** NOTE: France, like the rest of the world, is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic and Paris is essentially shut down to tourists and even residents. All of the posts for destinations on this blog are assuming venues will once again at some point re-open to the public. Until then, posts here are for information only, not recommendations to visit immediately. And let’s all help each other through this harrowing period in global history. Merci! **
Some of the best chocolatiers in the world live in and operate out of Paris, including such renowned chocolate makers as Christian Constant, Michel Cluziel, Pierre Herme, Jean-Paul Hevin and Patrick Roger, to name just a few. But in addition to the shops operated by these sultans of sweets, there’s another chocolate emporium that is highly regarded by Parisians and well worth a visit by any tourist to the City of Light—the A la Mere de Famille chain of boutiques.
Specifically, the Rue du Faubourg-Montmatre outlet in the 9th Arrondissement, which is the oldest chocolate shop in Paris, founded in 1761. Yes, this charming and enormously photogenic shop, both inside and out, has been open for 254 years.
And to be fair, A la Mere de Famille sells a lot more than just chocolates. It would be more accurate to call it a sweets shop, as the boutique sells candies from every region of France, pastries and homemade ice cream in addition to its renowned chocolate treats. All told, more than 1,200 products are available.
The specific origins of A la Mere de Famille (translated as the Mother of the Family) are a bit murky, although history shows that by the time of the Belle Epoque (late 1800s/early 1900s), entrepreneur Georges Lecoeur had turned the shop into a must-stop destination for Paris’s elite and had developed a world-wide reputation for its petit beurre butter cookies, the first-ever mass-produced cookie in France. In fact, this production method proved so successful and economical that the shop was able to offer the treats at a low-cost to Parisians of lesser means, making A la Mere de Famille enormously popular with Parisians of every stripe and background.
Lecoeur is also responsible for installing the shop’s green-and-gold façade (now a French historical landmark) and it’s elaborate signage that today continues to tout its products to passers-by: “Vins Fins Desserts,” “Fruits Secs, “Fruits Confits,” “Chocolats,” “Thes,” “Pain d’Epices,” “Fours Secs,” “Petits Fours,” “Confitures” and more. (Even if you’re not a fan of candy and sweets, the gorgeous, gilded shop itself is a fantastic testament to Paris’s Belle Epoque and definitely worthy of a visit and a photo or two.)
Today, the boutique is owned and operated by the Dolfi family, which purchased the business in 2000. And while family patriarch Etienne did expand the boutique to a total of eight shops in Paris, as well as opening counters in the flagship Printemps department store on Avenue Haussmann and in the Paris suburb of Saint Maur des Fosses, he was committed to maintaining the original boutique just as it had been for nearly 150 years.
And the family remains committed to the high quality that has been a trademark of A la Mere de Famille from its beginning, including hiring master chocolatier Julien Merceron who in 2009 was named France’s Champion Young Chocolatier of the Year. Merceron also teamed with the owners to publish the shop’s first chocolate-, pastry- and candy-making cookbook, “A la Mere de Famille: Recipes from the Beloved Parisian Confectioner,” in early 2014.
The original A la Mere de Famille boutique is located at 35 Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre (Metro: Le Peletier). Other Paris boutiques include:
- 82 Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd Arrondissement (Metro: Sentier)
- 70 Rue Bonaparte in the 6th Arrondissement (Metro: Saint-Sulpice)
- 39 Rue de Cherche Midi in the 6th Arrondissement (Metro: Rennes)
- 47 Rue Cler in the 7th Arrondissement (Metro: Ecole Militaire/La Tour Maubourg)
- 59 Rue de la Pompe in the 16th Arrondissement (Metro: Rue de la Pompe)
- 197 Rue Jouffrey d’Abbans in the 17th Arrondissement (Metro: Wagram/Courcelles)
- 39 Rue Legendre in the 17th Arrondissement (Metro: Malesherbes/Villiers)
- Printemps Department store, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, in the 9th Arrondissement (Metro: Havre-Caumartin)
- Paris suburb of Saint Maur, 7 Avenue Charles de Gaulle