When it comes to vacation spots at the top of my bucket list, France leads the pack. Every city from the French Alps to the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean are full of incredible history, architecture, art, charm, and distinct cuisine. I’ve heard from friends that they could spend an entire month in Paris and still not feel as though they’ve conquered all that the city has to offer. Although Paris seems to dominate the French travel guides, I’m just as eager to explore the French countryside, the Provence region, the island of Corsica, and of course — the French Riviera (which I have a feeling would be my favorite part of the country.) The coast of Southern France with its charming resort towns, colorful architecture, cobblestone streets, and relax and stay awhile attitude (with a bottle of French rosé, of course!) seems like the perfect vacation where you can truly do and see it all, and I cannot wait for the day I get to finally visit.
Since I haven’t had the opportunity just yet, Camille teamed up with Oui by Yoplait to put together a guide of French-inspired spots I can go to right here in Austin to get a taste of the food, culture, and amazing art and architecture. I was actually surprised to discover how many places in Austin incorporate French culture into their overall vibe, and although it’s won’t be the same as if I’m standing in the Louvre itself eating my croissant, I’ll take what I can get until I finally get my dream trip.
Scroll on for Camille’s guide to experience Austin the French way, including a map of a French-inspired staycation and the chance to win a trip to Marseille!
With its bordello-red walls, dreamscape lighting, and picturesque courtyard strewn with disco balls, Justine’s Brasserie is the place to go for a French-inspired late night meal. It’s no wonder chefs like to come here for after-hours moules frites, escargots with parsley, and a thumping DJ set — the crowd is always young, hip, and ready to stay into the wee hours of the night. It’s like being instantly teleported to a French brasserie, without leaving the East side of town.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
Although Elizabeth Street is famous for its banh mí sandwiches and noodles, they make the best croissants in town, too. The colorful cafe is quintessentially French –with patrons chatting over espresso and homemade French pastries in the sunny dining room or shady garden patio — it’s an afternoon delight like no other.
On our recent team lunch meeting to Elizabeth Street, we paired our croissants and coffee with a Oui by Yoplait yogurt to share. The French style yogurt is made with simple ingredients inspired by Yoplait’s traditional French recipe. The cups are rich, creamy, and instantly transported Camille back to her favorite breakfasts in this adorable French cafe she found in Paris last year with Adam. Yoplait is giving our readers a chance to win a trip to the Provence region of France, so be sure to try Oui for yourself and enter for the chance to win.
Le Politique is a relaxed take on the classic brasserie experience. Here, traditional French dishes, like steak frites and roasted chicken, are made with local ingredients and served with Texas hospitality. Don’t forget to stop by the French bakery counter on your way out.
Épicerie is a charming and delicious neighborhood cafe for casual French-Louisiana-inspired dining and takeout gourmet treats. Its ivy-covered cottage can be easily mistaken as a residential bungalow, but one step inside and you’re transported to a chic and friendly cafe with a French-inspired menu.
Meaning sin in French, Péché is distinctly Austin’s first absinthe bar, a cocktail program headed by bar manager Derek Weiss, showcasing a selection of pre-Prohibition style cocktails and a curated wine list. It brings that same tailored focus to the food menu, providing rich French fare made with the freshest ingredients. Péché brings the ethic and mystery of the old world to life, making it a gem of Austin’s downtown.
Hotel Saint Cecilia
Created in honor of the patron saint of music and poetry, the Hotel Saint Cecilia takes inspiration from the great era of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when a revolution of rock and roll and beat poetry overran the hallowed halls of established convention. Each of the five suites, six poolside bungalows, and three studios embodies an equal love for the elegance of old world luxury and the irreverence of their muses–The Stones, Bill Burroughs, Anne Sexton, Hunter S. Thompson among them. The secluded property and lush grounds are our favorite place to enjoy a martini (or two) and chit chat late into the night with old friends.
Blanton Museum of Art
As the primary art collection for the city of Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art is a major resource for our community. With nearly 18,000 works in the collection, the Blanton showcases art from across the ages — from ancient greek pottery to abstract expressionism. With a year-round schedule of traveling exhibitions, art lovers are sure to discover some of France’s most brilliant pieces at the Blanton.
One exhibition in particular, Storied Past: Four Centuries of French Drawings, explores the expressive and technical range of French drawing through preliminary sketches, compositional studies, figure studies, and finished drawings from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Among the artists included are Jacques Callot, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Louis Forain, and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum and garden is dedicated to the works of artist and sculptor, Charles Umlauf. The garden holds over 40 sculptures and is completely framed by nature. Inside the gallery, rotating exhibits of Umlauf’s more obscure pieces and other similar artists are on display. Since France boasts some of the most beautiful sculptures and installations in the world, dotted in various parks and open spaces across the country, visiting the Umlauf is a must for a French-inspired staycation in Austin.