As one of the great culinary capitals of the world, Paris counts an honorable roster of artisan chocolate-makers among its residents: cocoa experts who bring genuine artistic flair to their chocolates and concoct the finest in both traditional and eclectic recipes.
Dark chocolate is a real specialty among French chocolate artisans, as are ganaches: chocolates made with cream, yielding rich, silky, intensely creamy centers.
One word of advice: A surprising number of these chocolate maestros have their flagship boutiques in and nearby the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, making a self-guided tour of the area's best shops entirely possible. Get off at metro St-Germain or Odéon, both on line 4 of the Metro, and get your best chocolate testing tastebuds ready...
Chocolate Maestro #1: Patrick Roger, Cocoa Iconoclast
The award-winning and famously quirky chocolate maker Patrick Roger opened a flagship store in the St. Germain neighborhood a few years ago, expanding from his original base is in the south Paris suburb of Sceaux. As good at tradition as he is at innovation, Patrick Roger won the title of best French artisan (meilleur ouvrier) in 2000. He is well-known by food connoisseurs like David Lebovitz for his rochers (featuring a contrast of smooth praline filling and crunchy hazelnut flecks), ganaches, or dark chocolate complemented by flavors like lime or hot pepper. Don't miss his seasonal, and always whimsical, store windows featuring all-chocolate polar bears and other sculptural creations.
Address: 108, Blvd. St. Germain, 6th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 43 29 38 42
Chocolate Maestro #2: La Maison du Chocolat
Opened in 1977 by Robert Linxe (who was once referred to as a "ganache magician"), La Maison du Chocolat has several stores in Paris, and the house's world-renowned chocolates can also be ordered online. For those of you who aren't crazy about bitter chocolate, this is your shop-- La Maison du Chocolat never uses more than 65% cocoa in their confections, to avoid a bitter flavor. World-famous for their ganaches, this shop also specializes in truffles, mendiants (slices of chocolate topped with dried fruit) and bars with fruit or herbal notes.
Address (Flagship Store): 225, rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, 8th arrondissement
Metro: Place des Ternes
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 27 39 44
Paris Chocolate Maestro #3: Michel Chaudun
The former head of La Maison du Chocolat, Michel Chaudun is, hands-down, one of the world's best artisan chocolatiers. Known for his whimsy as much as his mastery of the classics, you can expect to find anything from simple dark or milk bars and truffles to chocolate crafted to look precisely like sausages, couture bags or vintage heels at his flagship shop near Invalides.
Chaudun is also a talented chocolate sculptor-- he once cast a chocolate mold out of performance artist Laurent Moriceau, which was then devoured by spectators at the Palais de Tokyo. This shop is simply de rigueur for chocolate lovers.
Address: 149 Rue de l'Université, 7th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 47 53 74 40
Chocolate Maestro #4: Jean-Paul Hévin
Another renowned chocolate artisan is Jean-Paul Hévin, whose chic boutique and upstairs tearoom in the heart of the Rue St Honoré fashion district merits a visit. At the boutique, high-grade solid chocolate bars and beautiful chocolate pastries lie in the counter in addition to a large collection of ganache and whimsical chocolate sculptures. Hévin has a particular talent for using Asian-inspired ingredients such as ginger and green tea. His macarons are also renowned.
In the tearoom, we recommend trying one of Hevin's signature gourmet hot chocolates; and his chocolate cakes are also sublime. See more about Jean-Paul Hévin in our guide to the best hot chocolate in Paris.
Address: 231 Rue Saint Honoré, 1st arrondissement
Metro: Tuileries or Pyramides
Tel.: +33 (0)1 55 35 35 96
Chocolate Maestro #5: Michel Cluizel
Michel Cluizel chocolates have been renowned since the mid-20th century when Michel Cluizel first opened a family-run shop in Normandy. One of the rare chocolatiers to process their own carefully-selected cocoa beans, Cluizel's chocolates are known for their distinct, balanced flavors. At the famous store near the Tuileries Gardens and the St. Honoré fashion district, visitors can indulge in delicious dark or milk bars, each produced from a distinct blend of cocoa beans in Cluizel's chocolaterie. Whole cocoa beans can also be purchased at the shop.
Address: 201, Rue St. Honoré, 1st arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 44 11 66
Chocolate Maestro #7: Joséphine Vannier
This is a lesser-known gem of an artisan chocolate shop nestled in the fashion-conscious Marais district on the right bank. Offering a dizzying array of creations, from chocolate masks, mini-grand pianos and all-chocolate replicas of vintage ads, to classics like crispy nougatine, truffles, or nutty mendiants, the Joséphine Vannier shop is guaranteed to seduce adults and kids. Vannier is also well-known for elaborate and artistically inspired Easter eggs and other creations in chocolate, like this sculptural egg creation dedicated to surrealist Salvador Dali and his famed melting clocks.
Gourmet ice cream is also served here, including a flavor called "Groove", described on the shop website, cryptically enough, as "pipes of Sri Lanka". Only a visit will unveil the mystery...
Chocolate Maestro #8: Pierre Hermé
Undoubtedly the world's most celebrated pastry chef, Pierre Hermé has also won accolades for his line of gourmet chocolates. At the main shop in the St-Germain district, chocolate aficionados will find an incomparable selection of chocolate cakes, pastries, and macaroons, as well as unclassifiable confections like the famous "Death by Chocolate"--the name speaks for itself. You can also sample varieties of chocolates sure to stimulate the palate, such as pralines with caramelized sesame seeds or ganaches with orange and balsamic vinegar.
Chocolate Maestro #9: Patrice Chapon
Yet another chocolatier whose main shop graces the chic streets around St-Germain and the 6th arrondissement, Chapon is especially prized for its single-origin dark bars. They also sell a tempting variety of pralines, ganaches, and other creations.
The food writers over at Paris by Mouth especially recommend Chapon's melt-in-your-mouth, single-origin chocolate mousse bar.
Address (main shop): 69, rue du bac, 6th arrondissement
Metro: Rue du Bac
Tel.: +33 (0)1 42 22 95 98
Chocolate Maestro #10: Un dimanche à Paris
To the delight of chocolate aficionados, a new cocoa-centric concept store opened its doors in Paris in 2011, "Un Dimanche a Paris" (a Sunday in Paris). The brainchild of Pierre Cluizel (son of the aforementioned chocolate maestro Michel), the store has made the St-Germain-des-Prés district even more of a center of gravity for chocolate.
The vast space comprises a boutique offering signature chocolates and bars, macarons and other pastries, foie gras with chocolate, and other gourmet creations; a teahouse and restaurant, chocolate lounge, and atelier where amateur cooks and chocolate makers can attend classes and workshops covering French cuisine, pastry, and more.
Address: 4-6-8 Cours du Commerce Saint-Andre, 6th arrondissement
Tel.: +33 (0)1 56 81 18 18