What is the legal age for drinking in France? Best suggestions

The legal age for drinking in France

The legal age for drinking in France may be something you’re curious about. Perhaps you’re organizing a family trip to Paris or another location in France with adolescents or young adults; alternatively, a young member of your family may be leaving on an escorted tour, a solo excursion, or a trip with friends.

It’s wise to be aware of local laws, customs, and restrictions before traveling abroad in order to prevent issues and misunderstandings, including those pertaining to alcohol.

Here is the essential information before I discuss the background and exceptions about the legal age for drinking in France :

French attitudes around alcohol are evolving

Members in family use alcohol before meals

Wines, beers, liqueurs, and other spirits are widely available everywhere in the world, including France. But wine in particular has historically played a significant role in French culture, food, and the economy of the country.

Despite reports that wine consumption has fallen, France still ranked among the top wine producers in the world in 2021 with 962,088 gallons of wine produced.

Nowadays, barely one in ten French individuals regularly consume alcohol. Nevertheless, France is the nation where individuals are most likely to drink regularly, per the 2021 Global Drug Survey.

It’s important to note, though, that alcoholic drinks like wine are typically sipped alongside food at meals here.

Time young people began drinking

You might believe that drinking is acceptable at a younger age in France than it is in many other nations if you have visited France in the past. That’s because, like some other European countries, France has a long history of introducing young people to the delights of drinking wine at home (with meals), often diluted with water.

However, recent studies on the effects of alcohol consumption on both individual and societal health have sparked a shift in beliefs and habits. A liter of wine per day was seen as “normal” in the 1950s. In fact, many schoolchildren under the age of 14 at the time would have packed a small bottle of wine or cider for lunch.

The legal age for drinking in France: Adapting legislation

The legal age for drinking in France

The legal age for drinking in France, which had previously been 16 for hard liquor and 18 for cider, wine, and beer, was raised to 18 in 2009 for all alcoholic beverages.

The notion that wine is healthy has come under scrutiny as a result of further research. A young binge drinking pandemic served as further motivation for lawmakers to enact stricter restrictions.

According to a recent study (the Global Burden of Disease Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published in The Lancet), while moderate alcohol consumption may have some positive health effects for adults over 40 (reducing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, for example), this is not the case for younger adults between the ages of 15 and 39.

Using cards in France

According to the newer legislation, minors who want to consume alcohol in France’s bars and clubs must be at least 18 years old and must show identification. (Anecdotally, it appears that this provision is not as consistently implemented as it is in the United States.)

Young individuals should bring their driver’s license or another kind of photo ID before going to a pub or club. (Bringing a passport is not advised due to the possibility of loss or theft.)

Minors under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent to enter a bar or cafe that serves alcohol, however they are permitted to consume one or two glasses of wine with their family in moderation.

French laws on public intoxication and drunk driving

It is against the law to be visibly intoxicated in parks, streets, and other public areas.

Intoxication cannot be measured using a standard alcohol concentration. Instead, law enforcement officers decide each case individually and, at their discretion, may send the drunken person to a “drunk tank” to dry out.

Naturally, driving while intoxicated is prohibited (and risky), and if caught, offenders face fines of up to 150 Euros. The amount of alcohol that is legally allowed to consume before driving is the same as three (8-ounce) beer half-s, two glasses of wine, or three glasses of champagne.

If I travel to France, can I drink?

The legal age for drinking in France

It’s vital to keep in mind that you must be 18 years old to legally purchase and consume alcohol in France, or 16 if you’re with adults or in a family environment.

Of course, you should always exercise caution when drinking, especially if you’re in a foreign country and unsure of how your language abilities will fair when you’re drunk.

You won’t be forced to drink if you don’t want to in France; relax about that. Despite being one of the most prevalent alcohol-consuming nations in the world, I have never encountered a French person who was offended by or insisted on drinking with them.


French vacations sometimes include excursions to wineries, bistros, and fine dining establishments (the country has 17 wine regions). Like people of all ages, young people will wish to sample an aperitif before dinner or local wine coupled with cuisine at meals. Making such a purchase in France is a unique experience that might produce lifelong memories.

So, what is the legal age for drinking in France? Should you permit a member of your family who is younger than 18 to participate in this French cultural tradition? Whether they should be accompanied by an adult depends on the situation, your values, and how old your child is.

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