French Bakery Guide

It wouldn’t be a trip to France without tasting freshly baked French bread and pastries, which are among the best in the world. However, it can be intimidating to order at a boulangerie, especially if you are not used to the local customs or know the French language. Here is the ultimate French Bakery Guide to help navigate your next boulangerie experience in France and get you started.

I hope that after reading this you enjoy some amazing French carbs!

What is a Boulangerie?

A boulangerie is a French bakery. Boulangeries sell a range of baked goods, including bread, pastries, quiche, and sandwiches.

Boulangeries sell a variety of pastries, including a selection of those that pâtisseries and vienoisseries also sell. Boulangerie pastries are typically ones that are made from dough, since this is something that bakers are experts in.

To be considered a boulangerie, the bakery must bake bread on their premises and also bake a variety of breads.

How Does a Boulangerie differ from a Pâtisserie or a Viennoserie?

While a boulangerie is a bakery, a pâtisserie is a pastry shop. Pâtisserie also refers to the pastries themselves. In France, a pâtisserie must employ a licensed maître pâtissier, or a master pastry chef. Boulangeries do not require this. While boulangeries do sell pastries, pâtisseries sell a larger selection of many other advanced pastries. Some of the most famous pâtisseries in Paris are Pierre Hermé and Ladurée.

Viennoiserie refers to pastries made in the style of Vienna, Austria. Viennoiserie can also refer to shops that sell such items. In particular, viennoiserie includes pastries such as croissants, pain au chocolat, chausson aux pommes, and brioche, among others. If a shop is labeled as a viennoiserie, it will sell only these types of pastries.

Common Menu Items

Although this list is not all-inclusive, this French bakery guide contains the most commonly seen items in a French bakery.

Baguette

Six Baked Breads

This is a staple of French life. Locals will often run out to a boulangerie to pick up their daily baguette. They eat it with most meals. Baguettes are excellent topped with jam, honey, or cheese. They can also be made into a sandwich, or served alongside a bowl of soup.

Different baguettes will be available at a boulangerie:

  • Baguette ordinaire — An ordinary baguette, and the cheapest variety available.
  • Baguette de tradition — An artisinal baguette made according to a traditional recipe as outlined by Bread Law. It is the tastiest, with a crisp crust and chewy center. I would recommend trying this.

If you prefer, you can request that your baguette be bien-cuite (well done) or pas trop cuite (softer, not well done).

I can confirm that it is worth trying an authentic French baguette. Somehow it is just so much more delicious than anything back home!

Pain de Campagne & Other Breads

Boulangeries also sell many other different types of bread, including but not limited to: pain de campagne (a farmhouse “country bread,” made with white and wholemeal grains), pain de mie (“wheat bread”), pain au levain (“sourdough bread”), pain aux céréales (“cereal bread,” made with different grains and seeds), pain complet (“wholemeal bread”), pain de seigle (“rye bread”), and fougasse (similar to focaccia).

If you want your loaf of bread sliced, simply ask for it tranché.

Croissant

You know what this is and you’ve got to try it. I promise it’ll be the best croissant you’ve ever had in your life. It will melt in your mouth with its buttery and flaky goodness.

Croissant aux Amandes

An almond croissant, which is a croissant which has been topped with marzipan and shaved almonds. It is so delicious and a nice little sweet treat!

Pain au Chocolat

The pain au chocolat is a buttery croissant filled with chocolate. It also goes by the name “chocolatine” in other regions of France.

The pain au chocolat is something I often dream about. I had the best pain au chocolat I’ve ever tasted at Ladurée (which is technically a patisserie). I also tried pain au chocolat at basically every boulangerie I went to in Paris, and it was so much fun to taste-test and compare.

Pain aux Raisins

Pain aux raisins, otherwise known as escargot (like a snail) or pain russe, is a sweet spiral pastry stuffed with raisins. It is so delicious and one to try while you’re there!

Kouign-Amann

This is also a delicious sweet pastry and one of my favorites! However, it is not typically available outside of Western France. The Kouign-Amann is a pastry consisting of laminated layers of butter and sugar. What could be better than that?

Éclairs and Macarons

Éclairs and macarons are some other common pastries that boulangeries sell. Macarons are an almond cookie sandwich filled with ganache or buttercream. Éclairs are a pastry made with choux dough, filled with cream, and topped with chocolate.

Quiche

Aside from the bread and pastries, boulangeries will also sell quiche which is egg custard with vegetables, meat, and cheese. It makes for a savory protein-filled breakfast.

Jambon Beurre

Finally, boulangeries also commonly serve sandwiches that are ready-to-order. It is so easy to pick up a quick lunch to eat there, or take it to go and enjoy picnic-style along the Seine.

The best sandwich I had while I was in Paris was the jambon beurre (ham and cheese on a baguette). We ordered it in a small boulangerie which I can’t even remember the name of. It was honestly one of the best things I ate while I was there. The baguette was crusty, and the ham and cheese was fresh. It was perfect. I highly recommend grabbing one for lunch while you’re there!

Boulangerie Hours

Most boulangeries are typically open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The best time to go is in the very early morning right after opening, when the bread is fresh and it isn’t busy yet. The busiest time of day is the morning, lunch hours, and evening. People will often take a long lunch break and enjoy it at a boulangerie.

Note that many boulangeries are closed on Mondays. Along with other businesses in France, it is also custom for some boulangeries to close for a month in August during which time locals take their summer vacation.

Boulangerie Etiquette

I hope this French bakery guide helps to clarify how to order at a boulangerie, which can be daunting as a foreigner if you don’t understand the local customs or language.

When first walking into a boulangerie, it is imperative that you exchange a pleasant greeting with the counter staff. It is considered rude not to do so in France. If it is busy, this can also be done once it is your turn in line. The staff will greet you with “Bonjour madame/monsieur,” and you respond with “Bonjour.”

How to Order at a Boulangerie

After you exchange greetings, you may need some time to browse the display case. If you’re not in line, you can stand back from the counter to indicate that you aren’t ready to order yet.

To order, simply say the item that you would like followed by “s’il vous plaît,” which means please. So, to order a croissant, say “un croissant, s’il vous plaît” (one croissant, please). After you order, it is not customary to engage in small talk. To finalize your order, say “c’est tout” (that’s all).

The staff will then guide you to the register. They may begin to speak to you in French and ask if the order is for here or to go. If you don’t understand or speak French, simply say “Je ne comprends pas,” which means “I don’t understand.” They will then know that you don’t speak French and either ask you the same question in English if they are able to, or they will go ahead to indicate the total on the register for you to pay. Show them your card, and then tap to pay.

As you are leaving, it is very important to then thank the staff by saying “Merci, au revoir madame/monsieur” (Thank you, goodbye m’am/sir).

Some Helpful Phrases

This French bakery guide contains a comprehensive list of sayings and phrases to help you order in French at a boulangerie.

  • Bonjour madame/monsieur. — Hello ma’am/sir.
  • Je ne comprends pas. — I don’t understand.
  • Qu’est-ce vous avez choisi? — What have you decided on?
  • Je n’ai pas encore choisi. — I haven’t decided yet.
  • Un X, s’il vous plaît. — One X, please. (Can interchange un/une with however many items you want).
    • un — one, for masculine nouns
    • une — one, for feminine nouns
    • deux — two
    • trois — three
    • quatre — four
    • cinq — five
  • Je prends X, s’il vous plaît. — I’ll have X, please.
  • Je vais prendre X, s’il vous plaît. — I’ll have X, please.
  • Une baguette, s’il vous plait. — One baguette, please
  • Une baguette traditional, s’il vous plait. — One traditional baguette, please.
  • Une baguette bien-cuite, s’il vous plait. — One well done baguette, please.
  • Une baguette pas trop cuite, s’il vous plait. — One soft baguette, please.
  • Un pain de campagne, s’il vous plaît. — One loaf of country bread, please.
  • Un pain de campagne tranché, s’il vous plaît. — One sliced loaf of country bread, please.
  • Un croissant, s’il vous plaît. — One croissant, please.
  • Un croissant aux amandes, s’il vous plaît. — One almond croissant, please.
  • Un pain au chocolat, s’il vous plaît. — One chocolate croissant, please.
  • Un pain aux raisins, s’il vous plaît. — One raisin pastry, please.
  • Un éclair au chocolat, s’il vous plaît. — One chocolate eclair, please.
  • Un éclair au pistache, s’il vous plaît. — One pistachio eclair, please.
  • Une boîte de macarons, s’il vous plaît — A box of macarons, please.
  • Une quiche lorraine, s’il vous plaît — One ham and cheese quiche, please.
  • Un jambon beurre, s’il vous plaît — One ham and cheese sandwich, please.
  • Trois croissants, deux pain au chocolat, et une bouteille d’eau pétillante, s’il vous plaît. — Three croissants, two chocolate croissants, and a bottle of sparkling water, please.
  • C’est tout.— That’s all.
  • Sur place — For here
  • À emporter — To go
  • Par carte, s’il vous plaît. — Paying by card, please.
  • Merci, au revoir madame/monsieur. — Thank you, goodbye ma’am/sir.

Best Boulangeries in Paris

I hope that after reading this French bakery guide you now feel prepared to order at a French bakery!

Some famous boulangeries to try in Paris are:

Enjoy!

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