Welcome to Paris. It looks exactly this beautiful most of the time, providing a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.
I imagine I could live in Paris for a year and still not get to everything I want to eat there. On my last couple of visits I put some real effort into trying as much chocolate as possible, along with macarons and other desserts and pastries. It’s just the kind of sacrifice I’m willing to make for this blog. I even took a chocolate walking tour to make sure I didn’t miss any little chocolatiers that my hours on Google and Trip Advisor and Pinterest didn’t turn up.
First, you need to know that if chocolate is your goal, don’t visit in summer. Some of the best chocolatiers close up in July and August, taking time off for their own summer vacation and because it’s just too hot for chocolate. With temperatures in the 90s you’d have a truffle puddle in your bag before you ever made it back to your hotel.
Next, no matter what the weather, your first stop should be Angelina (226 Rue de Rivoli).
Located on the street next to the Louvre (as well as having a small cafe *inside* the Louvre) Angelina is a tourist destination, but not one of those super cheesy and over-rated stops. The hot chocolate here is rich and creamy and perfect, with the melted chocolate and hot milk served in separate containers so that you can mix it as thick or thin as you want.
I also had a Croque-Monsieur (that’s a fancy French toasted ham and cheese sandwich) served with a little salad. The service was quick and friendly, everything was delicious, and if there hadn’t been so many other things to eat in Paris I would have come back every day to try something different on the menu.
Once you’ve checked Angelina off your list, your next stop can depend on whether you want chocolate, macarons, pastries, or all of the above. Here are my favorite spots:
Michel Cluizel (201 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris)
Michael Cluizel is a big name in chocolate – I’ve found his chocolate bars in some upscale grocery stores here in the States and he has a store in New York – but his macarons are fantastic as well. Anytime I see passionfruit as an option I grab it, and these had a beautiful, fresh flavor.
Pierre Hermé (133 avenue des Champs Elysées and 10 other Paris locations)
I first tried Pierre Hermé‘s macarons in London, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to try them in Paris as well. Maybe twice. His flavors are a bit more exotic, bringing together combinations I never would have come up with on my own (olive oil and vanilla?), but I enjoyed everything I tried. I mean, I couldn’t bring myself to sample a chocolate and fois gras macaron because that was a little too far outside my comfort zone, but the carrot was much more refreshing than I expected.
The shop offers plenty of other pastries and cakes as well, in case you want something for a real dessert after your macaron dessert appetizers.
Du Pain et Des Idées (34 rue Yves Toudic )
Du Pain et Des Idées is the anti-tourist stop. I read about this bakery when I Googled “Best croissant in Paris” and came up with all the awards they’ve won. They’re located in a residential neighborhood not near any big landmarks, so I made a special trip just for baked goods, but it was so worth it. Everything is extra buttery and flakey, and as you can see from this photo, the Chocolatine croissant is made with double the regular chocolate, and they use Valrhona, the extra good stuff. Amazing.
La Maison du Chou ()
La Maison Du Chou is just a couple of blocks from the Église de Saint Germain des Prés
and I came across it by happy accident. And, ok, I didn’t actually go in this shop or try any of their goods (because I was so, so full at this point), but it’s a whole shop dedicated to creme puffs! You can pick your filling and watch them be made right in front of you! This is on my list for next time.
Franck Kestener (7 Rue Gay-Lussac)
Franck Kestener is just across from the Jardin du Luxembourg, so if the weather is mild you can grab some chocolates and macarons here and have a nice little picnic in the park. The macarons were good, but if you’re only going to buy yourself one little treat, get the l’Atlantique bar. It’s shortbread and caramel and chocolate and I wish I’d bought a dozen of them to bring home. Wow.
La Maison du Chocolat (the shops at the Louvre and seven other Paris locations)
This is a chain of shops (also found in the UK, US and Asia) but a chain of high quality. I went into a couple of these and the service was always friendly and helpful with answering questions about all the different flavors and textures on offer. These chocolates make a lovely gift if you need to bring something home with you.
Un Dimanche à Paris (4 Cours du Commerce Saint-André)
This cafe/restaurant/bakery/shop is tucked away in a little alley of restaurants, pubs and shops and it has something for everyone. There’s real food if you’re one of those weird people who can’t live on sugar alone, but, oh… the desserts. I had a lemon tart that was light and crisp and just what you want on a warm afternoon. I also enjoyed watching the confections being made, as you can watch from the shop.
And if you like baking goodies – sprinkles, gold dust, sauces and other things that you don’t really need but would love to take home so you can say, “Oh, that? I picked that up in Paris.” – then this is the shop for you.
Poilâne (8 Rue du Cherche-Midi)
Finally, if you want to eat as Parisians eat, stop by Poilâne. It’s one of the oldest bakeries in Paris and offers hearty breads and pastries. No sugary sweet cookies here, but if you want something to go with your afternoon cheese and wine you’ll get a delicious quality loaf.
And now all this has made me hungry, for pastries and for more travel.
Oh la vache!