Ah, Paris the City of Pastries.
Not everyone calls it that, of course, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking it when they go. Who doesn’t dream of their day in Paris where they sit by an outdoor cafe, cafe au lait by their elbow, their fingers sticky with some sort of tasty treat?
First, let’s not get it confused with a boulangerie, which is essentially a bread shop. Important if you’re looking for the perfect baguette, and some of us are, but not as useful if you’re looking for something sweeter. The patisserie is full of more sugary and colourful baked goods, though you’ll find that there is a heavy crossover in many patisseries.
Patisserie chefs are after all bakers first and foremost. The classic croissant and the very French eclair are arguably the most well known around the world, but there are many other delicious things to choose from. If you’ve never been, don’t worry, here’s a handy guide to help you out.
Nine of the Best French Pastries In A Patisserie
- Croissant The classic golden flakey constant of the patisserie. The croissant is made by folding and refolding dough and enough butter to make Julia Child happy. If done correctly you should have perfectly buttery and flakey pastry that will crackle as you bite into it. Usually eaten at breakfast, or as a morning snack alongside a cup of coffee or tea, it’s a classic for a reason.
- Eclair More of a dessert pastry, this choux pastry is thin and long and filled with a creme patisserie. The classic eclair is the filled with vanilla and topped with chocolate icing.
- Madeleines This famous tea cake, usually considered a cookie outside France, is a little delight. They have a distinctive shell shape and are usually paired with a coffee or tea. Not quite the breakfast treat or a full dessert, these are small but delicious snack cakes.
- Opera Cake This gateau is made by stacking very thin layers of cake that are soaked in coffee syrup, with a top layer of ganache and coffee buttercream. Typically it’s made as a large rectangle or square that is then cut into smaller slices.
- Kougin Amann Tough to pronounce (“queen ahmahhn”) but delicious to eat, these round pastries are made with the same kind of dough used for croissants, then covered in sugar and baked.
- Macarons These little jewels of the patisserie are some of the prettiest things you’ll ever eat. Made in many different colours and different flavours, macarons are small meringue-like cookies with a complimenting flavoured ganache or pastry cream sandwiched in-between them.
- Mille-Feuille Literally meaning a thousand layers, this treat is also known as The Napoleon. (I’m sure there’s a joke about its many layers and short stature there, but I’m not going to make it.) Made from many thin layers of pastry (possibly a thousand), like the Opera, it’s topped with icing and paired with a rich cream.
- Profiterole A round choux pastry ball filled with a sweet filling, usually whipped cream, but it can be custard, buttercream, these puffs are usually decorated with a topping of chocolate or caramel.
- Religieuse The name, which means “nun” is supposed to represent the papal mitre. A rounder type of eclair, it’s a dessert that’s served by stacking two choux pastry puffs, each filled with some sort pastry cream. Each are then covered in ganache, with a layer of piped buttercream frosting.
Some of the best patisseries you’ll find in the city
Where to find it: 51 Rue Montorgueil
Let’s start with a little history and the self-proclaimed oldest patisserie in the city: Patisserie Stohrer. Not only does it have the history points going for it. Opened in 1730 by Nicolas Stohrer, pastry chef to King Louis XV of France, the shop keeps an appearance fit for royalty with a lovely front door with a ceiling painted by Paul Baudry.
Where to find it: 93 Rue du Bac (and other locations)
An adorable looking shop likes to be creative with its fares. Modernising old classics, they’ve taken a very cool and clean presentation for their pastries. The shop keeps it whimsical by displaying their cakes in the middle of a merry-go-round like display, where you can walk around and eat with your eyes before you choose your favourite dessert. This shop is also a great one to go if you have kids, as the shop provides a programme in which they can create a mini version of the many delicacies.
Where to find it: Square Trousseau, 7, Rue Antoine Vollon
Opened by pastry Chef Fabrice Le Bourdat, this little shop is full of high-quality sweets at some of the best prices you’ll find in the city. Perfect for a quick breakfast bite, their pain au chocolat is a local favourite and voted one of the best in the city.
Where to find it: 89 Rue du Bac
One of the city's more famous patisseries, it’s just next door from La Pâtisserie des Rêves. Claire Damon has not only worked with the best pastry chefs but has become one of them. Her shops are split into two, one side focusing on golden loaves of bread, the other an array of dazzling cakes. The presentation in these shops
Where to find it: 40 Boulevard Raspail
A playful name and a must go for all book lovers, Hugo & Victor also presents you with a delicious assortment of goodies. From chocolates to macarons and general pastries the shop’s presentation and packaging, if you’re into that stuff, is beautiful. Styled with dark walls and glass cases for the desserts it manages to feel cosy and luxurious as if you’ve walked into an old library… full of chocolate.
Where to find it: 149 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine (and other locations)
Opened by Michel Galloyer with the idea of reinventing the “bakery chain” this shop welcomes you with warm red tile floors and wooden beams, making you feel you’ve walked into a welcoming kitchen.
Where to find it: 34 rue Yves Toudic
With it’s lovingly rustic looking decor, painted ceilings, there’s a sense of history in the building. The owner, Christophe Vasseur, repurposed an antique Parisian boutique for his storefront, and it helps create an experience while visiting. Focusing, much like Le Grenier a Pain, on bread - from the classic loaves and mini paves (small, doughy breads full of savoury fillings).
Where to find it: 27, Rue des Rosiers
There’s no way I couldn’t include this particular patisserie on this list. Started in 1946, this yellow front shop specialises in pastries and Yiddish gastronomy.
Where to find it: 72 Rue Bonaparte (and other locations)
Art you can eat.
With locations all around the city, you’ll have plenty of chances to visit but it’s always good to hit up the original spot. While the decor in all the shops follow the same dark interior, a smart aesthetic choice, as every cake and sweet is displayed in illuminated case, creating a decadent feel as you shop. Being called “the Picasso of pastry”, chef Pierre Herme has a big name to live up and he does.
Where to find it: 67 Rue Saint-Dominique
An elegant patisserie, Karamel, first of all, just sounds amazing. Specialising in, you guessed it, caramel, it also presents you with a range of the classic patisserie staples and some savoury dishes as well. The location doubles as a tea room where you can sit and nibble all the goodies you’ve bought. There’s a croissant with sea salt crémeux, caramel paste, topped with granola that sounds too good to be true, adorably called the Kararoll.