France is a diverse country that has so many things to offer. It is home to a vast range of regions and famous world renowned landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe and Le Louvre. The regions have different attractions from being a winter holiday destination, ports and beaches and a hiking destination. Aside from the natural attractions, France is also known for having a vast culinary heritage. It is no surprise that French gastronomy is quite popular and one of the best in the world. French gastronomy is perceived as a way of life, whether it is dining out or cooking at home. Let’s take a little tour of France to discover and learn more about the different regions in France and some of the dishes they are famous for.
Bretagne (Britanny) is a peninsula at the Western end of France. This region is part of the Celtic nations and has its very own culture. Rennes is its biggest agglomeration with 221,272 inhabitants. The region is has strong agricultural activities and a great tourist destination for sailing, coast hiking and a major site for historic megaliths in Europe. Some of the famous local dishes in this region are crepes, the kouign amann (butter cake), the Breton far, and the kig-ha-farz. Being a peninsula, seafood is widely used in the Bretagne gastronomy as well and Moules Marinieres is one of their specialty dishes.
The Champagne Ardennes region is located in the North East of France and bordered at its north by Belgium. Its biggest agglomeration is Reims with 184,076 inhabitants. Famous for its sparkling alcohol that bears the same name, Champagne Ardennes is also the second biggest cereal production region of France. Tourists are mostly attracted by the vineyards and prestigious cellars but also famous historic and tourist sites such as the Cathedral of Troyes, the valleys of the Marne, Charleville-Mezieres, and the Rimbaud Museum. Champagne is used widely in their cooking such as the traditional Potee champenoise and the Coq au Champagne which is a variant of the famous Coq Au Vin.
Aquitaine is one of the biggest regions and located in the South West of France. Bordeaux is its biggest agglomeration with 241,287 inhabitants. The architectural, gastronomic, cultural and natural heritage of Aquitaine attracts many tourists. Biarritz and Arcachon are seaside resorts with an already old reputation. Aquitaine is known for hydrotherapy especially in Dax (the first spatown in France and it produces a quarter of the wine production of France. It also offers many gastronomic specialties such as Oysters of Arcachon, Foie Gras and other duck derived dish, Piperade from Bearn, Caneles of Bordeaux, and Prunes of Agen. In 2016 the region merged with Poitou-Charentes and Limousin to become the New Aquitaine. The Basque chicken (Poulet Basquaise) is a culinary specialty of traditional cuisine emblematic of the Basque cuisine from the Pyrenees Atlantique Department in Aquitaine. The recipe celebrates the colors of the Basque flag (red, green, and white).
The Lorraine is a historical and cultural region of north-eastern France on the border with Belgium, the Luxembourg and Germany. Tourism in the region is focused mainly on hydrotherapy, pilgrimage or military tourism with the famous sites of Verdunand Maginot Line. The region, thanks to the Vosges massif (part of which is classified as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO) also benefits from winter sports tourism. The biggest agglomeration of the region is Metz with 117,890 inhabitants. Metz is a historically rich city with gardens and leafy promenades along the Moselle and Seille rivers. One of the most reknowned specialty of the region is the Quiche Lorraine. From the German Kuchen (meaning Cake) the quiche Lorraine is originally from the region Lorraine as its name indicates. The recipe would date back from the XVI century. Traditionally made from bread dough, smoked pork breast eggs and cream. The grated cheese was added afterwards, and the bread dough changed for short crust pastry.
Normandie is a territory located in the northwest of France, bordered by the English Channel. It is a very famous tourist destination thanks to its three properties inscribed on the World Heritage List: the Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay, the observatory towers of Tatihou and La Hougue and Le Havre, the constructed city of Auguste Perret. The city holds the famous Bayeux Tapestry and is the largest of the region with 168,316 inhabitants. The region is also famous for the D-Day landing beaches during the second world war. Normandie is also famous for its apple orchard and specialties based on apple (cider, compote, calvados etc). The Normandy apples are widely used for sweet and savoury cooking such as duck aiguillettes with caramelized apples, tarte tatin of apples with camembert, escalope à la normande (sauce is composed of cider, Isigny cream, mushrooms and calvados), or the Normand apple cake served with creme fraiche.
Provence-Alpes-Côted'Azur is a region of Southern East of France. The mountain occupies half of the regional territory and the coastline covers 700 km. The region counts four national parks and the famous French Riviera which launched its coastal reputation as a great summer holiday destination. Places such as Saint-Tropez, Nice and Cannes are known as luxury tourist destinations. Winter sports and hiking are widely practiced in the mountain departments. The biggest agglomeration is Marseilles, second biggest city of France with 794,811 inhabitants. Marseilles’ most famous dish would be the bouillabaisse, originally prepared by fishermen from fish that did not quite meet the standards for selling. Other regional specialties include aioli garni, codfish brandade, daube a la provencale, tapenade and pissaladiere.
The Île-de-France, often called the “Parisian region” is a region of historical and administrative French. This is one of the most densly populated region which accounts for 18.8% of the population of metropolitan France on only 2.2% of its area. The region is a major tourist destination due to having the most historical monuments like the Eiffel Tower and Versailles castle, Le Louvre and the amount of historical sights and activities such as festivals, theatre and concerts. The region is also famous for its gastronomy with a high number of restaurants, brasseries and bistros. Some of the popular dishes found in this region are the macarons, baguette,croque-monsieur, frog legs and hachis parmentier.
Auvergne is a historical region located in the heart of the Massif Central. Its largest agglomeration is Clermont Ferrand with 138,681 inhabitants. It is one of the smallest regions in France and known for its mountain ranges and dormant volcanoes. Pictured here is the Puy de Dôme which is the highest volcano in the region. The city is also known for hosting the largest short film festival in the world and is also a famous winter sports destination with several ski stations. Some of the regional dishes are green lentils from Puy, Auvergne hotpot, stuffed cabbage and Clafoutis which is a dessert from Limousin in Auvergne.
Bourgogne is known all over the world for its prestigious vineyards and authentic cuisine. This beautiful rural region will delight you with its peaceful groves, vineyards, mysterious forests, streams and large lakes. In Burgundy, the built heritage is also omnipresent as evidenced by the castles in the region. Dijon is the largest agglomeration of Bourgogne with 159,168 inhabitants, famous world wide for the Dijon Mustard created in 1856. With the people in the region passionate about all things food and wine, it is no surprise that they use wine for cooking such as the coq au vin, jamon a la Chablisienne, and the classic favourite beef bourguignon.