French wine and cuisine are amongst the finest in the world, so deciding where to dine in France can be an overwhelming task—one that we were more than willing to endeavor! We found some of our favorite spots through a lot of research and a little luck, and we wanted to share our ideal itinerary with you.
The best part of this journey is exploring 4 beautiful cities—Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Nice—by train. Here’s where to go.
2 Nights in Paris
The easiest place to start a French adventure is in the city of lights. Start your morning with a strong coffee and crispy baguette at one of the many tempting bakeries that line the streets of Paris.
Lunch 1: La Palette. Maybe save your appetite for a decadent French omelette, croque madame, or cheese plate at one of our favorite spots in the 6th arrondissement: La Palette. Judging from the reviews on TripAdvisor, people either love it or hate it. We love it.
Lunch 2: Les Deux Magots. If you’re staying in the Saint Germain area, you can also check out the famous Les Deux Magots—which has incredible lunch options. We also had a perfect French omelette here—seriously the best we’ve ever had. In other parts of the city we were served over cooked, American-diner-style omelettes, so getting a fluffy, yellow French omelette isn’t guaranteed, and this spot is excellent.
Next it’s time to explore Paris—but this is a food post. So, after you’ve wandered the streets, spotted the Eiffel Tower, snacked on fromage and macarons, and gazed upon works of art at the d’Orsay and the Louvre, it’s time to have a fabulous dinner.
Dinner 1: Invictus. Our favorite restaurant is a special little gem in the 5th arrondissement. The place has about 40 seats, which are close together in typical Parisian style. The chef may come to your table to discuss the menu, and the specials are written on the wall. We visit Invictus on every visit to Paris, and it’s always fantastic. Scallops, anchovies, beef cheek, lamb, gorgeous desserts! Every dish is elevated and cooked to perfection. You have to try this spot.
Dinner 2: 6 New York. This 2-Michelin Star restaurant has a swanky vibe with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. You can choose a fish or meat theme for the Chef’s tasting menu—and we decided to have one of each. We had such a wonderful experience and delicious meal here. Super friendly service and really sophisticated dishes that were still straightforward and unpretentious. Bonus: We had a 5-course meal (with plenty of wine) for a party of three here using a points promo from Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature.
Pro tip: You can Uber around Paris pretty easily so you don’t have to stick to one neighborhood.
2 Nights in Lyon
Lyon is the third largest city (second largest metropolitan area) in France. You can get there easily on the 2-hour direct train from Gare de Lyon in Paris. Pro tip: best way to book train tickets for France is directly through SNCF connect. Lyon is not only a lovely city at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, it’s also known as the gastronomic capital of France (and the world!). That may be surprising, considering all the wonderful options in Paris, but it’s true (so “they” say). The city is home to many Michelin-star restaurants as well as Lyonnaise bouchons that serve traditional fare.
Perhaps our favorite spot in Lyon is the food hall. On day one and two of your stay, you’ll want to have lunch at Paul Bocuse’s Les Halles de Lyon—which is a renowned indoor food market with dozens of amazing international and local options.
Once again, you can roam the streets, visit museums, and work up an appetite for dinner. Lyon offers plenty of sites to appease the wandering soul.
Dinner 1: Burgundy by Matthieu. Chef Matthieu Girardon creates innovative dishes from local ingredients. The wine list is expansive, but don’t worry, there’s a knowledgeable sommelier standing by ready to help you find the best bottle to compliment your meal. The dining room at Burgundy is cozy, unique, and stylish. The best part is the cheese course, which was served as is traditional in France: after the main course and before dessert.
Dinner 2: Try a bouchon—a rustic Lyonnaise restaurant that serves local favorites. We’re not going to recommend a specific spot because we didn’t love our experience. We had some great items. There was just too much food, and a few of the dishes at the very start of the meal were way too heavy, so that set the tone for the whole meal. That being said, there are plenary of bouchon options, and it’s the thing to do in Lyon. So you should definitely try one, and maybe you’ll have a better experience! If you’d rather try something else, the city has plenty of Michelin-star and other fine-dining options (which we can’t wait to try next time)—or you can just wander back to Les Halles de Lyon. Side bar: If you’re in Las Vegas, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon at the Venetian is outstanding!
Pro Tip: Many restaurant in Lyon were closed on Sundays and Mondays, so it helps to do some planning and make reservations well in advance.
1 Night in Marseille
We almost didn’t make it to Marseille due to time constraints but we are so glad we fit it in. Once again, we took a direct train, this time from Lyon Part Dieu to Marseille-Saint-Charles, and it took about 2.5 hours.
Prior to leaving Lyon, we grabbed a café au lait and a sandwich at a lovely little bakery to bring on the train for lunch.
Pro Tip: Marseille is an expansive and bustling city, so you’ll probably want to take a taxi or Uber from the train station to your accommodations. We walked to the old port, but we travel super light and are usually willing to walk long distances through unknown elements, so I wouldn’t base your decision on what we consider “walkable.”
We stayed in one of our favorite Airbnbs of all time with stunning views of the old port, cathedrals and forts. If you prefer hotels, the Radisson Blu next door offered the same views—but we didn’t check it out so can’t speak to the quality of stay.
Dinner: Le Souk. There are plenty of options around the marina. We went with a Moroccan choice, Le Souk, and it was delicious—rich in traditional Moroccan flavors and textures. We enjoyed the comfortable outdoor seating area overlooking the lovely marina.
Lunch: L’Epuisette. After dinner, we got a good night’s sleep and skipped breakfast the next morning because we were about to have the lunch of a lifetime. We’ve been so fortunate to enjoy some really exquisite meals in our travels and this may top them all.
We’re so glad we made a lunch reservation at L’Epuisette rather than dinner because the lovely Mediterranean views added a perfect element to the ambiance while relaxing with a crisp bottle of champagne, gazing at the sea and dining on delicious, artistic dishes. The meal was creative and memorable, and every dish tasted sublime. The service also was spot on. This is a truly special experience—even if it’s just a Tuesday afternoon in Marseille.
2 Nights in Nice
We had to take a nap after our luxurious lunch at L’Epuisette, so we’re glad we booked our Airbnb for an extra night and could check out at our leisure. You can take an evening train directly to Nice, which takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Dinner 1 & 2: Di Piu. After your late arrival and check in, you may want to head straight to dinner. We went to Di Piu at the recommendation of our wonderful Airbnb host. And, yes, we went right back for more on night two in Nice. We honestly loved the gnocchi with truffles so much that we had a long moment of silence while we just savored every bite of fluffy, pillowy goodness while it was at the perfect temperature. The mussels, pasta, salad, wine … everything was outstanding—including the service. Keep in mind that the portions are HUGE, so even one salad and one main dish could be too much for a couple. We brought plenty of delicious leftovers back to the Airbnb.
Lunch: Try Monaco. Nice has many great dinning options in the old town and along the water, but we decided to head to Monaco for the afternoon, since it was our first trip to the region. We had a lovely day wandering around Monte Carlo and relaxing in luxury with gorgeous views of the French Riviera. BUT, if we’re being completely honest, we thought our high-end lunch was completely lacking in flavor, so we won’t add it to our list of recommendations. The day trip is totally worth the experience, though, so do some research and find a restaurant that looks enticing to you!
Pro tip: The direct train from Nice to Monaco is very straightforward and takes about 30 minutes. You can even pop into Italy if you want to take a few beautiful photos and have a slice of pizza for the novelty, but the border town of Ventimiglia didn’t have much to offer off-season (in March) went we visited.
Your 7-night culinary adventure in France has ended, but you have memories to last a life time. You can now take a 6-hour direct train from Nice back to Paris or you can hop a short flight to make your connecting flight home. Just note that many budget airlines don’t fly into CDG Paris, so make sure you are connecting to the right airport. If you’re moving on to somewhere else in Europe, Nice offers many air and rail options. Also, some airlines have recently added nonstop flights from Nice to North America. So you have options for your onward journey.
If you decide to journey onward in Europe, we highly recommend taking a short flight to Porto. Check out our Porto, Portugal tips here.