Paris Chocolate Shops: Do’s and Don’ts of Buying French Chocolate

You can’t spend time in Paris and overlook the chocolate side of the experience; I won’t let you!

The French have elevated the chocolate craft to an art form, and although there are spectacularly talented artisans all around the country, it is in Paris that you’ll find the highest concentration. This means it is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to some of the most delicate, most intensely flavorful chocolates in the world… and buy a few gifts for others, too, if you’re feeling generous.

I must warn you there are lots of sub-average chocolate shops as well, so you have to know what to look for. And the good places are typically set up to look like luxurious jewelry boutiques, so the shopping experience can be a little intimidating. But I’m here to help! Here is my guide to artisanal chocolate in Paris.

You’ll find my Top 5 Paris chocolate shops at the bottom of this post, along with a few helpful phrases. The photos illustrating this post were taken by my intern extraordinaire Anne Elder; our thanks to the Henri Le Roux team for letting us shoot at their rue des Martyrs shop.

Chocolate bars from Henri Le Roux

Chocolate bars from Henri Le Roux

The Goods: What You’ll Find at Paris Chocolate Shops

The star of the show is undoubtedly the bonbon de chocolat, or filled chocolate, a bite-size chocolate confection garnished with ganache (a creamy and often flavored chocolate filling), praliné (a caramelized nut-based filling), caramel, or fruit.

You have tablettes de chocolat, or chocolate bars, usually rectangular in shape and divided into easily breakable squares. These will feature different cacao percentages and origins, and may be plain, flavored, filled, or studded with various ingredients, such as caramelized nuts or dried fruits.

You’ll also find an assortment of other chocolate confections: examples include orangettes (strips of candied citrus rind dipped in chocolate), mendiants (disks of chocolate garnished with nuts and dried fruits), chocolate-covered guimauves (marshmallows), and bouchées au chocolat, which are jumbo versions of filled chocolates.

Mendiants (disks of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruits)

Mendiants (disks of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruits)

Depending on the time of year, you will spot seasonal chocolate creations: heart-shaped everything for Valentine’s Day; chocolate hens, rabbits, and fish in preparation for Easter; snowmen and Christmas trees around the holidays. Some artisans are especially talented in that department, such as Patrick Roger whose store windows are always decorated with striking life-size chocolate sculptures.

The rest of the options will be made up of non-chocolate treats that French chocolatiers have adopted into their range: caramels in different flavors, pâtes de fruits (sugar-dusted fruit jellies), marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), etc. Depending on the artisan, these can be made in house, or procured from another artisan. (It’s okay to ask — see phrases below.)

Marrons glacés (candied chestnuts)

Marrons glacés (candied chestnuts)

What Sets Artisanal Chocolate Apart

Every single ingredient involved in chocolate making is expeeeeensive. Where industrials and so-so chocolate makers cut costs wherever they can, upping the sugar content to mask the blandness of their ingredients, the best artisanal chocolatiers commit to using the highest possible quality from start to finish.

Carefully sourced couverture chocolate made with pure cocoa butter (rather than the cheap fat alternatives industrials use, such as palm oil), prime quality nuts, fresh fruit and herbs or spices, all-natural flavorings, fresh cream and butter from small-scale French farms… These choices add up to create astonishingly vibrant, distinctive flavors.

Artisanal filled chocolates are typically dipped or covered, rather than molded: this is more work-intensive and only allows for simple shapes (squares, rectangles, or disks), but it creates a thinner chocolate casing for a more delicate tasting experience. Such chocolates are also smaller in size than their sub-par counterparts, packing a flavor punch in a diminutive bite.

Bonbons de chocolat (filled chocolates) from Henri Le Roux

Bonbons de chocolat (filled chocolates) from Henri Le Roux

The general style and aesthetics of a chocolate shop is also an important factor: the best chocolatiers tend to go for a sleek, pared-down look for their boutiques as for their packaging and the chocolates themselves, letting quality and flavor speak for themselves. If a shop sells chocolates in goofy containers alongside plastic knick-knacks, you’ll know what not to do.

And now, for the hard truth: high-quality, hand-made chocolates don’t come cheap (see expensive ingredients above). Filled chocolates from the most reputable Paris providers are priced around 100-120€ per kilogram, and the bonbons weigh 6 to 8 grams each, which works out to 0.60-1€ per chocolate. But as with all good things, you get more satisfaction from one or two of these than half a box of industrial, hyper-sugary crap. Chocolate bars go for 5 to 10€ for a 100-gram package, depending on the kind and the shop, often making them a more affordable treat.

Filled chocolates in boxes (ballotins)

Filled chocolates in boxes (ballotins)

Make Your Selection: Do’s and Don’ts!

Walking into a Paris chocolate shop can be intimidating (so chic!) and overwhelming (so many choices!). I know the feeling, but you’ll overcome it if you have a plan.

  • DO take all the time you need to walk around the shop and take everything in.
  • DON’T touch everything in sight. Feel free to pick up the occasional packaged product from a display shelf to get a closer look, but do so delicately: chocolate products are fragile and if they’re even slightly bruised the staff won’t be able to sell them.
  • DO buy an assortment of filled chocolates to sample the chocolatier’s most intriguing creations; you can buy a ready-made assortment, or ask to have one composed to your specifications.
  • DON’T overlook the plain ganache and plain praliné: I will argue these are the best products to judge a chocolatier by.
  • DO let the sales person know whether you prefer all dark chocolate (yay!), all milk chocolate (boo!), or a mix of both (all right) in your assortment, and let them know if you prefer to skip any liquor-flavored ones.
  • DON’T feel like you have to buy a whole ballotin (chocolate box). Filled chocolates are sold by weight, so you can absolutely order just 4 or 5 that they’ll slip in a small bag with a gloved hand.
Assorted caramels

Assorted caramels

  • DO remember that filled chocolates are a fresh product that should be eaten within a week or two of purchase. (I don’t imagine that will be a problem.)
  • DON’T refrigerate chocolate, as it seizes the cocoa butter and numbs the flavors; keep it at cool room temperature instead.
  • DO consider getting one or several chocolate bars studded or filled with whatever ingredients most appeal to you. These work especially well as gifts, as they travel well and keep better than filled chocolates.
  • DON’T get a plain chocolate bar, as that doesn’t tell you much about the chocolate maker’s talents beyond melting and molding — unless, of course, you’re dealing with a bean-to-bar chocolatier, who processes his own chocolate couverture from raw cacao beans (see my selection below).
  • DO ask questions and request recommendations: it’s a good way to establish a rapport with the sales person and melt the ice if needed.
  • DON’T hesitate for too long. Managing to be both assertive and charming is a lifelong pursuit for the savvy French shopper!
Bonbons de chocolat (filled chocolates)

Bonbons de chocolat (filled chocolates)

Paris Chocolate Shops: Helpful terms and phrases

  • “Je voudrais un ballotin de 500 grammes, avec seulement du chocolat noir [or] avec un mélange noir et lait [and/or] et pas de chocolats alcoolisés”
    I would like a 500-gram box, with dark chocolate only, or with a mix of dark and milk chocolates, and/or no chocolates with liquor in them
  • “Je voudrais choisir quelques chocolats dans un sachet.”
    I’d like to choose a few chocolates to buy in a little bag.
  • “Ils sont à combien le kilo, les chocolats ?”
    What is the price per kilo for the chocolates?
  • “Est-ce que c’est possible de goûter un caramel ?”
    Would it be possible to taste a caramel ?
  • “Les pâtes de fruit, c’est vous qui les faites ?”
    Are the fruit pastes made in house?
  • “Qu’est-ce que c’est, la spécialité de la maison ?”
    What is the house specialty?
  • “Qu’est-ce que vous me conseillez ?”
    What do you recommend?
Pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies)

Pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies)

Clotilde’s Top 5 Paris Chocolate Shops

You’ll find the chocolate shops below in their own layer on my map of Paris favorites.

  • Henri Le Roux: Quiberon-based chocolatier selling super refined filled chocolates, and excellent caramels and pâtes de fruit.
  • Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse: Bean-to-bar chocolate made in Paris. I especially love the unconched chocolate bars, and the pralinés.
  • Jacques Genin: Über-talented chocolatier. The caramels and pâtes de fruit are remarkable as well, and his classic French pastries are wonderful (you have to order them ahead of time, though).
  • Pralus: Bean-to-bar chocolate made in Roanne. I adore their Brut de Sao Tome bar, and their Praluline, a pink praline brioche.
  • La Maison du Chocolat: The most venerable of chocolate institutions in Paris, whose founder Robert Linxe revolutionized French chocolate in the late seventies. Now with Nicolas Cloiseau as head chocolatier, still delivering super high-quality goods, both classic and innovative. Don’t miss the chocolate pastries, either.

Recommended books:

French Food Cheat Sheet

Planning a trip to Paris?

I am available to take you on a private walking tour to show you some of my favorite food spots, or to draw up a customized itinerary for you so you can make the most of your time in Paris. Please get in touch and I will be happy to provide more details and a quote.

Join the conversation!

Who’s your favorite chocolatier and what’s the chocolate treat you simply can’t resist? Any pressing question about French chocolate? I’ll do my best to answer!

Henri Le Roux: Chocolate boxes

  • Judy Hudgins

    While Paris is not on my immediate travel plans (I’ve been twice and love the city), we have a local chocolate shop here in Helena, Montana. Once you taste the ‘real’ thing, you will never go back to grocery store chocolate. I would rather splurge on a piece or two of good chocolate, selected from a glass case, taking it home to savor, than a whole box of mass produced chocolate. And I love his seasonal candies…my favorite…fresh, caramel apples. Thick, creamy caramel studded with nuts on a honey crisp apple. Only in the fall for a month or two.

    • I’m glad you share my perspective! And I would love to try and replicate that caramel apple…

  • Tamara Mann

    Living un Geneva, Switzerland, I have a list of favourite chocolate shops, all specialised in different fields; eg Auer for chocolate covered almonds, chez Tristan for truffles, etc. I do however completely agree with you about “Maison du Chocolat” in Paris. They do sell excellent quality products and are well worth the visit!! I look forward to discovering some of the others on your list though when I am next in Paris. Thanks for the tips!

    • Ah yes, Geneva is probably a good contender to Paris in terms of chocolate destination! I hope you report back after your next trip.

  • Andreas

    I find that buying a few high quality chocolate can set you back as much as regular chocolate bar (think Mars etc) but the taste experience is infinitely better!! I tried that theory out in an airport recently, where six Belgian (sorry, not French) chocolates were the same price as a piece of sugar, fat and flavourings which masquerades as a chocolate bar. Give me good quality dark chocolate any day!

    • Indeed, the problem is that it’s impossible to go back afterward. I derive zero pleasure from the kind of chocolate bar you describe, even the ones I used to love as a teen: they just taste like sugar to me now…

      • Andreas

        Totally agree – they just taste like sugar and fat – yuk!! I just keep thinking of the health benefits of good quality dark chocolate, so full of anti-oxydants :-) …

  • Kim W

    As it turns out, I AM planning a trip to Paris next week (I’m assuming that you’re going to be enjoying the holidays with your family, otherwise I’d consider reaching out and taking you up on that custom itinerary). So I am bookmarking this for certain.

    • That’s wonderful Kim! Unfortunately yes, I will be with my family next week, but if you give me a little bit of notice next time I will be delighted to discuss your needs. And in the meantime, I hope you have fun hitting those chocolate shops!

  • Kim W

    Oh, and a fun fact!

    My current roommate is from Brussels, and has told me that in Belgium, mendiants are called “Student’s Oatmeal”. She unfortunately has no idea why.

  • Thank you so much Clotilde – this is an awesome collection of tips. We love Paris and hope to be back there very soon!

  • rachelsloan79

    Pierre Marcolini is my favourite in Paris but I definitely need to branch out – I’ll be sure to try one of the places on your list next time I’m there! He has a branch in London, as does La Maison du Chocolat, but my personal fave here is Rococo Chocolates – I’ve never tried their filled chocolates but their bars are extraordinary.

    • The packaging on those Rococo bars is gorgeous! Oh, to be given the library gift set of 25 bars… ^^

  • Annabel Smyth

    When I lived in Paris, many years ago now, I used to go and drool outside the windows of Fauchon, near the Madeleine, especially at Easter. Does it still exist, I wonder? I never bought any chocolate there – couldn’t afford it – but it was fun to window-shop.

    We have a fabulous chocolate shop/museum near me which sells the most glorious artisanal chocolate, but, as you say, not cheap. I bought a tiny bar of salted chocolate, which I would have shared with my daughter but luckily she didn’t like it much….. if you are ever planning a trip to London, I’ll happily take you there!

    • Absolutely, Fauchon is still right there on place de la Madeleine! About sharing good chocolate with kids, I like that you win both ways: if they love it, you’re kind of proud, and if they don’t, you get to keep it for yourself. ;)

      • Annabel Smyth

        I wouldn’t waste really good chocolate on the children (my grandsons) – they get good quality chocolate from me, but not the artisanal stuff!

        • My 3 1/2-yo doesn’t eat a lot of it (yet?) so he doesn’t put too much of a dent in my stash. ;)

  • soniasimone

    I used to go to a marveous little shop in Bastille called something like A La Petite Fabrique. Lovely tablettes, minimalist packaging, no frills but fantastic chocolate.

    • Apparently it still exists, but I’ve never been! I’ll try it out for sure, thank you for the recommendation.

  • So much for my nap today ;) ! I read this post just as I was going to doze off, hopped up, dashed to the Christmas box of La Maison du Chocolat (sent to us by a kindly client of my husband) and properly ate and enjoyed three ganache and a praliné.

    I’d never had the pleasure of trying their chocolate before this year. Wow. Just WOW. My favorite? The rectangular fruity ganache with the thin red stripe, and the pralinés. Thanks for reminding me that enjoying extraordinary chocolate is SO much better than a nap.

    • I *so* relate to the nap-canceling excitement. ^^

      • :) . And thanks for your tips on blogging! I’ve got a lot to learn! I think my post from yesterday got a whopping 6 views. Cheers!

  • edna meza aguirre

    Great chocolate essay! I had the pleasure of going to Pralus last year and was so impressed with their knowledge and attention to detail. I concur with your Praluline recommendation, it was divine. For Christmas I had some shipped to my home in Arizona. It arrived on Christmas Eve and was the food highlight of the season:)

    • Oh wow, that must have been something! I saw them make the praluline one year at the Salon du Chocolat and have been wanting to emulate it in my own kitchen since. *So much* butter though! ^^

  • Excellent article and photos, Clotilde. I would love to return to Paris and reacquaint myself with some of the wonderful chocolatiers you have mentioned. I haven’t been there since 2009 when I began research on the first volume of Chocolatour. I know that it is definitely time to revisit! For the past several years, I have been focusing on bean-to-bar at the source where the cacao is grown, and for the most part, I prefer that unrefined taste of the real cocoa notes coming through as the flavour agent in the chocolate. Peru and Madagascar are still my favourite sources of origin. Cheers, and I hope to meet you one day and share chocolate stories.

    • I hope you do get to come back for a visit, you’re in for a treat! ^^ Do you share some of your best bean-to-bar findings online? I’d be interested to read more from you.

      • Thanks for asking, Clotilde. I have a site at http://chocolatour.net. I invite you and all to visit me there. My speciality is chocolate travel. I’ve been researching and writing about artisan chocolate of the world since 2009, so I hope you will find much of interest there.

  • Oui In France

    Great tips! Sharing the post on FB this week! I’ve developed a bad chocolate habit since moving to France. Funny because a Maison du Chocolat store was right by my apartment in NYC but I rarely went in. Here you can find great chocolate for a reasonable amount of cash. Yum!

  • Tania Hurter

    Another vote for Pierre Marcolini. Discovered Pierre Marcolini when my parents lived in Brussels. Soooooo delicious. Thanks for a wonderful article.

    • I decided to focus on French chocolatiers for my selection here, but his work is very good indeed!

  • Jim

    Another few days of my Paris itinerary happily filled! Other than Ducasse and (I imagine) Un Dimanche à Paris, where else can you get bean-to-bar bars? I have a particular weakness for the pure dark chocolate experience.

    • You can go to the food part of the Lafayette Maison or to the Grande Epicerie for an extensive selection of chocolate bars, some bean-to-bar, some not. And if you venture out to Montmartre, there’s a tiny shop called Kosak on rue Caulaincourt that only sells bean-to-bar chocolate.

      • Jim

        Thanks! Nice to have another reason to wander out to Montmartre. As if anyone needs another reason! I like small shops, too.

        • Do you have a favorite of your own to share?

          • Jim

            I’ve only stayed in Paris for at most 5 days (not nearly long enough, I know!) so I’m still discovering it, which is why I’m so happy to get so many good ideas from your website. But I’ve lived in Vienna and Florence and loved getting to know small shopkeepers. And always greeting them when I come and go!

          • I agree, it’s such a special part of getting to know a place!

      • Jim

        I read about G. Detou in a guidebook and it sounded like they might have bars too. Is it a possibility? Sounds like a fascinating shop otherwise!

  • Linda Gomez

    Thanks for all the wonderful chocolate advice! I’ve been to Paris many times and I agree that the chocolate shops there can be intimidating. The chocolates are expensive like you said, but you really only need just a couple of pieces to satisfy your chocolate craving. The flavors are that good (and intense)! I’m returning to Paris in a few months to get Paris “fix.” I have to return every few years and this article (and many more on your blog) will help be very helpful.

    • My pleasure, Linda, thank you for your note! I have many more Paris tips here if you want to take a look.

      • Linda Gomez

        Thanks Clothilde, for writing back. I now have a question about cheeses. I’ve brought back home (I live in San Francisco) French butter which was in my checked luggage. Is it possible to bring back French cheeses if it’s vacuum packed? Are there cheese shops that can do that? If so, can you recommend any? And what kind of cheeses can be brought back to the US?

        • For US customs questions, it’s always best to refer to their website directly. The rules are listed here. You can print it out and bring it with you to show customs agents if they want to take away some item that you think actually complies.

          Re: vacuum packing, it’s a good idea so cheeses will travel better. Some cheese shops do offer that service (sometimes for an added few cents). I can’t recommend one off the top of my head as it’s not something I’ve had done in Paris, but if I think of a place I’ll let you know!

  • Heramb Arora

    Arabian dates and Gourmet Chocolates are Fantastic Gift for Ramadan and Eid, Celebrate Ramadan and Eid with lovely gift that includes gourmet chocolate products along with dates dipped with delicious toppings such as almonds, coconut, and pistachios.

    Visit: http://www.herambs.com/

  • Anna Johnson

    Clotilde, I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting your beautiful city 3 times. The last time was 2 years ago, when we took our daughter, who asked for a trip to Paris, for her 12th birthday. I remember rue des Martyrs and Henri Le Roux chocolates very well, as well as Caramel au Beurre Salé!! I have never seen a street quite like rue des martyrs, a food tour guide took us in and out of those heavenly shops. Ah-mazing!
    On a different note, a friend of mine from culinary school gave me Chocolate and Zucchini, which I treasure and then last year for Xmas another friend gave me Edible French, which is delightful. Then I found your name in my emails. All these signs and here I am. I am one of those people who believe that I was French in another life. Now, I can always get my Parisian fix in your much adored website.

    • Thank you so much, Anna, and welcome! It’s a pleasure having you here.

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