Heading to Paris? Grab a cup of coffee, go sit outside, and give this a read for some of the tastiest spots to visit in the City of Lights. Just imagine yourself sitting in a café watching people go by. Yes, people actually do this, and so did I while living in Paris for a year. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I frequently get asked for where to go and what to eat. Living in the center of the city, I was spoiled by the view from my balcony, and I was conveniently within walking distance to the Tour Eiffel, the banks of the Seine and of course, the famous Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which, don’t’cha know, is guarded by a little-sister replica of the Statue of Liberty.
My year was spent on learning French pastry and visiting cook shops, including one famously frequented by Julia Child (who also went to Le Cordon Bleu, but I’m sure you knew that). Beyond the tourist spots – Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Musee du Louvre – I amassed a list of favorite places to visit, especially for that perfect croissant or authentic French rolling pin.
First, the Patisseries:
Cyril Lignac – My First Love. Be sure to get the Equinox Cake (photo) or the Kouign
Amann. Trust me.
Lenotre – a classy shop with sweet and savory choices, but my favorite was their
Du Pain et Des Idees – the Pistachio Chocolate Snail is seriously ah-mazing! And the ladies who run the place are charming and speak some English.
Dalloyau – a lovely shop to sit down and enjoy afternoon tea with your bestie.
Des Gateau et du Pain – a great selection of pastries and breads.
Pierre Herme – if you’re Napoleon fan – the pastry, not the short guy – the deux mille feuille is for you!
Laduree – I’m not a fan, but it seems to be a tourist spot; there’s one on the Champs Elysees, but I wouldn’t make the trip just for that. There’s also one in Los Angeles now.
Basically, try croissants and Kouign Amanns everywhere you go! Long live the Kouign!
My Favorite Food and Shopping
For a great afternoon, head to Rue Montorgueil and Rue Montmartre for shops, restos and patisseries. You can easily loll away a few hours wandering these beautiful cobblestone streets. Go hungry, because some of the best of the best is in this area. There are beautiful fruits at the stands along these streets, especially in the spring. You can literally eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert with some shopping and more coffee in between. Must eats include Fou du Patisserie, which is known for its collection of pastry from France’s best patissiers; and L’Eclair de Genie, Christophe Adam’s beautiful shop (he has other locations too). Stohrer is also there, but, despite it being the oldest patisserie in Paris, I found it somewhat meh. Also, if I were to have my own patisserie, I’d want it to look like Café Pouchkine (photo), which is what you may imagine a French patisserie to look like. If you walk as far as Boneshaker Donuts (pretty much the only good donuts in Paris, but they can run you €5 for one), tell them I said hello!
If you’re in the market for cookware (who isn’t? or is it just me?), while you’re in the Montorgueil area, make the pilgrimage to E. Dehellerin (affectionately known as “E.D.”), where Julia Child (and I) shopped while living in Paris. Be sure to look up since many things hang from the ceiling. This really is the best (and cheapest) cookery store in Paris; nothing has prices – you have to look at the label for the item number, then look it up in binders at the end of the aisle. There are a couple other cookery shops – Bovida and A. Simon – but if you only have enough time and suitcase space for one, go to E.D. If you have extra suitcase space, let me know!
For cooking supplies and decorating tools, stop at Deco Relief – there’s one on Rue Montorgueil and another directly behind it on Rue Montmartre. There’s also G. Detou, a very tiny and often disorganized shop for chocolate, nuts, vanilla powder, Tonka, mustards, and other Frenchy ingredients. Chocolate prices are similar at Deco Relief and G. Detou, so if you can’t make it to one or the other, no worries (but get me some).
If you’re a cookbook lover, absolutely be sure to visit Librairie Gourmande for cookbooks. Most are in French, but there are some English-lang on the second floor. I love this store, and they are very nice (and speak English)! Feel free to pick up a gift for your favorite blogger!
Be sure to venture to the Montmartre to experience Popelini, a cream puff of a shop named for the chef who invested choux pastry. You’ll need the energy to make it up the steps to Sacre Couer anyway, and you’ll want to if only for the beautiful view looking over Montmatre. Moulin Rouge ($$$ for a show) and “related” non-kid-appropriate shops are all within the same area.
I can’t leave out a couple of the great food halls in Paris. Galleries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussman in the 9th. It’s like Rodeo Drive all in one building, filled with high-end men’s and women’s clothing and houseware brands. More importantly, there’s one entire building dedicated to food and eating. If you enter at street level, you’ll be treated to many of the great patisseries in one place, including Yann Couvreur, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé and L’éclair de Genie. Walk around the floor, and you’ll come across this amazing spice shop, which you’ll smell before you even see (I forget the name, but you’ll know it when you smell it). Imagine pyramids of spices, teas, salts, peppers and compounds. There are also a couple of places to sit and have a nice lunch before heading downstairs, but they’re somewhat pricey. Just head to the bottom floor for local and imported (i.e., American) groceries, pastas, chocolates, etc. Skip the Lucky Charms (especially since they’re close to €15), and head straight for the Christine Ferber jam and chocolate. Just leave me here and save yourself.
Similar to Galleries Lafayette is Bon Marche’s Le Grande Epicerie on Rue de Sevres in the 7th, easily accessible by the Metro. Bon Marche itself is similar to Lafayette – lots of exquisite shopping, so if you need the latest Prada bag or Hermes scarf, head there. You’ll find me in Le Grande Epicerie, again, a whole building unto itself with French and imported foods. Head to the boulangerie for some great breads. Just a few feet to the left of that is the service food area, with cases of lunch choices you can enjoy at nearby tables. There’s also a department for foie gras (ick), prosciutto and cheese. Lots of cheese. Watch out for the souvenir section, though – there’s a lot to choose from, but choose wisely because items are quite pricey. But, look for Paris-themed tins of cookies, unique chocolates and Kuzmi Tea.
On a beautiful day, be sure to take a walk through Le Marais, a really nice artistic hipster area. There are some blogs online that suggest walking routes and shops to visit, but you’ll definitely want to pick up the special falafel at L’As du Fallafel (Lenny Kravitz’s choice proudly declared on its wall). Enormous portions and long lines at lunch, but it’s worth it and the lines go quickly.
My Picks for Museums and Gardens
Certainly if you have time and can still fit through the door after eating so much, make time to visit the Musée D’Orsay, a less-crowded and more lovely experience than the Louvre (admit it, you’re only going to see Mona, Venus, and Winged Victory anyway). Another museum I’d absolutely recommend is the Musée Rodin, a small, but charming, museum that will take just an hour or so depending on how long you stay in the sculpture garden.Also, if you’re going to the Tour Eiffel, you can get tickets online and avoid the epic security and ticket lines. If you’re there in summer, enjoy a spin on the nearby carousel (one of many peppering the city), and then stroll along the souvenir vendors on Quai Branly/Quai de Grenelle. Continue to walk along the river toward the Statue of Liberty for about 1 kilometer, and you’ll come upon Le Cordon Bleu, which you can stop in for the BEST croissant in Paris, a 3-hour focused workshop or simply the café and gift shop. Be sure to say hello for me! If you’re lucky enough to get beautiful weather, absolutely visit the Jardin du Luxembourg and stroll among the Queens. It’s a beautiful park with children floating toy boats on a fountain pound and chairs all around for relaxing, which is really a French art. Talk to people, make friends, watch the kids’ faces light up with glee.
For More Information:
You can Google any of these for more info. Everything is accessible by Metro and/or bus. You can buy individual bus tickets on the bus itself or get a packet of 10 at the machine near the ticket window in Metro stations for a worthy savings. If you’re going all over the city, be sure to get the kind that allows you to transfer and use the bus or Metro. Also, there’s an app called “RATP,” which is Paris’s transportation system that will map you to any Metro/bus/train in Paris – amazingly helpful!
If you visit Paris, let me know if you visited any of these and how you liked them (or not). I’d love to hear from you!
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Croissants in Paris, the Viennoiserie Promised Land
Want to see some French Pastry? Follow me on Instagram @AmuseBoucheMB!