9 of the best foodie cities in France – and what to eat and drink while you’re there

1. Mussels in Lille

Near the Belgian border and capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, the gastronomy of this cultured, university city has a strong Flemish influence. Restaurants in the historic centre with its cobbled pedestrian streets and central Grand Place, serve mussels cooked in beer, carbonnade de boeuf (hearty beef and ale stews) and potjevleesch (a type of meat and vegetable terrine often served with chips).

The local ports of Boulogne and Dunkerque supply the city with fresh fish, and creamy-meringue cakes sold in city patisseries make an irresistible tea-time treat.

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2. Boozy stews in Bordeaux

On the Garonne River in south-west France, Bordeaux has a busy port, gothic cathedral and elegant townhouses. Hub of a vast wine industry and host to a biannual wine festival, the city also has a great culinary tradition based on local meat and seafood from the Atlantic.

Local oysters from the Bassin d’Arcachon are a particular delicacy while the most popular meat-based dish is entrecote bordelaise (rib steak cooked in Bordeaux wine with shallots and herbs). For the sweet-toothed, specialities include cannelés, small pastries with a custard centre, and noisettines du Médoc (roasted hazelnuts rolled in sugar).

3. Escargots in Dijon

Capital of the bucolic Burgundy region in eastern France, Dijon is a striking city with distinctive glazed roof tiles and an historical centre which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. A byword for mustard and centre of the world-famous Côte d’Or wine-growing region, the city hosts a big gastronomic fair every autumn.

Best-known regional dishes include escargots à la bourguignonne (snails in garlic and butter) and boeuf bourguignon, while the must-try, local cheese is pungent Epoisses. Mushrooms and truffles are harvested from local woodland and blackcurrants are grown for crème de cassis and tangy, fruit-based sauces.

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4. Champagne in Reims

Home to the most famous names in Champagne including Mumm, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger, this epicurean city in the Grand East region of north-east France provides plenty of opportunity for tastings and tours of surrounding vineyards.

Alongside the bubbly, try the region’s signature macaroons, gingerbread and delicate pink biscuits, traditionally dipped into red wine before eating. Locally-produced ham terrines and condiments including mustards and vinegars are available in restaurants and shops around the thirteenth-century Cathedral of Notre-Dame, where French kings were crowned over a period of 1,000 years.

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5. Dumplings in Lyon

Not only the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes but also the French capital of gastronomy, this sprawling city is packed with excellent, rustic-style restaurants, called “bouchons” which specialise in the region’s earthy meat- and fish-based cuisine.

The Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse in Cours Lafayette is a foody haven with stalls piled high with cheese from the Auvergne, Charolais beef and wines from the Rhone valley. Lake and river fish are also popular and favourite Lyonnaise specialities include quenelles, creamy dumpling-style dishes typically made from pike, and cured pork saucissons (sausages).

6. Blue cheese in Grenoble

Just south of Lyon but with a distinctive cuisine of its own, the city of Grenoble lies in scenic spot at the foot of the Alps in south-eastern France. This is a top destination for walnut-lovers and these flavoursome nuts form the basis of many local recipes.

Blue, cow’s milk cheeses including the mild Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage and creamy Saint-Marcellin cheeses have been traditionally produced in the area for centuries, and ravioles du Dauphiné with cheese and herb filling is a popular pasta dish. Local Carthusian monks have distilled the distinctively green-coloured and herb-based Chartreuse liqueur since 1737.

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7. Steak-frites in Paris

Needing no introduction, this cosmopolitan capital leads the world in its high standards of gastronomy with shops and markets selling top-class produce from the all over the country. Whether you prefer a traditional brasserie for straightforward steak-frites and pot-au-feu (boiled beef with onion, carrots and leek) or opt for the finest dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant this city has it all.

But it’s also worth paying a visit to the city’s excellent food markets including Marche d’Aligre in Place d’Aligre and Marche des Enfants Rouges in Rue de Bretagne in Le Marais, which is the capital’s oldest covered market, dating from 1615.

8. Truffles in Perigueux

With its Roman tower, medieval centre and Byzantine cathedral, this historic town in the Dordogne department of south-west France has daily food stalls selling fresh local produce on Place du Coderc and in the covered market.

Depending on the season this could be tasty chestnuts, flavoursome cèpes (wild mushrooms), lusciously-ripe stawberries or strong, black truffles. Confit de canard (slow-cooked duck, usually served with potatoes) is a local speciality alongside foie gras, rillettes and terrines. Local Rocamadour cheeses are served in salads with walnuts and good local wines include Bergerac, Montravel and Monbazillac.

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9. Sausages in Strasbourg

On the eastern border France, and closely neighbouring Germany across the River Rhine, it’s no surprise that Strasbourg’s delicious Alsatian cuisine has a strong Germanic influence. Largely pork-based, you’ll find spicy sausages come in variety of flavours and are usually served with choucroute, shredded cabbage layered with salt and juniper.

Also delicious is the tarte flambée, a thin dough base topped with creme fraiche, thin-cut onions and lardons, and the mouthwatering local speciality, coq au riesling. Wine buffs can follow a 106-mile Alsace wine route to discover welcoming, family-run wineries in the foothills of the Vosges.

All images from Alamy