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. There's also a big cluster of recommended shops on Rue St Honoré and Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, close to metro Tuileries or Concorde.
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, and dark chocolate laced with intense flavors like lime or hot pepper. Don't miss his seasonal, and always whimsical, store windows featuring all-chocolate polar bears, fantasy-inspired Easter displays, and other genuine works of art.
La Maison du Chocolat
Opened in 1977 by Robert Linxe (whom one critic 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 intensely creamy, cocoa-rich ganaches, this shop also specializes in truffles, mendiants (slices of chocolate topped with dried fruit and crunchy nuts) and bars with fruity or herbal notes.
This renowned French chocolate-maker, pastry chef and cookbook author has two boutiques in Paris; one in the 7th at the edge of St-Germain, and another in the Marais. There, chocolate-lovers will find all variety of tempting and beautifully-presented treats, from intensely rich single-origin bars to creatively filled pralines, creamy ganaches and chocolate-covered nougats or marshmallows. His chocolate tablettes filled with crunchy praline or pistachio are also mouthwatering.
Genin produces his delicious creations at his own, small laboratory in Paris; there's no large-factory production to get in the way of the finest ingredients and inventive, carefully orchestrated flavor combinations. It's no wonder so many foodies and chocolate purists rave about these chocolates. His patisseries and cakes-- from praline-filled Paris-Brest choux pastries to decadent chocolate eclairs, are equally coveted.
The former head of La Maison du Chocolat, Michel Chaudun is, hands-down, one of the world's artisan chocolate masters. Known for his whimsy as much as his mastery of the classics, his shop is a true delight for the senses, and for the palate. Inside, 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.
Like Patrick Roger, Chaudun is also a talented chocolate sculptor. He once cast a chocolate mold out of French performance artist Laurent Moriceau, which was then devoured by spectators at Paris' modern art exhibition space the Palais de Tokyo. His shop is simply de rigueur for chocolate lovers.
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 ganaches and pralines. Hévin has a particular talent for using Asian-inspired ingredients such as ginger and green tea. His macarons are also widely considered to be among the city's most-delicious for their intense flavors and ideal texture, somewhere between crunchy and chewy.
In his eye-catching Parisian boutiques, you can also expect to find whimsical chocolate sculptures, including a chocolate-lattice Eiffel Tower and a stiletto heel crafted entirely from the delicious stuff.
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.
Michel Cluizel chocolates have been renowned since the mid-20th century when Cluizel first opened a family-run shop in the northern French region of 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. We also especially recommend his intensely nutty, chewy, more-ish mendiants, particularly around the holiday season.
This is a lesser-known gem of an artisan chocolate shop nestled at a quieter edge of the fashion-conscious Marais district. 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, such as a 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...
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, fruit pastilles, solid chocolate cubes, decadent cocoa-based spreads, and other creations.
The food writers over at Paris by Mouth especially recommend Chapon's melt-in-your-mouth, single-origin chocolate mousse bar.
The old-time circus aesthetic evident in the store's design and the brand packaging are amusing and lend themselves to fun gifts, whether during the holidays or not.
Un dimanche à Paris
To the delight of chocolate aficionados, a relative newcomer to the scene, "Un Dimanche a Paris" (a Sunday in Paris) opened a few years ago in Paris. The store has made the St-Germain-des-Prés district even more of a center of gravity for superb chocolate. It's the brainchild of Pierre Cluizel (son of the aforementioned chocolate maestro Michel).
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.
We'd be remiss if we failed to include the famed Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini on our list of Paris' finest shops. For those of you who remain devoted to Belgian chocolate, this is the stop for you-- and there are several locations around Paris, too.
Marcolini's world-lauded chocolates are all sustainably sourced from small, mostly family-owned growers. The house's emphasis on quality and rigor is evident in the delicious pralines, ganaches, truffles, gourmet candy-bar style barres filled with rich caramel, nougat or nuts, and signature chocolate hearts. The whole bars-- from dark to milk and white, are full of distinctive flavor.
This Parisian chocolatier is beloved by local foodies and sweet-tooths for his rich, hand-made creations. In addition to impressive seasonal displays-- think Easter windows filled to the hilt with bright yellow chocolate chicks and uncannily animated bunny sculptures, or hunting dogs and pheasants all in chocolate-- Rochoux makes some truly delicious pralines, ganaches, solid bars and almonds covered with Italian gianduja (hazelnut and chocolate).
His hazelnut-praline pate à tartiner (sweet spread) is also singularly delicious on toast or plain butter cookies.