The very first thing I do when I arrive in Paris is to head to a boulangerie for a fresh pastry. I have been known to skip the breakfast on the plane because I know what lies ahead. The Parisians have the visit to a boulangerie down to a science. When you enter they expect you to know what you want and you should order promptly. If you have ever seen a boulangerie with a line you know they have to move through the people quickly. Here is a simple breakdown of your top 5 choices when you enter a Parisian boulangerie.
Croissant - There are actually two croissants; a croissant au beurre and croissants ordinaries. A croissant au beurre is the one you want to get which is made with only butter. Croissants ordinaires can contain margarine and are typically crescent-shaped.
Pain au Chocolat - Usually my top choice, this is a regular butter croissant with tiny bars of chocolate rolled in between the layers. If you happen to get a warm croissant it will ooze with melted chocolate and if you are a chocolate lover like me it may be the best thing you ever tasted.
Croissant aux Amandes (almond croissants) Originally this was a way for boulangeries to resell day old croissants. The croissants are filled with crème d'amandes (almond cream), sprinkled with sliced almonds, and baked again letting the cream to set and the outside to crisp.
Pain aux raisins - Sometimes called an escargot because of its shape. The dough is the same as for the original croissant but added in between you will find raisins and almond cream or custard filling.
Brioche - You can find these plain or brioche avec sucre with large sprinkles of sugar on top for a sweet touch. It is a type of bread but a sweeter flavor. It goes great with a coffee in the morning.
Now that you know what you want to order Carrie Anne James of French is Beautiful gives her tips on the proper way to order in French:
Bonjour ! | Hello!
Un crossaint, s'il vous plaît. | One croissant, please.
Deux pains au chocolat,s'il vous plaît. | Two chocolate croissants, please.
Une brioche, s'il vous plaît. | A brioche, please.
Trois pains aux raisins, s'il vous plaît. | Three pains aux raisins, please.
Then, after they ask 'Et avec ceci ?' (And with that?) or 'Ça sera tout ?' (Will that be everything?):
After paying, always close the experience with:
Merci, monsieur/madame. Bonne journée/Bonne soirée. | Thank you, sir/madam. Have a great day/evening.
For some of my favorite boulangeries:
28 Beaumarchais - Bastille
Coquelicot - Abbess (montmartre)
Du pain et des idees