Most people who've visited Paris have come across shop windows filled with pastel-colored, delicate little shells pressed together with tempting fillings and elegantly displayed in shop windows. The French macaron — from the Italian maccarone for "to smash together" — should not be confused with the North American macaroon, a close but much heavier cousin flavored with coconut.
The world-famous French variety is composed of two small, crispy biscuits made of egg whites, almond, sugar, and vanilla pressed together with small amounts of ganache, buttercream, or other fillings. Having presumably been invented in Paris during the early 20th century as a spin on earlier, more traditional macaron recipes, this version is now a reigning favorite around the world. You can even find the neat little cakes at McDonald's in the French capital these days, but if you prefer to sample the best varieties the city has to offer, keep reading. These are the best spots to taste gourmet macarons in Paris. Note that you can also purchase macarons from many of these purveyors from their online stores, so if you taste some while traveling and want to order a larger batch to your door, it's often entirely possible.
A major heavyweight in Parisian gourmet circles, Pierre Hermé has been celebrated around the world as one of the best living pastry chefs — and his own stunning, delicious collection of macarons more than gives Ladurée a run for its money.
Hermé has opened several shops around Paris dedicated mostly to the egg, almond, and ganache creations, and is especially loved for his creative and unexpected flavors. Food critics praise his crunchy shells and generous, flavor-packed fillings. Why not try a macaron flavored with matcha tea, olive oil and mandarin, licorice and rose, or even with foie gras? Other creative flavors include yoghurt and lime; jasmine; passionfruit; rhubarb and strawberry; and milk chocolate with passionfruit.
Hermé is also appreciated for his chocolate macarons laced with pure-origin, high-grade chocolate from Peru, Venezuela, and other regions. In short, his macarons are a pure delight for the senses.
With their unmistakable pastel green boxes and signature pink ribbons, Ladurée is recognized around the globe. The luxury house has achieved a marketing coup that has made them nearly as famous for their packaging — Sophia Coppola was inspired by their hues for the set design of her 2006 film Marie-Antoinette — as for their much-loved macarons.
The luxury baker and tearoom operator claims to have invented the Parisian version of the round little cake in 1862 when the bakery's founder opened a first shop on Rue Royale. Popular flavors include vanilla, pistachio, salted butter caramel, and dark chocolate, but for the more adventurous tasters among you, why not try eclectic flavors such as chocolate yuzu, which marries eastern and western palates. Other flavors to try stretching your palate with include bergamot tea, passionfruit, orange blossom, or the "Marie Antoinette" macaron with notes of tea, citrus, honey and rose. You can also sample a selection of chocolate-covered macarons.
There are several locations in Paris, including a flagship bakery and tearoom situated on Rue Royale and another on the posh Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
One of Paris's best chocolate makers, Jean-Paul Hévin has taken on the more established macaron-makers in the city with his own selection of creative and delicious varieties. Numerous French critics and gourmet publications have called his macarons some of the best around.
His rich chocolate varieties are especially recommended given the high attention to sourcing only the best grades of chocolate (and their ultra-tempting, creamy ganache fillings), but he also peddles some more eclectic flavors. A few to try in your own box include fig, creme brulée, mango-coriander and orange, passionfruit, dark and milk chocolate.
Travel Tip: Jean-Paul Hévin has a boutique is located in an area known for its gourmet addresses, in close range of chocolate makers such as Michel Cluizel (at 201 rue Saint-Honore), and not far from the original Ladureé shop, bakery, and tearoom at 16 rue Royale.
The macarons at this elegant Franco-Russian tearoom on the Place de la Madeleine have won accolades for their perfectly crunchy, airy shells and fresh, almost liquid-like interiors.
Classics to try alongside a cup of steaming gourmet tea at the opulent, old-world dining room include pistachio and praline. More creative flavors include the house's series of yoghurt-based macarons, tinged with notes of apricot, cherry, strawberry or grapefruit. Daring palates can sink their teeth into flavors such as verbena-cherry, "Morse cranberry," and orange blossom.
While the Café Pouchkine has only been open since 1999, it's already become something of an institution in the capital. Why not enjoy a French and Russian-inspired lunch or high tea at the main location or the house's two other tearooms, and either enjoy some macarons for dessert or take home a box?
The famed Belgian chocolate maker Pierre Marcolini has jumped aboard the macaron trend with great success, in part owing to his creative variety of chocolate-themed varieties.
Chocolate-lovers will appreciate the "Pure Chocolate" flavor, featuring Indian high-grade cocoa beans and a hint of salted caramel. Other flavors to (delicately) dig into include coffee, lemon tea, pistachio and "Chuao," a rich, chocolately macaron featuring 78 percent dark Grand Cru chocolate from Venezuela.
There are several Pierre Marcolini locations in Paris, including one on Rue Saint-Honoré, and one at the gourmet food hall at department-store Galeries Lafayette, Lafayette Gourmet.
This bakery and patisserie located near the Paris Catacombs in the city's south has won legions of local fans for its superb baguettes, breads and pastries — and is also regularly touted as one of the best macaron-makers.
Anyone who prefers their sweets to exclude artificial flavors and colors should beeline to this humble address in a decidedly un-touristy corner of Paris. Dominique Saibron uses only natural colors, and macaron fillings make heavy use of sugarless fruit purees and high-quality, bittersweet chocolate ganache. The prices here are also quite reasonable compared to other bakeries and patisseries of the same caliber.
Flavors to enjoy in your take-away box or straight from a bag include extra-bitter chocolate, chocolate and passionfruit and lemon.
Hugo et Victor
Yet another unmissable gourmet address near the Catacombs is Hugo et Victor, a chocolate shop that also makes superb macarons. Like Dominique Saibron, Hugo et Victor use only natural colors and flavorings to subtly tint their signature macarons — and add intense, surprisingly true-to-the-ingredient flavors to them.
The pleasingly pale, generous cakes are best tasted with tea or coffee, and come in flavors that will sate all palates and tastes. The Ganache collection will be a favorite for anyone who loves creamy chocolate. Macarons with coffee-flavored ganache, dark chocolate, praline, or ganache with pistachio feature in this tempting box.
If you prefer fruity flavors, try the "Coffret Fruité", featuring macarons filled with fruity marmelade. Raspberry, Mediterranean lemon, strawberry, and black cherry are among the intense flavors.
One of the better patissiers of the Latin Quarter, Sébastien Dégardin has made waves with his own take on the filled Parisian macaron: dense, slightly rough-textured cakes made from almonds and called "maronis."
While some may prefer the patisserie's more traditional macarons — they sell these too — curious tasters will be interested in trying this creative twist on the filled, almond, and sugar-based treats. Flavors we recommend include violet, blackcurrant, pistachio, chocolate, and caramel.
You can even order an impressive, decorative pyramid (pièce montée) of maronis to complete a festive, Parisian-style picnic. Best to take it to the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg gardens, though, if you don't want to risk it melting and falling apart!
This historic patissier that started out as a pastry-maker for the French monarchy proffers some of the most elegant (and expensive) macarons in the city. At their historic shop on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Dalloyau makes a true art of the macaron. The initial joy lies in eyeing the artful towers and pretty rows of perfectly conceived, art object-like little cakes. The more difficult venture? Choosing which ones to taste or take home in a box.
Classic flavors we recommend include salted butter caramel, coffee, chocolate, vanilla and pistachio. More adventurous taste buds might spring for cognac fine Champagne, Bergamot tea or peanut flavors. Dalloyau also offers ice-cream filled macarons during the warmer months — a treat when there's a heat wave and you're after a bit of cold refreshment.
Dalloyau has several locations in Paris in addition to the main store, and also sells their macarons, cakes, and pastries online.
Fauchon is well-loved by tourists and locals for its snazzy designs and gift-friendly packaging, especially during the holiday season. At their main boutique and bakery on Place de la Madeleine, you can easily taste or procure a box of the luxury patissier's delightful macarons.
Fauchon is especially fun for its limited-edition macaron flavors, including one celebrating the Olympics (a concept conceived with chef Pierre Hermé himself) and a "designer" box. Their everyday collections are also delicious and make ideal gifts: choose between favorites such as dark or milk chocolate, praline, caramel, vanilla-raspberry, white chocolate with milk chocolate center, morello cherry or tea. You can often purchase a box of macarons accompanied by a bottle of champagne — perfect for a festive picnic or a holiday treat.