It may be known as the romantic City of Light and the capital of haute couture, but if there's one thing every traveler yearns to bring home after a trip to Paris, it's a souvenir of the tastes and sips the city offers. From classic choices like a box of delicate, pastel-colored macarons and rich, creamy chocolate truffles to more unique bites like 12th century candies and sweet and savory confitures, there are endless foodstuffs to bring home. Here are some of the best spots to find them across the city.
Le Bonbon au Palais
Sweets at Le Bonbon au Palais trace the map of France—cocquelicots de Nemours, niniches de Quiberon, mirabelles de Lorraine—all tantalizingly displayed in shapely glass jars. Of the 650 bonbons considered part of France's historic legacy, 200 handpicked varieties can be found here, and only those that have been continuously produced by the original artisanal manufacturers. The most ancient example, made of licorice and honey, dates back to the 12th century, when the pearly drops doubled as currency on pilgrimage routes. The bonbons are sold by weight, so you can easily sample them all.
Don't Miss: Candied flowers, fluffy guimauves (traditional marshmallows) in flavors like bergamot and banana, liqueur-filled marzipan enrobed chocolates, and candied blueberries and currants, which may not outdo Mother Nature but sure come close.
French-Belgian patisserie Meert dates back to 1761 and was named official supplier to King Leopold I of Belgium in 1864. Makers of the gaufre, a golden waffle native to Flanders, Meert's recipe is held a strict secret and is treasured for its light cream center perfumed with Madagascar vanilla. The first Paris branch imports the tender, lozenge-shaped pastries daily from Lille, where they are still made by hand over a wood fire. Individually wrapped and beautifully packaged in boxes of six, the gaufres will last up to a week.
Insider Tip: Visit on a Saturday to sample the specialty pastries delivered once a week from Lille. Speculos gaufres, a traditional cinnamon and spice blend, are available for three weeks at Easter time.
La Chambre aux Confitures
The newest addition to the many gourmet shops on the famous market street rue des Martyrs is the sleek and airy La Chambre aux Confitures. Besides dozens of varieties of fruit preserves, including flavors like mirabelle plum, apricot lavender, and strawberry rose, there are marmalades, gelées, and chutneys galore. Hard-to-find gourmet confitures meant for cheese and foie gras—fig, olive and hazelnut; roasted apple and calvados; onion, Beaujolais and Cassis—provide a lesson in French gourmandise. Preserves are made with hand-chosen fruits and a minimal amount of sugar. Best of all, there are spoons for sampling.
Don't Miss: Pale green gelées florales of basil, rosemary, or thyme flowers or a honey-and-pine-bud version that will thrill your gourmet friends. Chocoholics will love the dozen sublime concoctions to spoon over ice cream—or fingers.
Once hidden behind an unmarked door known only to chefs and aficionados, virtuoso chocolatier-patissier Jacques Genin opened his Marais boutique a few years back to euphoric reviews. Renowned for their delicately perfumed ganaches made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, the chocolates are handmade daily on the premises, along with velvety caramels, fruit patés, and Genin's masterful take on the classic French pastries—the Paris Brest, éclair, and a heavenly (award-winning) mille-feuille. Beautiful magnetic tins make the chocolates, which last up to three weeks, easy to transport and beautiful to offer.
Insider Tip: Everything can be sampled in the boutique's elegant modern tearoom.
One of Paris's oldest wine stores, Caves Auge is also its most atmospheric. Crammed floor to ceiling with examples of the best wines France has to offer, along with a choice selection of French cognacs and Armagnac, it's a wine lover's paradise. A knowledgeable, English-speaking staff and handsome gift boxes with the store's insignia make gift shopping a breeze. And if you're very lucky you'll meet tout Paris at one of the famous wine tastings, set out on huge wine barrels on the front sidewalk on Saturdays in the fall and spring (check online for schedule).
Insider Tip: Augé's fall Champagne degustations are the toast of the town, where you can sample small-producer bubbles that can't be found stateside, along with the expensive grand marques. If you can't make it, all the Champagnes are stocked in the store.
La Grande Épicerie
If time is short and your gift list long, head over to La Grande Epicerie, Paris's largest gourmet grocery (conveniently attached to the elegant Bon Marché department store). The store's dizzying array of everything from gourmet teas to fresh foie gras has something for everyone. Easily navigable departments include chocolate and candies, coffee and tea, spices, confitures, patés, cheeses, a superb wine shop, get the picture?
Insider Tip: It's a one-stop shop for picnic food or lunch on the fly. Freshly prepared salads, dozens of sandwiches, paninis, cut fruit, specialty dishes, and bottled drinks are conveniently packaged and ready to go.
Thinking of a trip to Paris?
For up-to-the-minute restaurant and hotel recommendations, as well as the best planning advice, check out our Paris Travel Guide.
Photo credits: Le Bonbon au Palais courtesy of Jennifer Ladonne; Meert courtesy of Meert; Jacques Genin courtesy of Francis Amiand/Jacques Genin; Caves Auges via Flickr/Josh Clark; Eclairs via Flickr/roboppy