In the past century bread consumption has dropped dramatically across the world. France, a country described by French bread promotion group Observatoire du Pain as a ‘civilisation du pain’ (pain is the French word for bread), now sees average consumption that equates to just half a baguette a day, compared to three per day in 1900.
Nevertheless, the French capital remains an exciting destination for those seeking top-quality baked goods, which have become a symbol of French culture: a common caricature of a Frenchman sees him with a baguette tucked under his arm.
Although cheap industrial bread production has spread throughout the western world, in France only 35% of bread is made in the industrial sector, according to a 2010 European Commission study (in other EU countries this rises to as much as 80%). This leaves 65% of the French market to craft bakers. With over 1,200 independent bakeries in Paris, according to the city’s federation of boulangeries, making a choice can be daunting. Visit one of our recommendations for some memorable options where the savoir-faire of the artisan baker shines out.
Du Pain et des Idées
It is easy to picture Marie Antoinette, were she alive today, sending out to Du Pain et des Idées for her bread. The building in which the boulangerie is located dates from 1870 and the interior, featuring original painted glass ceilings, is as special as the bread produced here. Du Pain et des Idées opened in 2002, after owner and chef baker Christophe Vasseur quit the fashion industry and changed his career completely. Vasseur’s most popular bread is the pain des amis (friends’ bread). Made with wheat flour, its nutty aroma is instantly recognisable and its crunchy crust and consistent crumb brings together locals and visitors. Many cross the city for this bread – and it is absolutely worth it.
Du Pain et des Idées, 34 rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, +33 (0)1 4240 4452
Liberté, a relative newcomer to the Parisian bread scene, opened in 2013 in the hip Canal Saint-Martin area. The industrial-looking interior is unusual for a Parisian boulangerie-pâtisserie, where traditional décor is more frequently seen. Co-founder Benoît Castel worked as chef-pâtissier for Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze and at La Grand Épicerie de Paris at Le Bon Marché before embarking on his own adventure. At Liberté, customers can watch the bakers at work while they wait to purchase loaves and pâtisserie. The bakery’s signature bread is pain du coin, a dense loaf made from a mix of rye and white flours with honey. Be warned, it is difficult to leave Liberté without indulging in one of the colourful, elegantly displayed sweet treats.
Liberté, 39 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris, +33 (0)1 4205 5176
Poîlane is one of the best-known bakeries in Paris, if not in the whole of France. Founded in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in 1932 by young baker Pierre Poîlane, Poîlane’s most recognisable breads are the loaves that still carry his signature P, now a registered trademark. These round, crusty loaves are made from just four ingredients: sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water and sea salt from Guérande, baked in a wood-fired oven. There are three Poîlane bakeries in Paris, two in London and one in Belgium; the original boulangerie Saint-Germain-des-Prés is still located at the same address where the Poîlane company was founded over 80 years ago.
Poîlane, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris, +33 (0)1 4548 4259
Founded by Rodolphe Landemaine, who honed his skills with some of the best bakers in the world, including Pierre Hermé and Paul Bocuse, the first Maison Landemaine boulangerie was established in Paris in 2004. Today, together with his wife and fellow baker Yoshimi Ishikawa, Landemaine has 11 branches across the city, plus a bakery and a training centre in Tokyo. The high-quality baked goods are based around the core principle of applying traditional French savoir-faire to high-quality seasonal produce. All breads are made in-house using the team’s own levains, following slow and natural fermentation. Landemain’s signature bread, a delicious, fragrant sourdough, is always named after the location of the bakery – so, at the rue des Martyrs branch, for example, you will find pain des Martyrs.
Maison Landemaine, 26 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris, +33 (0)1 4016 0342