A Sweet Tooth’s Guide to Paris

Kerti Kulper • 10 Sep, 2014

A trip to Paris is always a gastronomic adventure and, as anyone acquainted with the French capital would surely know, it can be especially difficult to resist the endless assortment of cakes, pastries and other sugary treats that tempt you at every corner. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it” – we sure do agree. Our lovely Parisian locals Magali and Hélène have put together a list of 10 sweet specialties you absolutely must try when visiting their delightful city.

1. Enjoy mouth-watering viennoiserie

Most Parisians are particularly fond of pastries (“viennoiseries”) and typically eat them for breakfast. Classic French pastries including the croissant and the chocolate croissant can be found at almost every bakery in the city, but if you want to try the crème de la crème you should head to Le Moulin de la Vierge in the 15th District, Eric Kayser and Blanquet Claude. Each of these three places has mastered the art of producing perfect French pastries.

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Photo credit: Glenn Dettwiler

2. Try tiny cannelés

This small pastry comes from the Bordeaux region of France and is easily recognisable by its shape. You’ll find it at Eric Kayser in the Latin Quarter and also at Baillardran. Locals love it as it has a caramelised crust and a gooey custard centre. The best part is that it’s quite small so there’s no need to feel guilty about eating it!

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Photo credit: Fred von Lohmann

3. Sink your teeth into delicious mille-feuille

Mille-feuille, also known as the “Napoleon” and the “thousand layer cake”, is thought to date back to the 17th century. Mille-feuille translates to “one thousand layers”, though it’s usually made with just three layers of incredibly fine sheets of pastry that have been folded a number of times. It’s typically filled with the most delicious pastry cream and glazed with either icing or fondant. La Pâtisserie des Rêves (“The Bakery of Dreams”) offers top-quality mille-feuilles as well as an abundance of other elegant pastries.

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Photo credit: Paris by Mouth

4. Savour a slice of lemon pie

A trip to Paris isn’t complete without savouring a slice (or three) of lemon pie. L’heure Gourmande is a cosy café that offers a beautiful range of homemade desserts including the most delicious lemon pie, while the tea house Au Thé Gourmand serves an unforgettable meringue version. La Pâtisserie de l’Eglise, which first opened its doors in 1887, and La Pâtisserie des Rêves also won’t disappoint.

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Photo credit: Kenny Louie

5. Explore the magical world of macarons

Let’s be honest, you can’t leave Paris without tasting the macarons! These little round delicacies are emblematic of France. Located in the charming Saint-Germain neighbourhood, Pierre Hermé makes arguably the best macarons in the city. If you don’t fancy lining up, head to the branch on the lower ground floor of Galeries Lafayette. While it’s not as well-known, Arnaud Larhrer is a wonderful bakery full of locals who stop by especially for the amazing macarons and pastries.

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Photo credit: Incase

6. Treat yourself to an ice cream

When the weather is hot, one of the best things to do in Paris is to treat yourself to an ice cream. Set on Île Saint-Louis, Berthillon is a must for ice cream enthusiasts. Raim
o
is another great local spot to enjoy a refreshing and well-deserved ice cream.

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Photo credit: Fen Labalme

7. Get acquainted with the Paris-Brest

The name Paris-Brest is certainly interesting, especially for those unfamiliar with French geography. While everyone knows the city of Paris, Brest isn’t so well-known. It’s actually a coastal city in the Brittany region of France. So, why the name? This dessert was created in 1910 for bicycle race between Paris and Brest. Et voilà! Although it was originally circle-shaped to represent a bicycle wheel, nowadays it’s often rectangular. You’ll find succulent Paris-Brest at La Pâtisserie des Rêves.

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A selection of pastries at La Pâtisserie des Rêves including the Paris-Brest (second from the right in the front row). Photo credit: Florent Darrault

8. Taste a typical French éclair

This name éclair literally translates to “lightning” as it’s typically eaten “in a flash”. It’s a particularly common cake in France. Another very similar dessert is the religieuse – the ingredients are pretty much the same, it’s just the shape that’s different. French people are often curious to know which one you prefer. You can find them at bakeries such as Le Moulin de la Vierge, Eric Kayser, La Pâtisserie de l’Eglise and La Pâtisserie des Rêves.

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Photo credit: EverJean

9. Sample unusual biscuits like calissons

These delicate little biscuits flavoured with melon paste and almonds aren’t well-known amongst tourists, so tasting them will definitely broaden your gastronomic horizons. Originating from the city of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, they are thought to have been created in the 12th century. La Cure Gourmande is offers excellent calissons.

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Photo credit: Rudi Riet

10. Enjoy magnificent merveilleux

Like calissons, most tourists aren’t familiar with merveilleux. It’s a specialty made with meringue and whipped cream that originates from the North of France and Flanders. Again, the English translation is very interesting – it literally means “wonderful”, “marvellous” or “magnificent” – not ambitious at all! Aux Merveilleux de Fred is the perfect place to enjoy these pretty little delights.

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Photo credit: auxmerveilleux.com

This list could go on and on… Other cakes and desserts worth mentioning include the tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart), the tarte tatin (upside-down apple tart), charlotte (French trifle), chocolate mousse, the Saint-Honoré cake… In other words, if you’re a pastry addict, Paris is the place to be!

Opening photo credit: Viq111

Kerti Kulper
Freelance translator and editor at an online women's magazine. A Tallinn gal who previously resided in Helsinki, Brussels and Tartu.

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