I have a ritual whenever I land in a new city. I pick the most famous local dishes, Google the best places to find each one, and then plot them on a map. I note down the walking times between each dish and chart the most efficient route between the dots.
This probably makes me sound completely anal and a little bit like a serial killer (don’t worry, the dots don’t form the picture of a pentagram or anything) but whatever – it’s a delicious way to spend a day and I won’t apologise for being meticulous when it comes to food.
When I landed in Paris for the first time, I spent a happy few hours Googling the best baguette, the most celebrated croissant, a critically acclaimed salted caramel. I wrote them all down and charted my course, strapped on a pair of comfy shoes and set out. This is the route I took.
Stage 1 – The best baguette in Paris
Where: Au Levain d’Antan
Address: 6 Rue des Abbesses
I was staying in Montmartre, the windmill district, and luckily one of the city’s most famous patisseries was only a few streets away. Au Levain d’Antan won Paris’ Best Baguette in 2011. It’s a tiny blue shop at the foot of Sacre Coeur, and when you walk through the tinkling door you’re engulfed by the floury warmth of fresh baked bread. I bought a baguette, tucked it under my arm and sauntered through the streets like a real Parisian idiot, munching as I went. Good walking fuel.
Stage 2 – The best croissant in Paris
Where: La Grenier a Pan
Address: 38 rue des Abbesses
Paris’ best croissants are not only required to use real butter, but a special AOC protected butter. They also have to be cooked by exactly seven Franciscan friars in an oven made entirely of canons used in the Napoleonic wars (okay not really, but the butter thing is true). La Grenier a Pan is renowned as one of the city’s premier patisseries, and croissants are their calling card: soft, flaky and rich as Donald Trump. Plus it’s just down the road from Au Levian d’Antan. Brilliant.
Stage 3 – The best macaroon in Paris
Where: Pierre Hermé
Address: 4 Rue Cambon
Fuelled by buttery carbs, you can now wander south from Montmartre through St Georges and the Place Vendome to the world famous Pierre Hermé. You can’t miss this macaroon wonderland near the northern edge of the Tuileries; there’ll be a gaggle of tourists on the Rue Cambon looking in at the window like Scrooge at Christmas. I recommend the Brazilian dark chocolate and passionfruit, rhubarb and strawberries. Rest your legs and munch a few macaroons on the benches by the Bassin Octogonal.
Stage 4 – The best fromage in Paris
Where: Quatre Hommes Crèmerie
Address: 62 Rue de Sèvres
Sadly a number of French cheeses go extinct each year as the industry becomes more industrialised and streamlined, but you can still find a boutique chèvre or faisselle if you know where to look. Cross the Seine at the Pont de la Concord and head into the narrow warren of cobbled streets south of the river. Your destination is Quatrehomme on the 62 Rue de Sèvres, one of the city’s top cheese shops since 1953. Try the goats’ cheese and the Pistachio Brie – you won’t be disappointed.
Stage 5 – The best salted caramel in Paris
Where: Henri le Roux
Address: 1 Rue de Bourbon le Château
After your date with dairy, wobble east along the Rue de Sevres towards Henri Le Roux, Paris’ iconic chocolatier. Take a small detour south on the Rue Bonaparte and you’ll find the charming Eglise Saint-Sulpice, the church from the Da Vinci Code. But enough about churches – you want salted caramel! Henri does the best of the best: dark, chewy and soft, with just a bite of salt to cut through the sweetness. Ten euros or so will buy you a small bag, and they’ll keep for months (if you can resist temptation).
Stage 6 – The best Croque Monsieur in Paris
Where: Le Nemrod
Address: 51 rue du Cherche-Midi
Although this requires a slight detour south, I wanted to save the famous Croque until after the sweets. Le Nemrod adds a silken layer of Emmental cheese beneath the hissing and bubbling Gruyère. The sandwich arrives spluttering and hot at the table, golden brown and oozing deliciousness from every pore. Just the pick-me-up you need for the next leg of the journey – the long walk back over the river.
Stage 7 – The best kebab in Paris
Where: L’as du Fallafel
Address: 32-34 Rue des Rosiers
Kebabs may not seem like classic Parisian fair, but after a day of walking the streets you need something substantial to keep the legs pumping. The search for Paris’ ultimate kebab took me into the winding alleys behind Notre Dame on the north bank, a smoky pocket of the city where seedy bars and nightclubs rub shoulders with greasy spoons like L’as du Fallafel. It’s not glamorous, but it is tasty, hot and filling. Order on the street from a hole in the wall then tuck into a felafel special while the sauce drips down your fingers. The place’s motto is ‘Often imitated, never equalled’. Bon appetite.
Ready to walk the walk? Loosen your belt and check out our delicious French small group trips
Feature image c/o Paul D’Ambra, Flickr