When I read things like, “the best ice cream in all of France,” “the grand dame of ice cream, ” and “world-renowned ice cream”, you bet it will make it to the top of my list of places to go when traveling, especially in sweltering hot Paris in July! The glacier (ice cream maker) that holds these illustrious proclamations is Berthillon, and I’m here to say, it’s worth a visit!
After wading through the summer crowds at Notre Dame and exiting out the back gardens, I was looking forward to crossing over the small bridge (Pont Saint-Louis) that connects Île de la Cité with Île Saint-Louis. I had read wonderful things about this small little island in the middle of the Seine and wanted to see if the rumors were true. It is said to be a village in itself. A photogenic spot not overrun by tourists and where the inhabitants rarely want to leave. Sounds charming.
As for non-touristy, mostly I agree, except for the lines outside Berthillon. It’s clear that everyone has heard about their famous ice cream and is ready to give it a try. As we stood in line, and read through the flavors, I wondered to myself what makes one ice cream better than another? I’ve had some pretty tasty gelatos in Italy that were right there at the tops, and I’ve enjoyed many scoops of boutique brands in my own backyard of the San Francisco Bay Area (Fenton’s, Swenson’s, Smitten). From a non-food tasting expert, I would suspect the top criteria for good ice cream is flavor and texture. We’ve all had chocolate ice cream that really shouldn’t be considered chocolate, or we’ve had icy ice cream, that seemed to be missing the cream. What a waste of calories!
Well, I’m hear to say that Berthillon doesn’t disappoint. The flavors, of what we tried, were spot on… and from the ooh’s and ahh’s of others licking their cones, I’m betting the rest were just as good (even if some were a bit harder to translate than others.) As for the creaminess, it was divine. Rich and smooth, yet not too heavy to make you regret your one, two, three or even four boule choice (A boule is a scoop, or literally a ball.)
Above is a picture of the flavors we got to choose from, and looking at Berthillon’s website, here is a full list. I must admit, even with my very basic French, I had fun translating the flavors to the 2 behind us in line.
So, even if you aren’t in Paris during a heat wave like we were, I’d still recommend the pilgrimage to Berthillon. It’s worth every rich, delicious calorie!
Note: On the Île Saint-Louis there are many vendors of Berthillon’s ice cream. The real location (and Salon de Thé) is at 29-31 Rue Saint Louis. The day we were there this location was closed, but we still enjoyed Berthillon from a spot selling it one block away.