What makes a traditional French croissant "perfect" in the eyes of local judges? There's a complex set of criteria that's used to determine whether a particular baker's croissant is excellent or merely mediocre. Every year, bakeries around France and Paris fiercely compete for the title of "meilleur ouvrier" (best artisan) in the category of the all-butter croissant. They can only use certain ingredients (including specific varieties of butter), and these must be top-quality. Since some 80 percent of French bakery croissants are produced using industrial ingredients and methods, it makes sense that the criteria for top billing would be a little on the strict side.
Flakiness, attractive glazed finish, and an intensely buttery, melt-in-your-mouth quality are among the boxes that must be checked for anyone who wants to snag the prize title. If you're looking for a taste of the very best croissants in Paris, read on. Not all of these have won an official title, but they're all worth trying. Just a quick tip before you embark on your gourmet mission: unless you're looking for a lighter pastry, choose a "croissant beurre" or "croissant tout beurre" when visiting and ordering from a French bakery. The "ordinary croissant" (croissant ordinaire) can be made with margarine rather than real butter, and is generally not nearly as rich and flaky.
La Maison d'Isabelle
This rather unassuming bakery in Paris' Latin Quarter emerged as the winner of the 2018 prize for the best butter croissant in Paris. Owned by locals Isabelle Leday and Geoffrey Pichard, the boulangerie earned accolades for its supremely flaky yet soft and melting croissant made with Charentes-Poitou butter from the Pamplie creamery, considered one of the region's finest. These croissants are also made with organic flour from Grau, a point that has won over foodies preoccupied with personal and environmental health. There are no preservatives or artificial additives in any of the goodies sold here.
The best part? If you're on a tight budget, tasting the gourmet triumph isn't an issue: Last we checked, they were selling for only 1 Euro a pop. This is unusual for bakeries that snag top prizes: usually, as soon as they do the prices are raised. The choice to make their delicious offerings accessible to everyone has won the local bakery even more fans.
La Maison d'Isabelle also sells a variety of tempting French pastries, cakes and a traditional baguette slated as one of the finest in the city-- all at reasonable prices. The house pretzel laced with raisins is one interesting and original treat to try among many others at this esteemed address.
The bakery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It's closed on Mondays.
To taste this distinctively buttery croissant, you'll have to head off the usual tourist track — but it's well worth the detour. The Maison Pichard bakery has been around for 20 years: It was founded by Frédéric Pichard and more recently taken over by his son, Geoffrey, who expanded the shop into a boulangerie-patisserie. Since they've started selling pastries, viennoiseries (bread-like pastries including croissants) and traditional French loaves, this small neighborhood bakery has seen its reputation really take off.
Its all-butter croissant is exceptional for its fusing of milk flour (levain de lait) and top-quality Pamplie butter. The result is a croissant with a fondant texture and the taste of fresh milk or cream. Of course, as you'd expect, you can also indulge in a variety of other delicious French patisseries here, from unusually rich pain au chocolat to raspberry tarts and eclairs.
From Wednesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Des Gateaux et du Pain
Anyone with a preference for a slightly more savory version of the French all-butter croissant should beeline to this outstanding bakery headed by award-winning pastry chef Claire Damon. Made with top-notch ingredients, including fresh creamery butter and preservative-free flour, this signature croissant is sprinkled with a touch of Guérande salt crystals, adding to the crunch and creating a bit of a salted butter caramel effect (with less emphasis on the sweet, of course). Also make sure to try the many gorgeous cakes that line the display cases, including chocolate couronnes (ring-like donuts) and beautifully presented lemon cakes. Damon is also noted for her creative and mouthwatering cupcakes — a rare venture taken up by traditional French pastry chefs.
Damon has two locations in the French capital: one in the more touristy 7th district near the Eiffel Tower and another in the decidedly residential 15th arrondissement. This means that there's little excuse not to try the excellent croissants, cakes and pastries at one of these shops. The second location isn't too far from the Montparnasse station, so stop here before or after exploring the neighborhood, famous for its artists' studios, small galleries and ornate cemetery.
Monday and Wednesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesday.
Holding the coveted title of meilleur ouvrier de France for his pastries and chocolates, Laurent Duchene has also snagged the best butter croissant in Paris title in the past. His two locations in the 13th and 15th arrondissement (districts) of Paris are not especially close to the usual tourist fare, but are — once again — more than worth the metro ride.
Duchene's all-butter croissant is delightfully flaky and generous: sink your teeth into what seem to be endless light, buttery layers. Once you've sampled the traditional croissant from this prized Parisian baker, try his signature chocolate and hazelnut croissant, which somehow manages to taste decadent and delicate at the same time. It's adorned with pretty stripes of chocolate-laced pastry, and we can confirm that it's every bit as good as it looks. He's also beloved for his whimsical and artistic creations, such as chou pastry elaborately decorated with pistachio and praline cream, resembling small trees or magical woodland creatures.
Tuesday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Another Parisian family outfit that has withstood the winds of time and the growing influence of chain boulangeries, Sébastien Gaudard now has two locations in the capital. The main store on the Rue des Martyrs is an ideal stop for anyone seeking gourmet delights, since this is one of the liveliest permanent market streets in Paris, lined with artisans selling everything from handcrafted jams to olive oil and top-quality chocolate.
The deep green facade at #22 Rue des Martyrs beckons food lovers in to taste a croissant widely considered to be one of the very best in the capital. Made with high-grade flour and top-notch butter, this croissant is considered especially delightful for its beautiful top glaze and overall artisanship. And since Sébastien Gaudard is well-known for his artful pastries made with unusual, daring flavors, you can also expect to make some other culinary discoveries at his two bakeries. For a special, warming treat, try his individual streusel-brioche with cinnamon, or his whimsical yet beautiful strawberry "barquettes": mini-tarts with strawberries and creme patissier, shaped like elongated boats.
The main bakery is open from Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This bakery is an essential stop for a treat after visiting the Montparnasse Cemetery or Paris catacombs. Nestled far in the southern part of the city in the residential 14th arrondissement, Dominique Saibron has won an enduring fan base among food critics and neighborhood denizens alike. Having opened a bakery nearby in 1987 and an outfit in Japan during the 1990s, Saibron, who also specializes in traditional French bread-making, opened his current bakery in 2009.
What makes his croissant au beurre special is a 12-hour fermentation process and his use of a butter called Lescure AOC Charentes-Poitou, resulting in a croissant with unusually rich and complex flavors. Also make sure to sample his gingerbread, a specialty native to regions including Burgundy. Saibron makes his own to perfection, laced with honey and decorated with dried fruit and cinnamon stick. His traditional loaves and baguettes are also known to be among the best in the area, ideal for a quick sandwich after trawling through the Catacombs (the exit on Rue Rémy Dumoncel isn't far from the bakery).
The bakery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It's closed on Mondays.
Au duc de La Chapelle (Anis Bouabsa)
This unassuming gem of a bakery is located near the far northern border of Paris, in a district few tourists visit. However, if you're on a serious mission to taste the best croissants in the city, a trip here is more than warranted. Owned by Anis Bouabasa, who has held the title of meilleur ouvrier de France in the past for her traditional baguette, Au Duc de la Chapelle has won acclaim for its intensely buttery yet airy croissant au beurre.
The bakery, which is unfortunately closed on weekends, opens at 5:30 a.m. — ideal for early birds who want to start the morning on the perfect, buttery note before touring nearby attractions such as the Montmartre neighborhood. Foodies also appreciate this bakery for its excellent breads and traditional French patisseries of all varieties. We especially recommend you try this bakery's excellent breads and loaves, many of which are organic.
The bakery is open from Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Du Pain et des Idées
Situated just a couple of blocks from the trendy Canal St-Martin, yet another district where foodies flock to taste delicious new creations, this bakery has quickly become a favorite among a newer generation of gourmets. Head baker Christophe Vassert worked in the fashion industry before turning to his true passion, re-opening a boulangerie that dated to 1889 in a former industrial area of the city. By 2008, he'd been named by the French gourmet bible Gault-Millaut as one of the city's best bakers.
Vassert and his team have created what many say is a superior butter croissant: risen to perfection, laced with top-quality butter and glazed beautifully to top off its crisp yet fondant layers. Once you've tried this simple treat, also consider taking away one of their famous "escargots": a snail-shaped pastry laced with chocolate, pistachio, raisins or other flavors.
If you're hoping to go for a takeaway breakfast or brunch on the weekend, be aware that this bakery closes on Saturdays and Sundays.
The bakery is open from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
This trendy bakery is an Instagram favorite, proffering all variety of impossibly beautiful-looking pastries, cakes, breads and other gourmet creations to its thousands of followers. Lest you doubt that the true-to-life bakery is as impressive as its social-media guise suggests, we'll put the question to rest here: This is an essential stop for croissants, pain au chocolat and French pastries of all varieties.
The creative team of chefs who head this outfit near the lovely Rue Montorgueil district make patisseries and viennoiseries that achieve both remarkable beauty and creative, delicious flavors. Sample their all-butter croissant, which has delicate layers so artfully presented that it almost seems a shame to eat it at all (almost). Also try the much-lauded croissant with raspberry filling: flaky, tart and subtly sweet, it's a thing of beauty.
The bakery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
Looking for a sweeter, more indulgent version of the traditional butter croissant? If so, head over to the elegant Café Pouchkine for their signature croissant, laced with bourbon vanilla. Delicious with one a gourmet tea or coffee, this croissant made with Charente-Poitou butter is noted for its fondant yet crunchy layers, and the sweet note adds something unusual to the mix.
With its Belle-Epoque tearoom ambience, this is an ideal stop for pastries and hot drinks after window-shopping near Opéra and a whirl through the old department stores of Paris. Luckily, they're open every day of the week with continuous service, so you're unlikely to miss out on this one.
The café, restaurant and tearoom is open from Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 pm.