Can you drink French tap water?

Can you drink French tap water?

by Anne-Lise Vassoille

Updated April 24, 2023

France is famous across the world not just for its gastronomy and its wine, but also for some of its water brands. With bottled water from such iconic names as Evian and Perrier, you may be wondering about the quality of tap water in France. So, can you drink French tap water without any risk to your health?

The answer is generally “yes.” In the vast majority of places, it is perfectly safe to drink French tap water. But that’s not the whole story. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of French tap water and take a look at some of the major branded waters available in France. Once you’ve decided where your preference lies, you may also want to learn some useful vocabulary to help you discuss different types of water and order drinks in a restaurant.

Learn languages at your pace

Is tap water drinkable in France?

Many French people may prefer bottled alternatives, but you can drink the tap water served in France without any risk to your health. According to recent data from the World Health Organisation, drinking tap water is safe in 99% of all cities in France. Still, with a growing focus on environmental factors and health and safety, French people often prefer to filter their water or to buy it bottled. It’s considered by many to be healthier and better-tasting, especially in parts of France where the water is judged to be hard.

Age is one factor to consider when opting for or against tap water. Ideally, it’s better to avoid giving newborns and infants tap water. Many parents choose to instead let them drink only bottled water clearly labeled as suitable for infants. On the other hand, many toddlers and older children drink plenty of tap water and face no adverse outcomes.

An overview of water brands in France

For a country so famous for its wine, you may be impressed by just how many water brands are available in French supermarkets, They can be divided into two groups: brands of eau plate (still water), like Evian, Volvic or Vittel, and brands of eau gazeuse (carbonated or sparkling water), like the world-famous Perrier, as well as Badoit, Saint-Yorre and La Salvetat.

Some brands are linked to specific regions of France. Evian is synonymous with the French Alps, while Volvic evokes ties to the extinct volcanoes of central France. Other brands attempt to set themselves apart by promoting their specific composition and health benefits. One example is Taillefine (a brand name that can be translated as “slim waist”) which allegedly helps its consumers lose weight thanks to its high level of minerals. Indeed, different water brands have unique concentrations of minerals. If you need to limit your absorption of some, make sure to check the labels carefully or ask your doctor or healthcare professional for advice.

Useful vocabulary around water

Even as a beginner in French, the words about types of water belong to the basic vocabulary around food you’ll find useful to know. In the following table, we’ve recapped the most common ones for you:

eau avec bulles*water with bubbles
eau en bouteillebottled water
eau calcairehard water/lime water
eau chaudehot water
eau couranterunning water
eau froidecold water
eau gazeusesparkling water/carbonated water
eau minéralemineral water
eau pétillantefizzy water
eau platestill water
eau du robinettap water
eau sans bulles*water without bubbles
eau de sourcespring water
eau tièdelukewarm water

Learn languages at your pace

As you may have guessed, eau avec bulles and eau sans bulles are common images used to refer to gaz and still water. It is typically the kind of phrases parents may use with their children.

How to order water in French restaurants

When taking your order in a restaurant, your waiter may ask you what you want to drink with one of the following questions:

Et à boire ?And to drink?
Et comme boisson ?And for drinks?
Vous désirez boire quelque chose ?Would you like to drink something?
Vous voulez boire quelque chose ?Do you want to drink something?

You can simply reply by mentioning the drink you’d like, followed by s’il vous plaît (please). In the case of water, you may also want to specify if you would like to have de l’eau plate (still water) or de l’eau gazeuse (carbonated water). 

Unless you specify otherwise, your waiter will bring you a bottle of water, which can be pricey, especially in touristy destinations. For a cheaper alternative, and if you’re happy drinking tap water in France, you should ask for une carafe d’eau (a pitcher of water).

A word of warning for American readers: water is normally served without ice, especially as it tends to be served cold anyway. If you like your water extra-cold, you may want to say, De l’eau plate avec des glaçons, s’il vous plaît (“Still water with ice, please”).

Test the waters in France

To conclude, you can safely drink French tap water and still have the choice between that and various water brands, both still and sparkling, each with their composition and health benefits. This may come at a price. If you’re in a restaurant, for instance, bottled water is usually more expensive than tap water.

Learn languages at your pace

Anne-Lise Vassoille

Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries… Settled down in London, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.

Anne-Lise Vassoille

Related articles