at home, made for you by French chefs and properly trained American chefs. If you can't afford the time or money to travel yet, you can still get outside of the bun and try some really good (grown up)food. Foie gras is awesome. Aside from the pandering to the "delicate" sensitivities, the article did point out some wonderful foods.

    May 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  30. gd

    The real question is not “What to eat in Paris” any food that is not meant for tourists is awesome. The real question is “How do Americans go to Paris if people are afraid to lose their jobs?” And if some decide to take their vacation it is tooo expensive to go to Europe ?” it is not like you can jump in the car and in the matter of some few hours you’ll be in Paris. Also in Europe people have 4 – 5 wks of mandatory paid time off

    May 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  31. dtommie

    If you're in Paris, wouldn't calling it "French" onion soup be redundant? :-)

    May 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  32. jillmarie

    I will have to visit Paris one day- always wanted to, now this article really makes me want to go! I agree, pungent cheeses are the best! And a meal with a view is always a great experience. Except for the fois gras, I liked this article.

    May 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  33. becky

    Brie isn't stinky, it's mild and soft. Fresh bread or a croissant from the corner bakery cannot be beat. Paris and French food is to die for, I can't wait to go back. And Parisians are actually very nice if you make the slightest effort to know their language and customs.

    May 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Mare@Becky

      Mild brie has no flavor. They have 'earthy' ones that smell like the forest floor after a rain. Not "stinky" per say, but definitely has an aroma to it. The stronger the aroma, the better the flavor.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  34. Shannon

    Brie is not a stinky cheese. And as for the French people jokes, aren't they getting a little old?

    May 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Mare@Shannon

      No, it's not stinky like a Limburger, but it's got an earthy aroma, and the earthier the better. :)

      May 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • @Shannon

      Is it true that y'all don't shave your armpits?

      May 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • The Smart Aleck@ @Shannon

      Yep, and they use brie as deodorant.

      May 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
      • The Witty One@The Smart Aleck

        Guess what else they use?



        May 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
      • The Smart Aleck@The Witty One

        Yep! Last right after me, Dude!

        May 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
      • The Witty One@TSA

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Your initials spell TSA!

        P.S. – Last!

        May 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
      • The Smart Aleck@The Witty One

        LOL!!! I meant to do that (yeah sure!). HAHA!

        May 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Dover

      Are you having a hard time figuring out how the "reply" feature on this site works?

      May 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  35. emmy

    I almost forgot about omelettes- also fab when you have access to all that devine cheese!

    May 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Snowbunny@emmy

      Ahhh, the crepes and omelettes sound SO good!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  36. emmy

    I vote for crepes, hands down! The street vendors near the eiffel tower know how to do it. Best hangover food ever!

    May 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  37. Savorique Gourmet

    How about French baguette?!

    May 23, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  38. Dean

    Want great bread and pastry....go to Germany or Austria.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  39. manu

    The problem with Paris is that it is full of ignorant French people.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • frogprof

      Actually, it's the ignorant tourists [mainly Americans] who make Paris a problem. (Except for the French dogs, of course - and their owners who refuse to clean up after them.)

      May 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
      • @frogprof you don't wear deoderant!

        May 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
      • aubrie

        Touche on the dogs..... My husband stepped in more dog poo in France than anywhere. He's just not used to having to LOOK for it. It was everywhere.

        May 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
      • Carnie Vore

        Actually, froggie, it's the German tourists that bug the French the most. You'd know that if you'd ever been there.

        May 24, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Rick

      That may be, but the most ignorant Parisian is far far ahead of 99% of all Americans.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
      • clay

        the french should drop to their knees in the presence of any american. ....without our help, you'd have been sacked several times over. oh yeah. ..all your european neighbors hate you as well.

        May 24, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Dave

      Many of them are extremely nice. They are the only people I know who get ecstatic when you try to speak their language – even if you're horrible at it – extremely proud of their country.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  40. Mare

    YUM!!! Everything looks so good. Those people can even make grilled ham and cheese sound sexy.

    I could go for a nice baguette and a good stinky brie right about now.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • @Mare

      A stinky what?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
      • Mare

        Brie – it's a really yummy cheese

        May 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Rick

      Brie is one of the least "stinky" cheeses and probably the most boring cheese in France. If you do like stinky, try a nice Munster. If you want to be more adventurous than brie, which is basically the vanilla of French cheese, then try pretty much anything else except camembert.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
      • IxNay

        Brie may not be stinky but it isn't boring. I love it with a nice baguette. A good stinky cheese is Danish Blue. The picture I like best is the fruit tart.

        May 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  41. ATL Native

    Give me Cheval with my Chevre.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  42. Artifex

    Grand Marnier or chocolate crepes, purchased from a vendor at the Eiffel tower and eaten while still warm as you take it all in. Nothing better.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jerv

      That does sound wonderful.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • frogprof

      Just a plain crêpe with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it and some sugar sprinkled on after that is a wonderful post-booze-fest snack! (Well, it's good anytime, but for some reason even Quick burgers tasted less heinous after a few glasses of wine ...)

      May 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  43. SeaBee

    One place that I never made it to during my time in Europe, unless you count the time that I spent in Charles de Galle. All of Europe offers so many gastronomic delights that it is hard to say that I really missed anything. Seeing pictures, such as these, do make one's mouth water. I could eat my weight in baguette and cheese.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • beachgal

      I hope you make it to Paris and Northern France. I took my mom 2 years ago. We ate and drank our way through! Never have I had such an experience! The next year I lost my job, but I would do it all over again. Don't wait to live! Do what you want now. The food is amazing and really the people were fine. They aren't rude. I think they just mind their own business.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  44. RichardHead

    The last time I was in Paris...Texas,I could only find the Campbell's Soup factory and no french eating places.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  45. Jerv

    The french onion soup looks wonderful! All nice photos.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  46. AleeD

    The chocolate raspberry tart looks soooooo inviting.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  47. mark

    No mention of bread or espresso? At least you got cheese on the list, but Parisians are very proud of their bread too!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Janet

      agree the bread is great but I can't take seriously any article that suggests eating on a Seine river cruise. I have had dinner cruises all over the world from San Francisco to China (always because someone else insisted) - the common denominator is mediocre food and this includes French dinner cruises.

      I have seen the geese run to be stuffed at dinner time so I am not sure they experience the force feeding as misery. the foie gras is marvelous but for those who don't want to eat it, there are many other lovely terrines and rilletes etc that are also tasty.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
      • Dave Westrick

        Recently returned from a week in paris, the fois gras served as the effiel tour before the Seine crusie was horrid as were most of the meal prepared for the large tour groupes; Far better to explore the cafe resturants along the streets. A jambone (Ham) sandwich grilled in butter with a rish cheese melted on top and crowned by an perfect fried egg sunny side up~!!! MAgnific!! Even the simple hamberger and cheese in French hands becomes a delecasy. Tres bon.

        May 24, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Steve

      I agree the Seine is nasty, you don't eat with where people have pooped for thousands of years. A few years back a friend of mine foolishly jumped in to a retrieve something a woman dropped out, trying be Prince Charming and all and ended up with Giardia and in the hospital for 2 weeks.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Barbie

      They didn't mention the creme brulee or the escargot...both are to die for in Paris.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  48. aubrie

    I really thought I would barf on fois gras when I went to France last fall, but it was actually very nice. I tried several different ones, and it was all good. My favorite of France? Cassoulet!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
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