The first of March usually has me thinking about spring, especially when we lived in Austin and I knew that intolerable heat was just around the corner. However, here in Paris, the first of March greeted us with snow, and there’s no sign that spring is on its way.
February was a bitterly cold month. The last week or two featured highs that were barely out of the 20s, and though the sun finally came out, it was really still too cold to enjoy being outdoors. With that said, I often found myself perched in cafés, either with my journal or a good book, and enjoying Paris’ best cups of hot chocolate.
Ever since I had my first cup of Parisian hot chocolate a few years ago, I haven’t quite felt the same about hot chocolate in the states. It never lived up to that richness and quality that I found in that first cup abroad. When we lived in Boston, L.A. Burdick always came close, but in Austin, nothing even compared, which really was also okay since there aren’t many good months in Austin to enjoy hot chocolate anyway…
Drinking hot chocolate, or chocolat chaud, or simply chocolat, as the French say, has been one of my favorite things about being in Paris this winter. An afternoon cup of chocolat here is just like drinking a cup of coffee, and is totally acceptable for adults and children alike. Not that I needed an excuse.
While you can get a cup of chocolat in almost any café in Paris, they’re not all created equal, and some spots will leave you sorely disappointed. For a truly good cup of chocolat, I find that tea salons, and naturally, chocolate shops, are usually the best bets. Typically (though not always) chocolat in cafés and brasseries is thinner and easier to drink, while chocolat in tea salons and chocolate shops is more of a delectable treat.
I have to first say that many of these spots are not unique finds. Most (all besides La Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac and Claus) I found on other “where to drink hot chocolate in Paris” lists. I did drink several cups outside these list suggestions, but they didn’t stand up against what’s mentioned below. I also left off several places that were recommended on said lists, as I didn’t think they were worth the honor. I can however attest to the fact that every place i’ve mentioned makes a mean cup of chocolat, and I would highly recommend a visit to any one of these spots (though some more than others) on your next trip to Paris.
La Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac
Cyril Lignac is a very well-known name in France, and while his restaurants, and more so his pâtisseries, are likely known to some tourists, his chocolateries probably are not. La Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac was the first and last place I visited in my research, and I am tempted to say it was my favorite.
Each cup of hot chocolate I had during my quest tasted slightly different, though I would never be able to say which one was best without tasting them all side by side. However, I found my Cyril Lignac cups to be slightly more memorable, because of the fact that they were a bit creamier, and a little sweeter than the rest. Though still rich and full of flavor, I’d say Cyril Lignac is probably the best choice for those who don’t like their hot chocolate too dark or intense — I do — which is why I hesitate to declare it the best.
The main shop is located on a cute corner in the 11th arrondissement and is a very nice place to spend an afternoon. The atmosphere inside is bright and welcoming, and the small heated patio outside is perfect for a warmer day. There’s also a small location in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood in the 6th, which is great for a quick break or for takeaway.
25 Rue Chanzy, 75011 Paris ; 34 rue du Dragon, 75006 Paris
Again, I am not picking favorites, but Mamie Gâteaux also received multiple visits. At Mamie Gâteaux, it feels like you’re dining in your grandma’s kitchen, and therefore, is a very comfortable space to call home for a morning or afternoon.
The chocolat here is great, and is made even better with a serving of their homemade whipped cream, or chantilly. They also have a large selection of fresh-made cakes (which I still haven’t tried), and incredible quiche. This is a great spot for lunch or an afternoon pick me up, and is conveniently located just down the street from one of my favorite gourmet food stores, La Grande Epicerie.
66 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris
Claus is a very cute and popular breakfast spot, especially for those who need more than just coffee and bread in the morning (the standard French breakfast). I’ve only eaten there once so I won’t judge their food based on my one experience (my eggs were cold, but my croissant was one of the best I have had in this city), but I will say their chocolat chaud was one of my favorites on this list. The Palais-Royal location is usually really busy, but on the morning I visited the Saint-Germain-des-Prés location with my mom, we basically had the place to ourselves. I look forward to returning on a quiet afternoon one day soon for another cup of chocolate, and for sure another croissant.
14 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001 Paris; 2 Rue Clément, 75006 Paris
Café de Flore (and Les Deux Magots)
Two of the oldest cafés in the city made famous by their high-profile clientele (think Hemingway, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso…), these cafés are no secret. Café de Flore and its rival neighbor Les Deux Magots are located in one of the prettiest sections of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, and are very popular with tourists.
Though I have only actually enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate from Café de Flore, I felt that at least mentioning Les Deux Magots was necessary, as I have been told by trusted sources that both offer an almost identical experience, and one €9 cup of hot chocolate is enough for me.
Despite it being touristy, if you can plant yourself in a comfortable spot on the patio on a nice day, I still recommend visiting Café de Flore at least once in your lifetime as it offers prime people watching, and though expensive, a really solid cup of hot chocolate.
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris ; 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris
Angelina is another very touristy spot, but it was here where I fell in love with European-style hot chocolate. I think Angelina’s hot chocolate is best described as “melted chocolate cake,” or at least that’s what I said the first time I had it. In all honestly though, good French hot chocolate really does just taste like a melted chocolate bar with a splash of cream, which as you’ll see in my recipe below, is essentially how it’s made.
Though I have never dined in I can only imagine the tables are 100% filled with tourists, and there’s usually always a line. I advise grabbing a cup at the stand outdoors if it’s there, or from the counter inside instead. Then you can enjoy your chocolat on a walk through the Tuileries Gardens, or while admiring the nearby Place Vendôme.
There are a few locations, but I know for sure that it is easy to get a cup for takeaway at the main tearoom, which is located at 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris.
Un Dimanche à Paris
Though I wasn’t crazy about the interior of Un Dimanche à Paris, it’s located on the loviest little street, so if you can get seat by the window, the rest won’t really matter. I hear this place can get really busy, but when I was there in the middle of the week it was relatively empty. However, on that note, be aware that the tearoom is only open from 15h-18h (3-6pm).
The chocolat here is delicious, and I really liked the pot in which it was served. They serve pastries here as well if you want to visit for more than just something to drink, but I can’t comment on their quality, as the chocolat was enough of a treat for me.
4-6-8 Cours du Commerce Saint-André, 75006 Paris
Located on one of my favorite squares in the city, the Place des Vosges, Carette has the perfect patio for spending a good portion of your day. I spent a very cold January afternoon here, but you’d never know how cold it was outside thanks to the restaurant’s powerful heaters. With my small pot of chocolat, I stripped off my coat and cozily settled in, people watching, and reading nearly all of Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. If you’re lucky, you might even hear an accordion playing nearby, adding to the charm of this already charming city.
There are two locations, but I have only ever visited the one in the Place des Vosges, and highly recommend that you do too. However, the second location might offer you a glance of the Eiffel Tower, which wouldn’t make a horrible view either. 2 Bis Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris;
La Charlotte de L’Isle
I spend a lot of time on and around the Île Saint-Louis walking Heidi, but it’s rare that I actually stop anywhere except for an ice cream cone at Berthillon, and then on a bench along the Seine. However, one chilly evening instead of wandering about with the dog, I changed things up and wandered around with the hubs, stopping in at La Charlotte de L’Isle to warm up along the way. La Charlotte de L’Isle is a cute and cozy tea room with an impressive tea list, and a very delicious chocolat chaud. There’s no patio so I won’t return here with Heidi, but maybe I’ll make it back solo, or with the hubs again one day.
24 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004 Paris
La Maison du Chocolat
La Maison du Chocolat makes fantastic chocolates, and though they don’t have a tea room, their location in the Carrousel du Louvre does offer chocolat chaud for takeaway. Being a chocolate shop, I expected their hot chocolate to be really thick and rich like everywhere else on this list, however, I found it to be a bit more “drinkable.” By that, I mean it’s something I can see myself having more often, as opposed to the other options on this list which are a once in a while treat. It wasn’t my favorite as I prefer a thicker cup, but it was certainly still delicious, and really the perfect way to warm me up as I walked around one freezing cold day last week.
Carrousel du Louvre, 99 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
I am actually mentioning Jacques Genin as a place that I do not recommend. Come for their fantastic chocolates and pâtes de fruits, but don’t stay for a chocolat chaud. This shop pops up on a lot of lists, which is why I chose to bring it up. I left other places off as well, but since Jacques Genin seems to appear often, I figured it was worth mentioning.
Don’t get me wrong, the flavor of the chocolat chaud was fantastic, but after about three sips, it was way too much to drink, and once it started to cool, I could only “drink” it with a spoon. I am one for rich hot chocolate, but my cup here was almost overwhelming. Furthermore, I really didn’t dig the space. It felt like a dated, modern hotel lounge, and there was an awful draft that didn’t encourage me to stay long. However, my pâtes de fruits were worth every penny, and I will definitely return on occasion for a special sugary treat.
133 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris
If you’re traveling to Paris soon, I sure hope you’re able to try a cup of chocolat from one, or several, of the shops listed above. If you try them (or have tried them before), comment below to let me know what you think!
Meanwhile, to tie you over until your trip abroad, or to keep you warm for the remainder of this chilly winter, i’ve included my go-to hot chocolate recipe below for when I really want to enjoy a good cup at home. It’s not quite as rich as what you’ll find in some shops in Paris, but it’s still delectable, and is always a very nice treat.
French-Style Chocolat Chaud
Yields two mugs
16 oz. whole fat milk
1+ bar of high quality chocolate, ideally 60% cacao or more*
Homemade whipped cream (recipe)
Finely chop your chocolate, and with your milk, add it to a small saucepan over low heat. Continuously stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted and well-blended with your milk. Continue to cook over low heat until warm. Be careful not to rush this as you don’t want your milk to scald. Divide evenly between two mugs and top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
*Don’t cheat yourself here. For a really good cup of hot chocolate, you’ll want to use a high quality bar. I usually don’t use anything too fancy (like chocolates from La Maison du Chocolat or a bar from Cyril Lignac), but I will always use something solid, like a good 70% cacao bar from Lindt, or something like that. French hot chocolate is usually pretty dark, and often, places will serve it with sugar in case it’s too bitter for your liking. You could always set out sugar cubes when serving if you don’t like your hot chocolate too rich, or you could choose a lower cacao percentage. I would do this before adding less chocolate.
For a thicker, richer hot chocolate, add a bit more chocolate to your pot. For two cups of hot chocolate, I will use anywhere from one full bar to a bar and a half. If you don’t want it too thick though, stick with just one bar. If you want it really thick, go crazy and use a full two bars.