The city of lights can feel a little overwhelming, and (unless, like me, you’re more than content to aimlessly wander for hours on end) it can be good to have a goal to give your exploring some structure. You could aim to visit all of the most famous art galleries or museums, or to get around the many iconic landmarks, markets, or parks as possible. On one visit with my family, however, we needed something that would keep all of us entertained and engaged – including my younger sister, who was seven at the time. Seeing as there are only so many art galleries that a seven-year-old can be dragged around, I decided to plan a day that would offer plenty of incentives to keep the complaints about tired legs at bay, in the form of something that we all love: chocolate!
The history of chocolate in Paris dates back to the 17th century, when the very first chocolaterie opened at number thirty on the rue de l’Arbre Sec, and there are now over one thousand choices for those looking to indulge in a sweet chocolatey treat. Although chocolatiers are offering their wares city-wide, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area is regarded by many as the cocoa capital, and it was here that my family and I decided to base our ‘chocolate shop tour’. We bought one small chocolate from each shop that we visited (as well as the occasional macaroon!), and ended the afternoon sat in the sun by a fountain in a little square, enjoying the day’s purchases and trying to decide on our favourite stop of the tour. It was one of the most memorable parts of our trip, and led us through endless beautiful streets that we may never have discovered otherwise.
Debauve & Gallais
The famous Debauve & Gallais chocolaterie has stood in the same spot for over 200 years, making it one of the oldest chocolate shops in Paris. Not only does it boast a huge range of choice for the discerning chocoholic, but it offers an impressive amount of history to go along with it. Founder Sulpice Debauve invented the first individual chocolates when working as a pharmacien for Marie-Antoinette, who suffered from terrible headaches but was disgusted by the bitter taste of her medicine. To make it a little more appetising, Debauve mixed the headache remedy with cocoa butter, and the queen fell in love with these chocolate drops – which she termed “Pistoles de Marie-Antoinette”. Today, you can still purchase a version of the queen’s favourite delicacy (medicine-free!) from the shop on the Rue des Saint-Pères.
Marie-Antoinette wasn’t the only royal to be impressed by Debauve’s creations – he was also selected to be the official chocolatier to Louis XVI, and later obtained the status of Chocolatier to First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. Other notable clientele include Simone de Beauvoir and Marcel Proust, who was such a valued customer that the shop launched its own version of his famous madeleines in 1865. If you want a chocolate steeped in history, and aren’t tempted by Marie-Antoinette’s ‘Pistoles’, you could try the iconic ‘Debauve et Gallais Fleur de Lys chocolate’, a caramel ganache encased in 60% cocoa solids chocolate which dates back to the coronation of Charles X in Reims in 1825, and was a special request from the Royal Household.
30 rue des Saints-Pères, 75006
The fact that Rochoux is one of the few chocolatiers in Paris with a workshop on the premises makes walking into this shop a particular treat, as you are instantly engulfed by welcoming scents of rich melted chocolate and warm caramel. This cosy chocolate shop is one of the newer establishments in the area, set up in 2004, but has rapidly become a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Before opening up shop, Rochoux worked as a dessert chef at the famous Guy Savoy restaurant, and then trained briefly with the world-renowned chocolate master Michel Chaudun. This young chocolatier’s passion for his work is evident in every product on sale, perhaps no more so than in the unbelievably intricate chocolate sculptures which he carves by hand and displays in the shop window, making a visit here a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate. When he’s not busy in his chocolate laboratoire, which is located beneath the shop, you’ll often find Rochoux himself working behind the counter, and both he and his staff are more than happy to make recommendations if you’re struggling to choose just one chocolate from the huge range of mouth-watering treats on offer.
16 rue d’Assas, 75006
Maison Georges Larnicol
Unlike many of the chocolate shops in Paris, in which you’ll find the chocolates displayed in meticulous rows behind glass, almost as though you were in a chocolate museum, at the Maison Georges Larnicol the wares are laid out in no-fuss trays for you to scoop out yourself into paper bags, just like in a traditional sweet shop. If you’re not keeping your purchases strictly cocoa-based, try Larnicol’s most famous product, the iconic ‘Kouignette’; a small puff pastry, crispy on the outside and with a soft centre filled with one of a choice of eight different flavours, including pistachio, almond, or rum and raisin.
132 boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006
Un Dimanche à Paris
As the name suggests, this upmarket chocolate shop is open every day of the week, including Sundays. The three-story 800-square metre store is a chocolate-aficionado’s paradise, featuring not only a boutique-style shop but a patisserie, bar, restaurant (offering a chocolate-based three-course meal), lounge, and chocolate workshop where you can take chocolate classes, all under the same roof. Although Un Dimanche à Paris may not possess the same vintage, cosy charm as some of the other chocolateries on the list, and is definitely on the pricier side (hence buying one chocolate!), a visit here is a truly unique experience. A bona fide temple to chocolate.
4 – 6 – 8 Cours du Commerce Saint-André, 75006
Ever wanted to eat like royalty? Well, here’s your chance! Before opening his own chocolate shop, Patrice Chapon was the official pastry chef and ice-cream maker to the Royal Court at Buckingham Palace, and he continues to make his goods using the same recipes as were enjoyed by Her Majesty herself. As well as offering a wide range of single origin bars and filled chocolates, Chapon has combined his talents as an ice-cream maker with his love of chocolate, developing the unique ‘Chocolate Mousse Bar’, where you can sample chocolate mousse from five countries of origin: Ecuador, Venezuela and Madagascar or Equagha (a mixture of of Ecuador and Ghana). This innovative chocolatier has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix du Chocolat de la Mairie de Paris in 2003 and First Place at the Awards du Salon du Chocolat in 2007.
69 Rue du Bac, 75007