I lived in Paris for a while and often dream of reliving a pastry crawl through Paris.
Every village and town in France has these four things: a coiffure (hairdresser), a driving school, a carousel, and a boulangerie. Without a doubt, the latter is the most important. No French would live in a village if there isn’t a boulangerie, and if the baguettes aren’t any good, they would probably move. Or protest.
Boulangeries and patisseries are the heart and stomach of France.
This means most are pretty good unless you’re adjacent to a tourist site. But if you’re too concerned with finding “the best” croissant or “the best” jambon-beurre baguette, Paris can plague you with the embarrassment of choice. There are boulangeries on nearly every corner, and while I stand by the statement that most are good, not all are equal.
Whether it’s your first time in Paris or you’ve been before, schedule an afternoon to go on a pastry crawl. Instead of the famed Australian/British pastime of a pub crawl, a pastry crawl through Paris will feed you in a different and arguably more satisfying way, particularly if you’re the kind of person who would shrivel up and die if you couldn’t have bread.
The key is to not eat with your eyes at the first shop. Limit yourself to one treat per stop or you will get to the famed Pierre Hermé already stuffed like a choux puff.
So get dressed up, it’s Paris after all, and bring a water bottle to help wash down some seriously rich cakes and crusty bread. Don’t expect to sit down because pastry shops rarely have seating, and honestly, if you’re eating a dozen pastries in a day, you need the walk so you’re hungry for the next one!
Here’s where you begin: Du Pain et des Idées
Du Pain et des Idées, 10th Arrondissement
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010
Start off the tour to the north-east of the city center, with a classic boulangerie known for traditional techniques. Think perfectly crisp pastry shells with soft insides and fresh flavors. Try the escargot chocolat pistache (a chocolate and pistachio pinwheel pastry), and eat outside by the river canal nearby.
Stop #2: Popelini
Popelini, 3rd Arr.
29 Rue Debelleyme, 75003
If the thought of choux pastry or cream puffs gets you going, head south for 15 minutes past Républic metro station to Popelini for 30 grams of fluffy heaven. Look out for the seasonal flavors if you need more adventure in your life than chocolate or vanilla.
Stop #3: Yann Couvreur
Yann Couvreur, 4th Arr., Le Marais
23bis Rue des Rosiers, 75004
Head south again for 10 minutes and you will enter Le Marais. This trendy area was once known as the Jewish quarter and is now filled with galleries, boutiques, and long lines for falafel. When you find the falafel, you know Yann Couvreur is close. If it were possible to choose, I would declare this my favorite shop. Think of it as a patisserie with precision and innovation, with creations like raspberry tarragon pie, vanilla millefeuille, and mini jasmine cheesecakes.
For all that is holy, get the chocolate chip cookie if it hasn’t sold out.
Stop #4: Aux Merveilleux de Fred
Aux Merveilleux de Fred, 4th Arr.
24 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 75004
There are multiple locations for this dessert, but this particular shop has a gorgeous chandelier. That makes it worth it. The shop only sells one dessert called Merveilleux which translates to marvelous. So accurately named!
Delightfully round cakes made of fluffy meringue and cream.
Choose from dark chocolate, almond and hazelnut praline, coffee, or cherry flavors. It can be a little messy, so don’t be shy and embrace a nose full of cream.
Stop #5: Pierre Hermé
Pierre Hermé, 6th Arr.
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006
While munching on your Merveilleux, walk along the Seine, cross over to Notre Dame Island, and head further south into the 6th Arrondissement (30 minutes). You are on your way to the God of all things pastry. Pierre Hermé is famous for utterly perfect and unique flavors of macarons. You can find many Pierre Hermé boutiques around Paris that just sell macarons, but I’ve chosen this location because it is more of a patisserie with a wider variety. There are rich chocolate cakes, strawberry pistachio slabs, or if you want the best of both Hermé worlds, go for the Ispahan mini cake with rose macron, rose cream, fresh raspberries, and lychee.
Stop #6: Jean-Charles Rochoux
Jean-Charles Rochoux, 6th Arr.
16 Rue d’Assas, 75006
Hold on to your Pierre Hermé goodies and walk south to the Jardin du Luxembourg. If you can manage to get a seat, it is now acceptable to sit down because Pierre Hermé must be eaten with care. An optional stop on the way is Jean-Charles Rouchoux for traditional French chocolates. There will be more chocolate to come, but you can always buy a little packet of goodies to save for another day.
Stop #7: Stohrer
Stohrer, 2nd Arr.
51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002
After a break in the gardens, head north towards the Seine, walk over a bridge (aim for Pont des Arts or Pont du Carrousel), and you will run straight into Musee du Louvre. Have a giggle at every tourist standing on top of a barrier with their hand outstretched for the “classic” photo of them appearing to touch the tip of the pyramid. When your tummy starts to rumble, continue north until you hit Stohrer (30-minute walk from the gardens).
This is one of the oldest patisseries in Paris.
Expect traditional sweets like caramel eclairs, pain au chocolat, hazelnut choux pastry and cream, and lemon tarts.
Stop #8: Le Chocolate Alain Ducasse
Le Chocolate Alain Ducasse, 1st Arr.
9 Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001
With a fresh pastry in hand, head east for the final two chocolate delights. Alain Ducasse is a 20-minute walk from Stohrer, but there are several other locations. I love this shop for it’s no fuss, simple but good chocolate bars that look like Tetris blocks. If you’re a gift giver, this is what I’d buy to take home to friends and family.
Stop #9: Patrick Roger
Patrick Roger, 8th Arr.
3 Place de la Madeleine, 75008
The last stop on the list is just 12 minutes north-west and is an artistic place to end your pastry crawl through Paris. The shop is dark and moody with tinted glass to protect the chocolate gems inside, particularly Roger’s latest giant chocolate sculpture in the display window. While you won’t walk out with a sculpture, the bonbons are the next best thing. Go for a risky flavor like Sichuan, lemongrass, or basil.
Polish off your chocolates strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries just a few streets to the south. Reminisce on the delights of the day before waddling off to your hotel or Airbnb for a much-deserved nap.