My Disney Top 5 - Things to See in Epcot's France Pavilionby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. At this point in time, something truly unique is happening. I actually find myself looking forward to not one but two trips to Walt Disney World coming up in the next six months or so; I'm besides myself with excitement. The first one will be work related. I'll be chaperoning a group of students down there for a long weekend. The second trip, a much longer stay, will be to celebrate my 50th birthday. What better place to turn 50 than the most magical place on Earth? There's a whole bunch of us planning to head down to Orlando this summer to help me celebrate this milestone, and it's going to be a hoot for sure. There are so many things to anticipate, but one of the things I truly can't wait to get back to is Epcot's World Showcase. Spending time in World Showcase is one of my favorite things to do anywhere.
Here on MousePlanet I've been counting down my favorite things about each of Epcot's pavilions. Last time we were touring through Morocco, one of my favorites of the 11 nations that surround World Showcase Lagoon. Moving on from Morocco, we come to a pavilion that is also one of my top choices to see in Epcot—Morocco's next-door neighbor, France.
It's hard to beat France for beauty, shopping, food, drink and overall ambience. It's actually my favorite physical spot in World Showcase, nestled on the banks of both the World Showcase Lagoon and the canal leading to Crescent Lake. It's got its own unique, spacious feel to it and with the soon to be added Ratatouille attraction, this pavilion will actually be growing. I love spending time in France, so let's take a look at my Top 5 things to see in Epcot's France pavilion.
5 – Monsieur Paul
If you're talking France, then you're talking food. There couldn't be a proper French pavilion without good dining, and there's plenty to choose from here. Monsieur Paul is the kind of restaurant that people just don't expect to be inside of a Disney park. It's a little bit secret, discreetly placed on the top floor of the more popular, and more affordable, Chefs De France. Head up the beautiful staircase for a wonderful dining experience named for famed French chef Paul Bocuse.
A circular stairway takes you from the intimate foyer downstairs up to the Monsieur Paul restaurant above Chefs de France. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Save Monsieur Paul for a special occasion. Ditch the Mickey T-shirt and baseball cap, put a collared shirt on, and see if you can score a window seat for the view of the lagoon and the "streets" of France. Expect to pay some hefty prices, but don't look and just enjoy. Sure $44 was a lot to pay for the filet de boeuf, but it was a special night for my wife and I, and it was delicious. The desserts are also top notch.
4 – Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie
Once again, when in France, eat and drink, and eat and drink well. This counter service choice in the back of the pavilion is a fantastic place to go for lunch.
Through the arches in the back of the pavilion you'll find a delectable assortment of French dishes. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Get yourself out of the sweltering Orlando sun and take a cool break back here but, don't come to diet. This is France. It's rich and savory but oh so delicious! Try the croissant jambon fromage—ham and cheese with bechamel in a croissant. Anything that includes bechamel sauce is worth trying in my eyes. You could skip lunch and just save room for the multitude of desserts here. I can't begin to choose a favorite, there are so many. In my opinion, these are the best desserts in World Showcase.
3 – The Flower Gardens
I'm always a big proponent of finding those special tranquil places in Walt Disney World to stop the madness and relax for a while. The France pavilion's flower gardens are high on the list of those very special places.
One of the many glorious gardens in Epcot's France pavilion. Photo by Samantha Barry.
If you're a big gardener, like my wife, then you'll be blown away. If you're not a big gardener, you should be even more blown away. Order a pastry and a glass of wine and head out to the fountain on the main promenade, or the gardens behind the perfume shops along the canal and enjoy the stunning flower beds.
2 – Grand Marnier Slush
This is the best "grown-up drink" in all of Walt Disney World. That's a bold statement but I've thought so for years and I'm unwavering in this opinion. Out along the lagoon there is a small stand called Les Vins des Chefs de France. Here you can get French wines and beer, but truthfully, there's only one thing that matters on this menu.
The best eight dollars you'll spend on your trip is right here on the menu at Les Vins des Chefs de France. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
It's tasty, it's refreshing, it's great looking, and it's one of my favorite drinks anywhere. Be careful. On a hot Orlando day, these go down a little bit too easy.
1 – Location, location, location
The France pavilion is situated in one of the most picturesque spots in all of World Showcase. It's the only pavilion that has essentially two waterfronts. It's got the lagoon in front and the canal on the side. This makes the pavilion feel much more open than any of its neighbors.
When entering France from the UK at Epcot, you cross a footbridge. The design of this bridge is said to be inspired from the Pont des Arts footbridge crossing the Seine River in Paris. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
You can really stroll around the France pavilion and take in the atmosphere and the sights. Better yet, head into the International Gateway and view France from across the canal that leads into Disney's BoardWalk area. Once again, it's a unique view and it's the only pavilion that offers this type of view.
The pavilion's extensive waterfront as seen from the bridge from the International Gateway welcomes you into France.Photo by Samantha Barry.
The imagineers did an amazing job decorating the waterfront. There are flower carts, old bicycles, paint easels, and rowboats. It's truly one of Epcot's most beautiful locations, and helps make the France pavilion that much more of a special place.
I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the France pavilion. There's another popular restaurant, Les Chefs De France, that I still haven't eaten in, not to mention L'Artisan des Glaces, the ice cream and sorbet shop. France already has one attraction, the film Impressions de France and as I mentioned above its slated for a second major attraction when the Ratatouille ride opens in 2021.
You can find some charming shops in France as well. Our favorite has always been La Maison du Vin. You can get samples of French wine in this quaint little shop and for years now, it's been the spot for my wife to get her favorite trays and dishes from Provence. Let's not forget perfumes from the Plume et Palette shop and cosmetics and fragrances from Guerlain.
So, have some gourmet French food and wine. Drink the best drink on Disney property. Meet Belle and the Beast. Have some delectable desserts. Bring home some Chanel No. 5 for your special someone. Cross the bridge and meander the cobblestone streets of France on your next visit to Epcot's World Showcase and make sure to stop and smell the flowers. Le Pavillon France d'Epcot est vraiment magnifique!
Click on the link below, let me hear your thoughts on Epcot's France pavilion and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5. We'll head over to the United Kingdom as we come close to wrapping up our World Showcase tour.
We're usually very much in agreement on these lists, Chris. But I can't believe you didn't list Impressions de France as one of your top choices. I enjoy all of the places you mentioned, especially dining at Monsieur Paul. But the movie is by far my favorite thing about the France pavilion.
Ditto on the movie!
I agree with your number ONE for Monsieur Paul. My wife and I had an amazing dinner there a few weeks ago, with fabulous service and top level cuisine. Worth the high price. We dressed up, but there were lots of folks there who were super casual. Note that the fireworks are somewhat visible from the tables, but you can barely hear the soundtrack inside the restaurant.
I love the movie, especially since it's not a Circlevision thing.
We just had our first meal at Monsieur Paul a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. We've eaten at the downstairs restaurant once and enjoyed it as well.
L'Artisan des Glaces is amazing!! That is one of the food items I am looking forward to eating again when we go back in April.
OK...so...here it goes...My name is Chris...and I've never seen Impressions de France. There...I said it.
So, go ahead, support me, blast me, let me hear it. It's a Disney classic at this point...and I've never gone in there to see it.
The only thing I have to say to you is . . . OH YOU SHOULD!
Consider this a support, I think . It's just another demonstration of how we all have different touring habits, things we repeat while unintentionally missing other things entirely, etc.
While I am pretty sure I've stopped in to see the movie here at least once or twice, aside from sampling items at the special booths at either Food and Wine or Flower and Garden, my confession is that I haven't actually eaten at ANY of the great food restaurants in France (not even the counter service)!
I feel like I really should make an effort to hit at least one of them on a future trip now. I have had that Grand Marnier Slush though, I believe - it was offered at a F&W booth one year, I am pretty sure(and it is both excellent and strong, as you describe!). Also had Escargot at that booth and actually found I liked it a decent amount! So it's not that I've avoided French food entirely, just haven't made it a scheduled meal yet. Might be partially psychological for me. I'm not much of a wine person, and I know much of the French cuisine is paired very well with various wines, so maybe that has made me lessen my focus here.
We stopped by Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie twice in the last couple months because friends of ours highly recommended it. The first time we couldn't even pay for our food, something happened at the end of the line which is a major choke point and they couldn't get it figured out. We ended up walking out. Go figure! Disney not knowing how to take money!! Then the second time we got almost to the register and it bogged down again. It is a very bad set up with only two registers in that cramped space. We stuck it out though and eventually paid for our food. Meh. But $4.99 for a ham and cheese sandwich is not too bad at Disney.
The escargot at the France food and wine booth is to die for!! One of my favorite dishes ever.
And your comment on touring habits is so true. Haven't seen the China film either and never saw the Norway film before it left. I have seen Canada for some reason, so go figure.
I'm sorry you've had two bad experiences here. I've had some great ones. Keep trying!
I love the brie and apple sandwich there as a light lunch or snack!
Yeah, Impressions de France is absolutely #1 on our list. It's the best of the World Showcase attractions -- by FAR the best music -- and the only attraction in all of Epcot to remain essentially untouched since opening day. We'll skip most attractions in Epcot on any give trip, but we never, ever skip Impressions de France. It's not a trip to Epcot without hearing the Saint-Saens organ concerto.
France is probably my favorite of all the World Showcase pavilions, so coming up with a Top 5 list is difficult. One of the main reasons we like to stay at the Beach Club or the Boardwalk Villas is because it's such a short walk to France (and all the great food therein).
#5 - Les Vins des Chefs de France. A great wine shop with something tasty to try each time you visit.
#4 - Monsieur Paul. This is the best restaurant in any of the theme parks, and probably our favorite fine dining experience at WDW. It's the closest thing to Club 33 of any of the places we've experienced at WDW, although we've never been to Victoria & Albert's.
#3 - Serveur amusant. We haven't seen the chair acrobats for a few trips, so I'm not even sure they're still there, but we LOVE watching these guys perform their amazing feats of balance.
#2 - Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie. Simply the best counter-service you can get at WDW. We often head here from our hotel room as soon as the park opens to grab breakfast, and we'll stop by for a snack at almost any hour of the day or evening. We'll grab a table out on the sidewalk and enjoy people-watching while we indulge in a quiche or some fantastic pastry.
#1 - Impressions de France. As I said before, it's our favorite attraction in the World Showcase. It's so... French. Calm, elegant, majestic. If they ever get rid of it, I might not recover.
I can't wait for Ratatouille to come to Epcot -- I've ridden it at DLP, and it's definitely an amazing ride. It'll be nice to see my favorite pavilion expanded; the whole area of Disney Studios Paris where Ratatouille is located is so phenomenally themed, so I hope they can replicate that in Florida.