Guide to French Culture: Tips on Art, Cuisine, Fashion

French Culture in a Few Words

French people are raised in a very specific culture, unique in the world.

Knowing the details of French culture can help you have a more pleasant time during your stay in France. Indeed, you will see these details in all your interactions with French people and some information can save you in certain situations. 

On this page, in addition to letting you know about cultural aspects in everyday French life, you will also find out about other areas where the French are considered very talented if not innovators, including art, literature, cuisine, architecture, and fashion. 

In each area, you will find activity recommendations for a full immersion stay in Paris. Have a wonderful discovery!

Paris Opera in Paris in France

French Culture Tips

La Bise: The first thing you will notice during your trip in Paris is the way French people interact with each other. Friendly manners require to greet your friends with "La bise". This practice which consists of kissing someone's both cheeks several times (the number of times depends on the region you are in) is very common and sometime considered rude if not respected. Nowadays, because of the worldwide pandemic, French people are slowly abandoning this practice and say they are quite happy about it because apparently, nobody really likes it! No worries, as a foreigner, nobody will ever expect La Bise from you.

Dinning: The art of dinning is very complex in French culture. The details of a French meal are explained below, but know that food is important and meals can last for a long time, accompanied by wine, very long talks, and deep conversations which can sometimes lead to debates.

Language Manners: Although French people have a bad reputation for being grumpy people who complain all the time, they still have manners! Saying Bonjour (Hello) is a must if you enter a shop, the bakery, or the bus. Same for the formal Au revoir (goodbye).

French and English Language: French people may have an international reputation in many fields, but we can't admire them for their communication skills, specially in foreign languages. In other words, French people don't really speak or like to speak in a foreign language, not even in English. They usually stick to the French language and expect foreigners to speak French also. The rare ones who do speak English have a quite strong French accent and pronounce the "R" sharply.

Public Space: French people expect others to behave and be quiet in public spaces.

Clothing: Although French fashion is very popular all around the world, we can't say that French people show it in their regular life. Indeed, French people wear basic colored clothing and don't go very eccentric in terms of colors or shapes of clothes. You may notice their very chic and sophisticated way of dressing, though.

French Art

French art is an important part of French culture. France can fairly be said to have been a leader in the development of art in different forms.

From painting to sculpture, to the art of decoration and even the art of building furniture, French people always innovate and prove to be creative. They dedicate a fair amount of time to the process of creation and value any kind of art. 

Because of this interest in art, the French have collected numerous collections over the centuries, and you can see them in the museums in Paris.

Among the most popular French artists, you can find Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-August Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Henri Rousseau, Auguste Rodin or Henri Matisse.

Where to Find French Art in Paris?

Here are some places in Paris where you can admire the work of French artists.

  • Rodin Museum, a historical villa dedicated to the work of Auguste Rodin, in the 7th district of Paris.
  • Versailles Palace, the most known palace in the world, former house of the king, and Museum of the History of France.
  • Jacquemart André Museum, a museum in the middle of Paris where you can admire a large collection of art as you visit the beautiful historical building. 
  • Pompidou Centre and the National Museum of Modern Art, the largest center for modern art in Paris, ideal for contemporary art lovers.
  • Orsay Museum, considered to be the second best museum in Paris after the Louvre, displaying French art starting from the middle of the 19th century.

Traveler's Tip: When visiting the best museums in Paris, buying a city pass can be a great way to save time and money on entrance fees and avoid long queues. Check out our guide to the best City Pass for Paris for details on prices and included activities to find the best pass for your itinerary and budget.

7 Best Vegetarians and Vegans Restaurants in Paris in France (Editorial)

French Cuisine

As said previously, the French have a very complex relationship with food. They are very passionate about what is on their plate and don't hesitate to spend hours in the kitchen to cook a dish. It is part of their culture! That's probably why their cuisine is so rich and full of taste.

The best chefs in the world are French or have studied the art of cooking in France.

The French Cuisine is well known for many dishes like...

  • Foie Gras
  • Escargots (Snails)
  • Steak Tartare (Raw Steak)
  • Canard à l'Orange (Duck)
  • Coq-au-vin 
  • Bœuf Bourguignon (Beef Bourguignon)

And also special French deserts and pastries...

  • Croissant et pain au chocolat
  • Éclair au chocolat
  • Crêpe
  • Fondant au chocolat
  • Crème brulée
  • Macaron
  • Île flotante
  • Mille-Feuille

With a special mentions for the two best known elements of French cuisine: Fromage (cheese) and Vin (wine).

During gatherings, French people spend long hours at the table, eating numerous dishes in order.

  • Apéritif : commonly called the "apéro", it is a drink with alcohol to start the meal.
  • Entrée : the starter.
  • Plat : the main dish, either a piece of meat or fish with vegetables, salad or fries.
  • Fromage : some cheese.
  • Dessert : something sweet to end the meal.
  • Digestif : A drink with alcohol to finish the meal.

Obviously, each meal is not composed of so many dishes, only special ones are.

For lunch, French restaurants will usually offer either Entré + Plat or Plat + Dessert options.

Here are the articles we have prepared for you with all the best addresses of restaurants and cafés you can find in Paris.

French Architecture

Some of the best buildings and constructions in the world have been designed by French people. Just by walking around Paris, you will understand the expertise French people have in the field of architecture. Many styles have been invented by French architects like Romanesque, Gothic, and Gallo-Roman styles. 

Some of the most renowned architects from France are Jean Nouvel (n°1 in the world), Paul Virilio, Claude Parent, François Seigneur, Jacques Ferrier, and Nicolas Michelin.

Buildings to See in Paris

  • Pantheon is an Ancient Roman style building worth visiting in Paris 
  • Sacré-Coeur Basilica is an amazing exemple of Roman Catholic construction
  • Louvre Museum and its pyramid are considered to be a successful modern construction in Paris 
  • Eiffel Tower, the Iron Lady, 300 meters tall, is one of the most impressive constructions of Paris
  • Arc de Triomphe, an impressive arch in the neoclassical architecture style
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral, with its Gothic style, is a gem of French architecture
Pont Neuf Booksellers in Paris in France

French Literature

It is not a secret... French people have proven to be great readers and writers. We all know at least one book from French literature. The greatest names in French literature are Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Albert Camus, Honoré de Balzac, Molière, and Voltaire to name few.

You will notice French people reading on public transport in Paris. Numerous book shops like Shakespeare and Co. are spread around the city and are very precious for French people who think quality literature is essential to any civilization. 

The intellectual quarter of Paris is the Latin Quarter, where you can find the best cafés in Paris frequented by writers and the most important university of Paris, La Sorbonne.

How to Discover French Literature

Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris in France

French Fashion

What would Paris be without the fashion industry? Over the years, Paris has build an iconic reputation for its French way of creating fashion. Many Haute Couture houses were originally created in the capital and shows are happening every year, gathering professionals and passionate people from around the world.

French people don't even notice it anymore, but it is true that they have a certain sense of fashion that comes naturally. Even if they don't go very eccentric with their clothing, they always wear very elegant and classy clothing, for work and for special occasions. 

If you are passionate about fashion, you can visit the Museum of Arts Décoratifs in Paris or participate in a show or an exhibit happening in the Grand Palais during fashion week. Don't forget to book in advance if you want to have a spot!

Find the best places to shop in Paris in the following articles...

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is French culture known for?

French culture is known for its fine cuisine and deserts, its beautiful buildings and monuments, its wine and cheese, and its cinematographic skills.

What are the French good at?

French people are considered to be good at cuisine, architecture, art and fashion.

What are the most popular cultural activities in France?

Some of the most popular cultural activities in France are cinema, theater, museums, reading, and visiting historical places. In Paris, French people love to go to

  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. Louvre Museum
  3. Orsay Museum
  4. Cité de la Science et de l'Industrie
  5. L'Orangerie Museum

Find out more about French activities in the TOP 15 attractions in Paris.

What is the national motto of France?

The French national motto is "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité", which means "liberty, equality, fraternity".

More ideas

What else can I do in Paris? Here are plenty of ideas.

Paris Welcome Card


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