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Making Restaurant Reservations

I'm making my first trip to France later this year and have a question about restaurant reservations. I'm reading more and more where they are required even in the smaller places.

How do you go about making them if you don't speak French?

I speak a few words--the basics--but not enough to make a reservation and understand what they are saying back.

And how hard is it to make reservations if you're traveling solo? Will they accept them for solo diners?

Posted by
8293 posts

Your hotel could help, wherever you may be. When you say reservations seem to be required even in the smaller places, do you mean smaller towns or smaller restaurants? I can't recall ever having had a problem in smaller towns or cities. At any rate, there are usually lots to choose from .... they probably don't all require reservations.

Posted by
359 posts

I speak French fluently but regardless, look up the websites of the restaurants you want to visit (find through Googling the name). For our trip to Paris last summer, I just emailed the restaurants I wanted by finding their contact information on their website about a week before our trip. For really popular restaurants in Paris you could do it even a little earlier. Since you don't speak French just say Bonjour at the beginning and explain everything in English. French people are much nicer than the stereotype, especially outside of Paris! If they don't speak English, then maybe you'll just have to try one of the methods below.

Many restaurants had an option of making your reservation right online, no English required just use Google translate for the page and plug in your information. I did this several times. As long as the places you want to go are in a medium sized town this should work fine for you. It's also easy to ask the front desk at your hotel to just call and do it for you on the day you check in.

Posted by
8293 posts

The thing is, Sanderskn, the OP is asking about France, not Paris.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the replies....I will be in Paris as well as other parts of France. I guess my reservations questions are more about Paris.

I'm probably not going to decide on restaurants until I get there in case I come across something that looks good.

What about bistros and cafes....do I need reservations or are they mostly first come, first served?

Posted by
552 posts

Don't sweat trying to find the 'perfect' places to eat in France. A good baguette, some runny cheese, fruit in season, and a bottle of Vouvray on a sunny day in the shade of the southeast corner of the Luxembourg Gardens is all you need for nourishment.

I love many of the foods of France. But for a great dining scene, traditional France has not kept up with Spain and is not as laid back in their approach as Italy (all you want from the day's menu, including wine, for one simple price is hard to beat).

Don't get me wrong, we've had some great meals. (Foie Gras three ways is always a nice start to a rich repast.) But temper your expectations, don't expect to linger at lunch, and keep an open mind as you walk past the quirky array of 'Traiteur's'.

Posted by
796 posts

Congrats on your first trip to France. You are in for a treat. Yes, you can get a reservation for a solo diner though I have been in places where seating is limited and they might ask if to solo diners would mind sharing a table for two. Jump on that chance to get to meet someone and share the experience. Many places do not require reservations and some won't accept them. Many let you book online and choose the language. You can also get the concierge at your hotel to do your bookings for you. They may even do this before you arrive once you book the hotel.

Posted by
16883 posts

If trying a restaurant without reservations, going right when they open is your best bet. They might have a spot free at 7:00 but not at 8:30 (when more locals show up). Reservations are tighter on weekends.

Posted by
1064 posts

Why not drop in earlier in the day and make the reservation in person? No telephone is necessary. That worked for me the one time I tried it. Other times we simply went early, as Laura suggests.