Travel

You Can't Visit Paris Without Going to This Street

A rare experience of "small town, little village" in one of the best cities in the world.

Photo by Patrick Nouhailler

Welcome to Your Friendly Neighborhood Guide, a series of travel itineraries from locals who love their hometown haunts, nooks, and crannies so much, they're inviting us over for the inside scoop.


When friends visiting Paris ask me for recommendations, I tend to skip the obvious. I assume they’ll find their way to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tour; they’ll sniff out the Laduree or Pierre Hermé macarons and sip some decent wine along the Seine.

If, after ticking off the essentials, they still have time, I recommend they make their way to the Right Bank and check out Rue des Martyrs, a charming market street where the shops are largely small business owners and the shoppers are mostly locals. It’s a rare experience of "small town, little village"—right in the center of Paris.

The first time I visited my husband in Paris, I was pleased to discover that his apartment sat at the bottom of Rue des Martyrs. This was before we got engaged, and I’d be lying if I said this particular detail didn’t help seal the deal. Sure, living in the same country would have been convenient, but nothing guarantees marital happiness like a delicious rotisserie chicken from the local boucherie.

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“The street you show (a) has nothing but a pretty photo op, (b) the people who live on that street have gotten so fed up with having Instagrammers on their doorsteps at all hours that they've asked the city to gate the street, and (c) it looks nothing like rue des Martyrs. As for my own favorite streets, on the predictable side there's rue Mouffetard, especially on a Sunday morning when there's a band playing (sometimes more than one) and people dancing. On the less predictable side is rue Faubourg Saint Denis, which a lot of people seem to think looks like a good place to get stabbed, but you can find amazing cocktails and creative chefs there and on its side streets. Just be choosy about who you make eye contact with if you're a lone male (unless you WANT to be offered sex and/or drugs).”
— Alan
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Rue des Martyrs begins in the 9th district, or arrondissement, in an area that feels residential but is still just a 10-minute walk from the Palais Garnier opera house (and, more importantly, H&M). It creeps uphill through the red lights of Pigalle and ends in Montmartre, right by the “je t’aime” wall—where an artist painted “I love you” in over 300 languages, creating a beautiful message of inclusivity and, more recently, prime Instagram turf. I count myself among the guilty.

The half-mile stretch of Rue des Martyrs is home to over 200 shops and restaurants: boucheries, or butcher shops, produce stands, flower stores, cheese shops, boutiques, bakeries, pastry shops and typical brasseries with illuminated “TABAC” signs outside.

It has all you could ever need, plus plenty of things you will probably rarely need (but you’re glad they’re there just in case)—like a store specializing in all things truffle (the fungi kind) and a patisserie devoted entirely to meringue.

In a city as dynamic as Paris, change is inevitable. Though Rue des Martyrs hasn’t dodged gentrification entirely—big brands like Kiehl's and bobo, or bourgeois-bohème, cafés and shops have joined the mix—the street manages to retain its distinctively neighborhood feel. And that’s why I love it (plus, you know, those rotisserie chickens).

For your next visit to Paris, here are some of my favorite places on and around Rue des Martyrs.


Butcher Shop

1. Chapier François

(4 Rue des Martyrs)

By all appearances, this seems like a standard boucherie—quality meats and clerks who can offer solid advice for your upcoming dinner party menu.

But come Sunday morning, when Parisians start shopping for the week, there’s never not a line outside this particular butcher shop, mainly due to the rotisserie chickens twirling gracefully inside the roasting case. While the farm-raised will set you back 12 euros, the “ordinary” chickens, as they call them, are just 6 euros. So juicy with crispy, perfectly seasoned skin, they’re far from ordinaire in my book.


Bakery

2. Mamiche

(45 Rue Condorcet)

Paris does many sweets incredibly well—cookies isn’t always one of them. Mamiche (like ma miche, which means “my loaf”) rights that wrong. Their classic chocolate chip, filled with gooey chunks of Valhrona dark chocolate and finished with a generous sprinkle of fleur de sel, is cookie perfection.

Mamiche also makes babka, cinnamon rolls, and fruity compote-stuffed donuts, plus traditional and creative loaves—like a recent loaf made with ginger juice, maple syrup, and ginger pieces confit.


Cheese Shop

3. La Souris Gourmande

(5 Rue des Martyrs)

La Souris Gourmande, meaning the gourmet (or gluttonous) mouse, depending on your outlook, is my go-to neighborhood cheese shop. They have a huge selection of cheeses, covering the trifecta of cow, goat, and sheep, that are mostly French but some foreign fromages as well. La Souris Gourmande also has amazing charcuterie, like my personal favorite, the cooked ham or jambon cuit—with some quality butter and a good baguette, you’ve got yourself a beautiful jambon beurre sandwich.

Prices are reasonable and the staff is happy to answer any cheesy questions—like which ones are pregnancy-friendly, or which is best for a raclette.


Coffee

4. KB Café

(53 Avenue Trudaine)

I’m all for the Parisian coffee-on-a-terrace experience—journal in tow, engulfed in a cloud of second-hand smoke, I can imitate my writing heroes.

But, when I’m jonesin’ for a craft coffee nook and a place to hammer away on my laptop, I go to KB café, an Aussie-style coffee shop with solid espresso drinks, fresh-baked goodies like le carrot cake, and daily paninis or les toasties.


Patisserie

5. Sébastien Gaudard

22 Rue des Martyrs

This patisserie, designed in the fashion of a classic French tea salon, makes pastries so pretty that they’re almost hard to eat—almost. Gaudard, whose father started the business in 1955, has been dubbed the Tom Ford of patisserie for his creative pastry designs, like the Mont Blanc, a delicate nest of candied chestnut purée, filled with barely sweetened whipped cream atop an ethereal bed of meringue.

The shop also sells traditional sweets like glazed chestnuts, molded chocolates, sweet biscuits, and jams. With ornate, old-world packaging, they make for a stylish gift to stash in your suitcase.


Café

6. Café Marlette

(51 Rue des Martyrs)

When it comes to a feel-good breakfast or lunch, Paris isn’t brimming with options—but Marlette checks all of the boxes: espresso drinks, fresh-pressed juices, avocado tartines, salad bowls with roasted veggies, and always the option to put an egg on it. (Phew!) They also have baked goodies that are just balanced enough to feel like a good decision, but not too much. Take, for instance, their banana bread: gluten-free and doused in molten chocolate. That’s what I call balance.


Flower Shop

7. Debeaulieu

(30 Rue Henry Monnier)

Since moving to Paris, I find it hard to resist popping into every flower shop. Their outdoor flower displays call to me like sirens—I am powerless to their charm. A few steps from Rue des Martyrs, Debeaulieu is the most tempting of them all.

It’s a carefully curated shop with a unique selection of flowers. Here you can pick up a pineapple lily for your dinner party centerpiece or some bright peonies to cheer up your living room. They’re true artistes de la fleur.

What's YOUR favorite street in Paris? Let us know in the comments below.

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Caitlin is a Paris-based writer and editor.

8 Comments

Gail June 17, 2019
Bizarre that there’s not a mention of Elaine Sciolino’s bestseller, “The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs”!

I lived near rue Clèr in the 7ème for 4+ years and miss it daily. Nothing like a French market street 🇫🇷❤️!
 
Leslie June 16, 2019
Ah, the Instagrammers and their ability to turn quaint, out of the way locations teeming with everyday life into ideal spots for the next Kiehl’s or fill-in-the-blank trendy retailer. Rue des Martyrs is indeed a wonderful street that I discovered in Paris before it became social media fodder (and I say this as someone who uses social media extensively). It’s just that some places are better when discovered on your own and not as a mandatory stop on the Instagram trail.
 
Alan June 12, 2019
Rue des Martyrs is a great choice, but why not illustrate the article with a photo of ... rue des Martyrs? The street you show (a) has nothing but a pretty photo op, (b) the people who live on that street have gotten so fed up with having Instagrammers on their doorsteps at all hours that they've asked the city to gate the street, and (c) it looks nothing like rue des Martyrs.

As for my own favorite streets, on the predictable side there's rue Mouffetard, especially on a Sunday morning when there's a band playing (sometimes more than one) and people dancing. On the less predictable side is rue Faubourg Saint Denis, which a lot of people seem to think looks like a good place to get stabbed, but you can find amazing cocktails and creative chefs there and on its side streets. Just be choosy about who you make eye contact with if you're a lone male (unless you WANT to be offered sex and/or drugs).
 
Danielle June 16, 2019
Yes to rue Mouffetard! I actually thought this Street was going to be the subject of this article.
 
davidpdx June 12, 2019
I think that any article lauding that street needs a nod to Elaine Sciolino’s 2015 bestseller, “The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs”!
 
Eric K. June 12, 2019
Ooh!
 
Wendy June 12, 2019
Merci beaucoup! Hopefully I will pick be able to reference this article soon. My internal GPS in Paris is governed by Pol Roger chocolat locations and I do believe there is one near Rue des Martyrs!
 
Author Comment
Caitlin G. June 12, 2019
Ooooo, thank you for the intel, I'll check it out!