What is the Michelin Guide?

Mary McMahon

The Michelin Guide is a famous travel guide which rates primarily European hotels and restaurants. In 2005, the Michelin company expanded the offerings of the guide, moving to North America. The company was projected to add major cities on other continents as well, starting in 2007. For Europe, the Michelin Guide is considered to the ultimate authority on places to stay and eat.

The Michelin Guide rates primarily European hotels and restaurants.
The Michelin Guide rates primarily European hotels and restaurants.

The guides started in 1900, when Antoine and Edouard Michelin, founders of the Michelin company, began publishing travel guides to assist motorists who were traveling in France. The two men had already made numerous innovations in automotive technology, a legacy which has continued in the diverse offerings of the Michelin company. Initially, the guides were distributed for free to customers, but the men began charging for them as the guides expanded across Europe.

Receiving a Michelin star is a coveted honor for restaurants.
Receiving a Michelin star is a coveted honor for restaurants.

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The traditional Michelin Guide, known in French as Le Guide Michelin, has a red cover, and is sometimes called “The Red Guide” or simply “The Mich.” Inside, a traveler can look up an extensive listing of hotels and restaurants, along with ratings. Each establishment is rated by anonymous inspectors, who look at the quality of service, consistency, value, the personality of the establishment, and the skill of the proprietor. The ratings in the Michelin Guide are indicated with universal symbols.

In rare cases, a review is accompanied with a star. A Michelin star is one of the most coveted honors in the restaurant business, as very few restaurants are given a single star, let alone the ultimate honor of three stars. A single star indicates that the restaurant is considered to be excellent, while two stars suggests that it is “worth a detour,” and three stars indicate “exceptional cuisine and worth the journey,” according to the Michelin Company.

A subsidiary of the Michelin Guide is the Green Guide, which focuses on travel and tourism attractions. The Green Guide uses the same system, offering universal ratings and brief descriptions of the sights of a nation. The company also releases guides which focus individually on destinations with an excellent value, hotels with characters, and quick escapes. For Europe, the Michelin Guide is an excellent resource, although more independent travelers may want to balance it with another guide. Outside of Europe, the influence of the Michelin Guide will continue to grow.

Critics have pointed out that Michelin inspectors appear to prefer traditional French cuisine. All four three star restaurants in the United States, for example, are classic French restaurants. Travelers are advised to take this under advisement when using the Michelin Guide.

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