As dawn breaks in Paris, doughy smells permeate the air, and locals line up at neighborhood boulangeries for freshly baked croissants to enjoy alongside their morning coffee–and as an afternoon goûter, or snack.

These yeast-leavened pastries from Vienna—known there as viennoiseries—reportedly arrived in France in the 18th century when Queen Marie Antoinette, originally from Austria, introduced them to the court. Initially a treat of the aristocracy, the flaky pastry spread to the masses when another Austrian, August Zang, began making them in his Right Bank boulangerie in 1839.

Today, croissants are about as Parisian as it gets. But they’re not all created equal.

The key to a good croissant is its many fine layers, created by repeated flattening and folding with butter. The result is a crisp, golden shell that protects a light, tender interior.

Here’s a list of the best places to bite into the golden classic in the City of Light: 

In the trendy Canal St.-Martin quartier, locals cram inside tiny Du Pain et des Idées to scoop up Christophe Vasseur’s award winners, which develop deep flavor in a 24-hour rise before baking.

Across town in St. Germain, devotees flock to Gérard Mulot, where for 38 years the richness of extra butterfat has distinguished the pastries.

For a twist on the classic, head to Pierre Hermé (voted best croissant in Paris by Le Figaro) for an Ispahan croissant filled with rose-flavored almond cream and topped with a rosewater glaze and crispy bits of raspberry from the Haut-Vivarais region.

Want to learn how to make them yourself? La Cuisine Paris offers weekly hands-on classes where, over the course of three hours, you’ll cover each painstaking step that goes into creating these crescent rolls of perfection.

This piece, written by Amy M. Thomas, appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Comments

  1. Carlotta
    Milan
    February 2, 7:22 pm

    you should go to Rue de Martyrs ( 9eme arrondissement Pigalle) at the bakery called “la renaissance” it’s a patisserie where you can find the best croissants eva! BUT if you go there ask for a “moelleux au chocolat” ….oh god..that is just soo good!

  2. Jillian P
    Tainan, Taiwan
    February 3, 8:21 am

    Mon dieu! Reading this article just made me long for a flaky, perfectly buttery croissant and a crispy flute baguette. I’ve only visited the lovely Paris, but someday I hope to stay longer term. For sure, next time I visit, I will try out all of these places! Thanks for sharing, Amy!

  3. The Travel Bubble
    Australia
    February 7, 1:04 am

    Must write these down for my next trip to Paris!

    http://www.thetravelbubble.com.au

  4. Obat Peninggi
    Indonesia
    February 25, 1:39 am

    Hi Amy
    I have a plan to go to Paris this year. I love cooking. I think i can go to La Cuisine Paris to make my own croissant.

    Thank you for posting this great information