There aren’t many strong enough to resist the temptations of France’s quintessential pastry. With Paris’ vast offerings, how to cut the wheat from the chaff? We’ve toured the capital’s boulangeries to find the very best croissants to savor on your next trip.
Dating back to 1730, Paris’s oldest boulangerie resides on the food-filled Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd arrondissement. A picture-perfect interior, this pâtissier / traîteur (providing both pastries and prepared foods) specializes in gastronomic delight; from marzipan fruits, gnocchi, baba au rum, to champagne truffles. On first impression, Stohrer‘s croissant is hefty in size and matte camel-brown in hue. The outer shell has a crumbly texture, encasing a doughy interior with spongy pockets of air. This develops into a cake-like consistency while eating, making it slightly heavy; the flavor is rich but not overwhelming. The oldest bakery in Paris produces a croissant that sticks to the noble traditions of pâtisserie.
Housed inside an exquisite shop dating back to 1870, Du Pain et Des Idées is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Christophe Vasseur’s concise menu with fine ingredients and original flavors keep customers, both local and passing, coming back for more. Red fruit and cream cheese swirls, fresh fig tarts, and pistachio and chocolate escargot (a spin on the pain aux raisins) have become a signature. The croissants’ unusual shape (akin to a twisted cheese straw) provides a completely different texture; there’s more crunch than chew as the layers are tightly packed. The exterior is chestnut brown, revealing a madeleine-esque hue underneath. Don’t let the smaller size deceive — it’s surprisingly filling.
Situated on the corner of the steep Rue des Martyrs, if you’re looking for a pastry pause during your ascent to the Sacré-Coeur this gleaming pâtisserie will welcome you in. Bright and shiny with gold typography on the windows, Pain Pain is Paris’s answer to modern boulangeries. Marble counters showcase macarons and petits fours as opulently hued as a Pantone color wheel. Their croissant is smaller than the standard size, but a perfectly crescent-shaped, it certainly looks the part. A sturdy form, the layers can be pulled apart, making it easy to eat in sections. Definitely go for the experience, but croissant-wise Pain Pain seems to be more show than substance.
An exterior of black varnish and gold lettering, Tout Autour du Pain looks every inch the classic Parisian boulangerie. Their prize-winning creation is autumn-leaf gold in color, with minuscule ridges of pastry delicately inching towards the edges. The interior is substantial, making it tough to separate; a couple of larger outer curls flake off in the process. The flavor is deep; you can taste the excellence of the butter used, and they’ve not spared a drop. Definitely on the heavier end of the spectrum: for those that crave a more substantial treat. The quality is certainly high, however, Tout Autour du Pain might be profiting from their new title, with a higher-than-average price of 1€85.
A collage of official stickers declaring ‘Best Croissant in Paris 2014’, ‘2010’ and so on, line the window of this traditional boulangerie on Rue des Abbesses, in Montmartre. Due to its global acclaim and travel book prestige, tourists flock here, but that doesn’t stop it from being a year-round winner with the locals. A crescent with smooth light-gold ridges, Grenier‘s croissant is tradition incarnate. Each bite provides a cloud of pastry, with a satisfying balance between crunch and chew. The milky-white interior has a creamier taste, setting it apart from more buttery competitors. Grenier has achieved that elusive symmetry between the lightness of texture and intensity of flavor. This is the cheapest on the list and one of the best.
Stowed in a quiet square on rue Antoine Vollon, Blé Sucré is an oasis from the crowds of Bastille. But don’t let the quaint exterior fool you. With Fabrice Le Bourdat, former chef at Le Bristol in Paris and Martinez in Cannes, at the helm, Blé Sucré delivers the best. The croissant is quite large, with a glossy maple sheen to the outer casing. Biting into it gives a smart crunch and the pastry almost dissolves on the tongue. Taste-wise, there’s a hint of salt to the exterior, which evolves into sumptuous caramelization. Inside, the honeycomb quality of the pastry is extraordinary. The experience is unique to say the least; and given the size, one is more than enough!
Gontran Cherrier has quickly made a name for himself in an area filled with long-standing bakeries. Cherrier’s Montmartre location buzzes with customers popping in and out for their daily bread. Pain might be their signature but the croissants certainly don’t disappoint. A dark caramel hue receding to honey tones, Cherrier’s pastry has a firmer consistency with elegant wraps of pastry, while the leaves inside are translucent. The highlight is the taste, which is hearty and well-rounded. If you can live without the croissant’s famous flake, it’s a great one to try.
A stunning, gilded interior, like something Marie-Antoinette would have envisioned, Sébastien Gaudard oozes prestige. With a beautiful array of traditional ice creams, chocolates and cakes almost too pretty to eat, this pâtisserie is determined to impress. Their croissant has a peachy shimmer thanks to a sugar glaze, giving it an initial sweet kick. There’s a surprising addition to the taste, salt. Adding this element balances the intensity of the butter, so you crave every bite and won’t be bursting at the seams after. It’s fancier than your average local pastry shop, but these croissants are well worth the extra cost.