10 Classic French Pastries You Have to Try on Your Next Trip to France

From the humble croissant to a festive plate of madeleines, these quintessential French treats are reason enough to hop on a plane.

Pain au Chocolat
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Francophile or not, you probably know that France is the pastry capital of the world, with independent pâtisseries on virtually every block, selling all the classics like croissant aux amandes, madeleines, éclairs, and more. Before your next trip to France, study up on the classics, and make sure you’ve tasted them all before you get back on that plane home. Or, try making them yourself at home — some of them aren’t as hard as they look (others definitely are.) 

Croissant

Classic Croissants
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

We’re starting here because we have to — it doesn’t get more iconic than the flaky, buttery breakfast staple. You’ll find almost every boulangerie worth its weight in butter has a fantastic one on offer. 

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

The yeast-leavened laminated dough used to make croissants is also deployed in the classic pain au chocolat, a chocolate-stuffed version that is sweet pastry heaven. The warmer, the better here — the semisweet baton of chocolate in the middle should be melty heaven. 

Croissant aux Amandes

Almond Croissants
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Missie Crawford

Another hall-of-famer in the laminated dough category is the gorgeous almond croissant, topped with sliced almonds and filled with a sweet almond custard called frangipane. 

Religieuse

Religieuse

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This festive, fancy little treat is a fixture at French patisseries for a reason: it doesn’t get more satisfying than this. Two round choux pastries are filled with crème pâtissière — usually chocolate — and encased in a ganache of the same flavor. The iconic dessert has been around since the 19th century. 

Madeleine

Corn Flour Madeleines
Victor Protasio

Had Proust not immortalized these soft little cakes in Remembrance of Things Past, they still would have gone down in history: they are just that excellent. The simplicity is the point here. 

Macaron

Holiday Macarons
Photo by Sarah Crowder / Food Styling by Drew Aichele

There is no dessert quite as pretty as the macaron, a delicate, meringue-based sandwich cookie that can be made in all sorts of flavors, from passion fruit to rose. This crisp exterior has a tendency to shatter when you bite in, giving way to a sweet, creamy filling. We can’t think of a better gift to bring back from a trip to France. 

Profiterole

Profiteroles

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This classic cream puff, otherwise known as chou à la crème, can be filled with custard, pastry cream, simple whipped cream, or even ice cream, but we don’t discriminate. We like these treats drizzled in chocolate, though caramel and powdered sugar also do quite nicely. 

Tarte Tatin

Pear and Shallot Tarte Tatin with Whipped Goat Cheese Recipe
Victor Protasio

We can’t think of a more classic, more satisfying French dessert than the quintessential tarte tatin, made with lucious, perfectly sweet apples. The whole thing is baked upside down, so the apples get marvelously caramelized in butter and sugar. (Don’t forget to top it with chantilly.) 

Mille Feuille

Mille Feuille

Olga Mazyarkina / Getty Images

Literally named “a thousand leaves,” this beautiful dessert of puff pastry layered with pastry cream is one of the most heavenly confections in France. You’ll find it layered with berries, chocolate, and sometimes even savory versions with smoked salmon. 

Éclair

Eclairs

Jennifer Hardt / Sweethardt Photography / Getty Images

Perfect logs of pâte à chou are filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate glaze. If you can’t make it to France to try one, this recipe from Joanne Chang comes pretty close.

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