Here’s the thing that no one ever tells you about going to Paris for the first time: The city doesn’t look, well, very Paris-y. Sure, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Seine are iconic, but where are the charming little shops? The pretty flower stalls? Romantic cafés?
All that changes when you visit Rue du Bac. This street has all the Parisian prettiness imaginable and it’s incredibly visitor-friendly. Allison Brown, blogging at Dreamer At Heart, said: “Rue du Bac Paris is the perfect street to flâner. Slip into wandering mode. The curious observer’s mood. Invite yourself to dillydally. Be forewarned, your taste buds are going to love Rue du Bac.” I couldn’t agree more!
Here’s what makes it so wonderful.
1. Convenient Location
The word bac means a little ferry. Once upon a time, a ferry transported building rocks from one side of the Seine to the other and the street got its name. That Seine-side location, across from the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens and just a few steps down from the Musee d’Orsay, is perfect for first-time visitors with limited time.
The 0.7-mile-long street ends at Rue de Sevres and is just a few feet away from the Sevres-Babylone metro station. If you can’t walk the whole distance, the namesake Rue du Bac metro station is another convenient option.
2. Delicious Cheese Shops
I first made my way to Rue du Bac because a friend implored me to “eat all the cheese for her.” I hadn’t even visited a proper Parisian fromagerie up until that point! A search for cheese shops led me to Le Bon Goût Fermier, a hip and tiny cheese shop with excellent service.
Cheese fanatics will want to note that just a short walk away, on Rue de Grenelle, is another amazing cheese destination. Barthélemy is considered one of the best fromageries in the city.
3. Aoyama Flower Market
Aoyama Flower Market is a teeny tiny flower shop that’s perfect for travelers. They brilliantly offer mini bouquets “for the kitchen,” “for the bathroom,” and “for a glass.” The latter costs just €5 and is an absolute bargain. Even if you’re only in town for a few days, you can pop a chic and affordable bouquet in a hotel drinking glass. You better believe I grabbed one.
4. Angelina Bac Boutique
Angelina is Paris’ chicest pastry shop and home to the city’s best hot chocolate and possibly the longest lines. Instead of queuing at the Rue de Rivoli flagship for a few hours, spend that time exploring Rue du Bac and visiting the take-out branch of Angelina at number 108. Each time I visited, I was the only person in the shop! Their signature hot chocolate should be at the top of your list and I also highly recommend the lemon tarts (which are truly works of art and the best I’ve ever had) and the Mont Blanc (sweetened chestnut puree, chantilly cream, and meringue — it’s one of their signature pastries).
5. Pierre Hermé Macarons
Magical Macarons In A Secret Passageway
While everything at Angelina’s is delicious, I suggest you skip their macarons and instead head to the city’s finest macaron shop, Pierre Hermé. You can find his shop by entering the BeauPassage at 83 Rue du Bac and following the little laneway to the interior courtyard. You’ll also enjoy the greenery, sculptures, and several cafés.
6. Boucherie Du Bac
Forget baguettes and onion soup. I say that the most Parisian food of all is a beautifully roasted chicken. After all, they do make a significant appearance in the film Amelie. At Boucherie du Bac, a shop so narrow that it’s crowded with just three people inside, you can buy a full or half rotisserie chicken, complete with several scoops of roasting juices inside the carry-out bag. Inside the shop, there is a small selection of roasted, mashed, and dauphinoise potatoes. I grabbed a kilogram of the dauphinoise potatoes, an incredibly rich and cheesy treat that I feasted on for three meals at home.
7. Franprix Supermarket
If you want your roasted chicken and potatoes in a bit more of a park-friendly format to eat right away, kitty-corner to the boucherie is a Franprix supermarket. If you enter off Rue du Grenelle, you’ll notice a small kiosk of packaged hot foods towards the back right-hand corner. If you’re lucky, there are takeout trays of roast chicken with potatoes for just a few euros. I suspect they’re a hot item in more ways than one, as they often sold out over lunchtime.
Pro Tip: Want a quick backup plan in case the supermarket is out of their amazing chicken? Pastavino is a little Italian-influenced café and shop that sells a long list of tempting French-Italian sandwiches from a takeout window. There’s always a line but it moves quickly.
8. Everyday Necessities
If it’s practicalities you need, in addition to the supermarket, you’ll also find a Nespresso coffee store, a pet supply store, a nail salon, a large pharmacy, bakeries, produce stands, convenience stores, and several opticians (one of whom generously helped me out when I had a problem with my glasses).
9. Le Bon Marche And La Grande Epicerie
Rue du Bac concludes at Paris’ most famous shopping center, Le Bon Marche, and its sister shop, La Grande Epicerie. This is department store shopping, Parisian style, and browsing is thankfully free. La Grande Epicerie is a gorgeous food emporium, but I’ve heard Parisians say that they would never buy their baguettes or pâté there. In general, better prices and quality are in the smaller shops but it’s still tons of fun to look at.
10. Rue Du Bac Is Friendly
Ever hear that Parisians aren’t friendly? It’s not true! Rue du Bac shopkeepers were effusive with thanks when I stopped to help a senior who dropped their bag, gave me warm smiles when I asked if I could take photos of their shops, and never hesitated to point me in the right direction when I was lost. Polite greetings, like saying “Bonjour” and “Merci, au revoir” as you enter and exit shops, are an integral part of French life and this is the perfect street to practice.
For more information on traveling to Paris, check out these articles: