Paris is known around the world as many things with The City of Light and The City of Love being two of its most prevalent nicknames. While these are more than true, they are not the most accurate representation of sweet Paris. What Paris actually should be called is The City of Macarons.
Macarons are absolutely everywhere in Paris- even McDonald’s has them! And these are not your grandmama’s coconut macaroons (and trust me, you do NOT want to make that mistake while in France). These macarons (pronounced mah/kah/roh) are delightful little cookies that are made with egg whites, a few different types of sugar, food coloring and finely ground almonds. They are baked in perfectly round shapes and are sandwiched together with various types of filling.
The history that lives in Paris is living and breathing and you can almost feel the city trying to tell you secrets while you walk these streets. While all history is valid and interesting, I mostly only retained the history of the macaron (typical American). Most people say that the macaron was brought to France when Catherine de’Medici married Henry II of France in 1533 and brought her very own Italian pastry chefs with her. These original macarons were actually not the sandwiches with filling that we know today and it wasn’t until almost 300 years later than some genius (!!) decided to make this combination. There’s a bit of a squabble over who invented the modern macaron, but I say we give both contenders equal credit and call it a day. I think we’re all winners in this game.
While in Paris, I set out to try as many macarons as I could possibly fit in my belly. I LOVE the little suckers but had never had a truly French one- I was a woman on a mission. Sadly, this mission did not last long. I was able to have macarons from 3 different places before the sight of them made me feel ill at my stomach. Luckily for YOU, I took extensive notes and have some solid recommendations for what macarons you should and should not be eating in Paris.
Now to the good stuff!
Ladurée is probably the most well known place for tourists to purchase macarons and it’s pretty much on everyone’s to go to list- unless you are a local. My experience was that the locals are much more skeptical of this particular shop.
I went to the Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées (which was gorgeous! I highly recommend visiting this location. AND all of the staff speak English and are more than happy to do so) and there was about a 10 minute wait to even get inside. While I was standing in line, a fabulous older French lady was passing through the line in front of me, stops, looks me in the eye and says “Why are all you dummies waiting in line here?”
Confused, I responded “Ladurée?” with a HARD question mark on the end.
She responded by basically saying the same thing again- but why?
Now, to be fair, I do not speak French so this was the gist of the conversation that I picked up from her judgey look and use of the word “queue”. This did, however, make me wonder if Ladurée might be a bit overrated and confirmed that this may not be where the locals go for their macarons.
Despite my newfound concerns, I thought the macarons from Ladurée were delightful! Here are the flavors I had:
Pistachio – Pretty good! Bold statement here, but I actually prefer the pistachio macaron from a French bakery in Nashville, Provence, as it has much more flavor. That being said, the consistency of Ladurée’s macaron was absolute perfection.
Coffee- Very good, but it didn’t blow my socks off. I wouldn’t say it was anything special but still worth trying.
Raspberry-So good!! This macaron has a very true raspberry flavor and a wonderful texture. Like eating a fresh raspberry in the summertime! I highly recommend trying this flavor.
Chocolate – Absolutely heavenly! Very reminiscent of an American brownie in flavor and has a very slight crunch when you bite into it that was a bit like a brownie crust. Divine- a MUST have!
Salted Caramel– Quite tasty! I made the mistake of eating the Carette salted butter caramel first and nothing could ever quite compare so I may not be doing Ladurée’s Salted Caramel justice. It did have a very traditional caramel taste and was certainly super yummy- my suggestion would probably be to get the Salted Caramel from any location that you go to.
Rose– I actually couldn’t finish this one, but I don’t think it was Ladurée’s fault. I possibly should not have picked this one at all because Rose isn’t my favorite scent and it turns out that I don’t like the taste of Old Lady Smell in my mouth. The macaron itself had the perfect crunch and consistency, but the flavor just didn’t do it for me.
Carette was the 2nd place that I visited for macarons. I can’t be totally sure where I heard about it, but it was either from a friend or one of my guide books-either way, the suggestion was MUCH appreciated. The location is spectacular, just a small ways from the Eiffel tower at the Trocadéro metro stop. I would highly recommend grabbing some macarons (and some of their other delicious pastries!) and eating them while enjoying the fantastic view. The staff at Carette was beyond polite and helpful and it was a darling little place, much more chill than Ladurée and no line to get inside. The pastries are actually secondary to the restaurant, so you might want to try and grab dinner here as well!
Pistachio– This one wins hands down over Ladurée’s pistachio macaron. It was fluffy and full of filling and somehow seemed to melt in my mouth as soon as I took a bite. It was simply divine. Wish I had one to eat right now!
Chocolate– Holy cow- this puppy is rich! I’d say the chocolate is a bit darker than its Ladurée counterpart with some slightly fruity undertones. Also, it’s a bit softer and more “melt in your mouth”- not in a better or worse way, just “different”. I would highly recommend this one!!
Salted Butter Caramel– Holy Ever Loving Cow!! This was very likely the most amazing thing that I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was so delicious that I am actually having a hard time putting it into words! The flavor profile was reminiscent of a Werther’s Original- and that is on point in my book! It was like browned butter that was turned into caramel and topped with the most delicious sea salt you have ever had- we are talking Donald Trump rich!! If you only have one macaron while in Paris, MAKE IT THIS ONE.
Gianduja– Gianduja is a sweet chocolate spread that contains about 30% hazelnut paste. This one (surprisingly) made me feel a little “meh”. It was still good, but it was not my favorite.
Lemon– OMG. SO GOOD! Tasted just like a perfect pop of Lemon Icebox pie- melt in your mouth delicious! I ate this one 3 days after purchasing and you couldn’t tell at all.
Vanilla- Very good! The vanilla flavor is strong, but in a very good way. I love when you can see bits of vanilla bean and they are generous throughout this macaron.
Raspberry– I cannot begin to understand how they get fruit to taste so rich! This puppy has more flavor in its pinky than the Georges Larnicol Framboise would in the whole case! [Author’s note: this is obviously a metaphor as macarons do not have fingers. Or **shouldn’t**]
Rose– Still not my favorite flavor in general, but this one has a very fluffy and creamy center!
Cassiss- Violette– This one again has an amazingly bold flavor profile. As previously mentioned, I am not a huge fan of flowers in my mouth, so this one wasn’t my favorite despite still being quite good. If more unique flavors are your thing then this would definitely be the macaron for you to try.
Maison Georges Larnicol:
The last place I visited Maison Georges Larnicol, which is actually a chocolatier that also has macarons. I hadn’t seen this particular place on any of my recommended place-or perhaps I overlooked it- but I was walking past it and it looked like an adorable little shop. I did see a few locations around Paris (same with Ladurée) but I happened to have visited the one on St. Germain. It was an absolute treasure trove of all kinds of chocolate goodies which was obviously their specialty. Sadly, I was not super into sweets that day so I only picked up my macarons to try later. I feel like it should be noted here that I picked up a package of pre-selected macarons instead of selecting them from the case and that could have affected the freshness and texture.
Pistachio– Eh, definitely not my favorite, The texture was ok for me (more on the crunchy side) but the flavor profile was off. It almost tasted slightly minty. I would definitely suggest taking a pass on this one.
Chocolate– This has almost the taste of a Tootsie Roll, but not really in a good way. It has afternotes of licorice as well, so I can’t say that I enjoyed it at all (I dislike licorice even more than the taste of flowers). It did pair rather nicely with the red wine I washed it down with though. 😉
Praline– Pretty good and a different flavor than I have had from the other locations, but mild in flavor. It was good, but it didn’t knock my socks off!
Passion fruit– No. It tastes like perfume & is full of seeds. Didn’t even finish this one.
Raspberry– Another no. Couldn’t finish this one either. I actually ate this Raspberry macaron before Ladurée’s & Carette’s to give it a fair shot- but sadly, theirs are still many times more tasty.
And there you have it! In my book, Carette is an absolute must finish followed by Ladurée. I’d highly recommend simply skipping Maison Georges Larnicol.
I am thrilled to share this guest post from LeeAnn, who recently took a solo trip to Paris. LeeAnn is one of my dearest friends from Nashville who happens to be hilarious, fun, and one of my fashion icons.