I looove France. Have you been to France? It is one of my favorite and most cherished places in the world. France is a particularly special place for me because I met my partner J there when I was living in the north in Lille.
And every time I return, I am always in awe of the beautiful culture, FOOD, people and scenery. Paris, in particular, is one of my favorite cities in the world. I remember growing up and dreaming about visiting Paris, climbing the Eiffel Tower and strolling the streets by the Seine. My first time visiting Paris was with my grandma almost 4 years ago now and the city was even more stunning than I could ever have imagined!
Since I was living in Belgium for the past two years, France was only a short fast-speed train away (LOVE that about Europe!). I was in Paris and the north of France this past Summer and wanted to share my experience with you guys – along with some tips – about travelling and eating as a vegan (or vegetarian!) in France.
This is a post from my Vegan European Travel series where I talk about…
- Eating Vegan in Italy;
- Eating Vegan in France;
- Eating Vegan in Belgium; and
- Eating Vegan in Amsterdam.
Stay tuned for my posts on eating and travelling as a vegetarian or vegan in Belgium and Amsterdam soon. I’ll be sure to update this series with my experience as a vegan in other cities and countries as well!
1. SHOP THE MARKETS & TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
One of my favorite things about France are the lively and bustling markets. The markets are where you get a real taste of French culture (and cuisine!). When I was living in Lille, we’d go almost every weekend to the Marché des Wazemmes and buy our veggies, fruit and bread for the week. If you are on a trip to France, seek out the days when the markets are on in your area. Nothing beats the fresh fruit and the just- out-of-the-oven, warm baguette from the boulangerie. There are also often Asian food stands at the market which offer some vegetarian or vegan fair.
If you are in a city on a day when there’s no market, many cities have local stores or shops that sell fruit and food. You can even stop by one of the larger chain stores like Carrefour or Aldi to find food to put together to make a sandwich à la vegan. And, of course, don’t forget to stop by the boulangerie (the bakery) to pick up fresh bread!
If the weather is warm, grab a bottle of wine and some picnic-friendly food (fresh baguette, tapenade and grapes are one of my favorite combos) and find a spot to picnic. If you are in Paris, nothing beats picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower with good wine, food and friends!
2. FINDING VEGAN-FRIENDLY SPOTS TO EAT
There are a ton of delicious and unique restaurants to choose from in France. When I was travelling this summer in Paris with my family, we ate dinner at practically all non-vegan restaurants. We’d give the menu a quick look over to see if they could accommodate before choosing a spot to eat much like we’d do at home in Canada.
I would really recommend to look at the menu before eating out because, as I discovered, there are definitively some restaurants that are more veggie accommodating than others. Italian, Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants typically offer more vegetarian options but even in some of the most traditional French restaurants you will find usually find at least one vegan dish (or dish that can be made vegan). Most restaurants we went to had at least a couple vegetarian or vegan meals to choose from. As a note, restaurants in the bigger cities are bound to have more veggie options as more and more people are requesting vegetarian food!
3. ASK FOR VEGGIE-FRIENDLY “ACCOMMODATION”
Another note about eating in France as a vegan is that restaurants are not as accustomed to making changes to the menu like they are, in my experience, in North America. You know what I mean the “Can I have the burger please, baked not grilled, without the meat, cheese and with a side of salad instead of fries” kind of way of ordering that is considered normal in the US and Canada.
My technique for eating out in France is to first choose a place with some vegetarian options (or options that appear that they could be easily made veggie-friendly) and ask your server politely if they can accommodate your needs as a vegan.
For example, most restaurants were happy to make me a salad or pizza without the cheese or bacon. One restaurant in Paris even replaced the goat cheese and egg that typically comes with the salad I ordered with nuts and a deliciously ripe avocado! The lady sitting beside us thought my salad looked so good she ordered one the way mine was prepared à la vegan!
So ask for your accommodation (i.e. remove the cheese, etc.) but know that it is not seen as culturally “normal” in France to ask for a completely new dish (I’m exaggerating a bit) as it would be in North America.
Another question I typically asked my waiter was how the food was prepared. It is typical in many French restaurants to cook vegetables in butter or animal fat, so I’d always double check with my waiter that my meal was being prepared in oil.
Out of the many positive and accommodating experiences I had eating out in France, I had only had one experience where the server was not accommodating. I was eating out with my family in Paris this Summer and we chose a restaurant that appeared veggie-friendly based on the menu. I chose a pizza trio off the menu and when I placed the order (without cheese), the server scoffed at me, rolled his eyes and said that he could not allow me to order that because a pizza without the cheese would no longer be… a pizza! Everyone at the table was taken aback but instead of making a fuss, I asked if there was something on the menu the chef could accommodate and make vegan. Turns out he could make the mushroom pizza without cheese (don’t ask me why he couldn’t make the other one, lol) and that is what I enjoyed for dinner!
Keep it simple, shop the menus, ask for simple accommodation and you will be one happy camper eating out in France.
4. SIP COFFEE LIKE A PARISIAN
All I have to say here is that fresh French coffee, warm baguette and homemade jam while siting on a French terrace is one of the best ways to eat breakfast – period. This French experience is naturally vegetarian and will not disappoint! If I could start the day everyday like that I would, ha!
5. STICK TO THE NATURALLY VEGAN OPTIONS
A lot of French food is… naturally VEGAN!! Here’s just a list of a few naturally vegan French foods to choose from:
- Olive oil
- Tapenade (check that it’s made without anchovies)
- Ratatouille and vegetable-based stews
- Potatoes (frites cooked in oil!!)
- Stir fry and vegetable based dishes
- Couscous and Moroccan inspired dishes
- Crepes (made without eggs)
- Pizza without cheese
- Pasta with tomato or oil-based sauces
- Vegetable based soups
- Tartines (toast)
Plus many more dishes to choose from. In the South of France, in particular, much of the food is traditionally vegetable based as well as cooked in olive oil.
6. EAT AT VEGAN SPOTS
I guess that this last point kind of goes without saying but I always love seeking out the local vegan fare when I travel to try something new as well as to support vegan businesses around the world. When we arrived in Paris we met my family at a juice bar – a place my stepmom tracked down on the Happy Cow app! If you don’t have the Happy Cow app yet, I’d recommend visiting their website and tracking down a few restaurants you want to try in the cities you are visiting in France!
Bon voyage! Do you have any trips about eating as a vegan or vegetarian in France?! I’d love to know in the comments below!