We all know that Paris is famous for its macarons. But with macaron shops popping up worldwide, including outposts of famous Parisian patisseries, should you even bother to buy macarons as a souvenir in Paris? We answer your top Paris macaron shopping questions here.
Quick Content Guide
- 1. What is a French Macaron anyway?
- 2. Which Patisserie Makes the Best Macarons in Paris?
- 3. Ladurée Paris v. Ladurée New York or London– is there a Difference?
- 4. How do I order Macarons at Ladurée in Paris?
- 5. Besides Macarons, what else can I buy at Ladurée?
- 6. Do Ladurée macarons from Paris make a good souvenir?
1. What is a French Macaron anyway?
Not to be confused with the similar-sounding, but very different, coconut macaroon, a macaron is a delicate, meringue-based cookie. In the French macaron, two light-as-air, crispy shells surround a creamy center, usually made of ganache, buttercream or jam.
Why do people go absolutely nuts over these little French sandwich cookies? I think it’s because macarons are utterly addictive– there is something about the contrast of biting into the crisp, flaky shell and the cool, creamy filling. And unlike the latest dessert frenzy du jour, macarons are no passing fad– the French have been enjoying them for centuries.
2. Which Patisserie Makes the Best Macarons in Paris?
As you might expect, the question of which patisserie has the best macarons in Paris is the subject of much debate. Top Parisian contenders include big names like Pierre Hermé, Jean-Paul Hevin and Ladurée, as well as a whole slew of smaller, independent patisseries sprinkled throughout Paris.
If you have the time and calories to spare, you should definitely consider taste-testing your way through Paris to find your own favorite macaron patisserie. No matter how many macarons in Paris I sample, I still come back to my favorite, Ladurée.
3. Ladurée Paris v. Ladurée New York or London– is there a Difference?
Ladurée is one of Paris’ most popular patisseries– so popular, in fact, that outposts have sprung up not only all around Paris and France, but also all over the world.
A branch of Ladurée even found its way to my home city of New York. When the first Ladurée patisserie opened on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the City went macaron-crazy, with lines snaking down the block. Boxes of Ladurée macarons became the new must-buy hostess gift.
I wondered if the macarons at my local New York City Ladurée were really the same as the originals in Paris. Did they ship macarons over on a supersonic flight to ensure freshness? Or import French pastry chefs trained at their Paris shops?
It turned out that Ladurée does neither. According to a New York Times expose, “macarons shipped to non-French destinations for Ladurée come out of a factory in Switzerland, where they are frozen before shipping.” Let me repeat this for emphasis– New York’s Ladurée macarons are frozen. Even Ladurée itself can’t bear to use the word– “we don’t say they are frozen — it’s not a very pretty word…We say they are in hibernation.”
I’m not going to debate frozen versus freshly made, because frankly, there is no debate. Buy your macarons in Paris.
4. How do I order Macarons at Ladurée in Paris?
When you arrive at Ladurée in Paris, expect to find a line (the waiting time will vary, depending on time of day and time of year). You don’t need to know French to order here (although it’s polite to say bonjour and merci of course). You’ll find displays with photos and descriptions of the different flavors of macarons available (I am partial to salted caramel and pistachio). Ladurée’s macarons are offered in the standard size as well as a mini version. You don’t need to buy a box of macarons, you can buy just a single macaron if you’d like (I find them very rich and really can’t eat more than one in a sitting).
5. Besides Macarons, what else can I buy at Ladurée?
Most people lose their minds when they see the colorful display of macarons at Ladurée and forget that the patisserie has other French sweets available. If you’re not a fan of macarons (or are allergic to nuts, macarons are made with almond flour) you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. I sampled Ladurée‘s pain au chocolat on a few occasions but found it varied (from flaky and delicious to slightly chewy and meh).
Ladurée also has some non-edible souvenir options, including candles and scented perfume balls in their signature pastel colors.
6. Do Ladurée macarons from Paris make a good souvenir?
I think it is undisputed that Ladurée macarons are a most-wanted souvenir from Paris. But whether they are a practical souvenir depends on two things– if they can survive the trip home one piece and if they’ll still be fresh
Can delicate macarons even survive the journey home from France?
Ladurée macarons are possibly the most delicate food item I’ve attempted to bring home as a souvenir. Maybe someone more careful than me will have a better experience, but my Ladurée macarons transformed into a pile of crumbs after a transatlantic flight (even though they were stashed in my carry on). I suppose you might have better luck with a sturdier macaron, but the whole point of the macaron is the delicate texture. If you are going to attempt to transport macarons home from Paris, I would definitely recommend securing them carefully and making sure no one shoves your bags in the overhead bins.
How long do macarons from Paris stay fresh?
In general, I don’t mind bringing home souvenir foods with a very short shelf life. I’ve brought home highly perishable cream-filled Victoria Cake from Cambridge and freshly-baked bread from Ireland. These edible souvenirs only had a 24 hour shelf life, but were still delicious back home the next morning, enjoyed with my morning coffee, and shared with family.
But for me, the next-day Ladurée macarons tasted a little stale, nowhere near as delicious as the macarons I devour immediately outside the Paris shop. For some, slightly stale macarons might be better than none at all, but my preference is to save my macaron experience for those Paris visits. But I can certainly understand why others may choose to bring them home (and not everyone agrees with me that any quality is lost).
So readers, I would love to hear your opinions– do you bring home macarons from Paris? Tell us where you buy them, how you bring them home, and how you store them.