Visit the saffron fields on the roof of the Opera

March 17, 2024
2024-03-16 11.01.54-2

This city never fails to surprise. Who would have expected to find fields of saffron on the roof of the Bastille Opera? And that’s not the only place in Paris where the ‘red gold’ is cultivated. There are four rooftops in total where saffron flowers grow. They are all run by the du Bessey sisters, Amela, Louise, Philippine and Bérengère, who share a passion for the luxury spice.

Popular in French cuisine

Contrary to what one would expect from such an expensive product, saffron crocuses are fairly low-maintenance, making them perfect for urban farming. Apart from October and November, when the flowers bloom in a matter of hours and sometimes minutes, making organization key to harvesting, they pretty much take care of themselves. Thanks to the frequent rains in Paris (at least someone is benefiting from our crappy weather), they don’t need watering either.

The most famous saffron dish in traditional French cuisine is bouillabaisse, a fish soup from Provence, but it has also become a sought-after ingredient in modern cuisine, often used to enhance sauces and desserts. Chefs who favor local products appreciate the it-couldn’t-get-any-shorter circuit of the first Parisian saffron. You can taste it, for example, at Lucas Carton.

One of fours Parisian saffron farms on the roof terrace of the Bastille Opera in March.

Visit the saffron fields and help with the harvest

You can visit the rooftop at Bastille on an exclusive tour led by one of the sisters herself – saffron-flavored snacks and spectacular views included! It’s important to note, however, that the tours are in French, and if you want to take one, you’ll need to book in advance, as they’re quite popular. In October, you can even help harvest the delicate flowers. You can book both the tour and the harvesting workshop through the website of Bienélevées, as the company is officially known.

If you don’t manage to get a spot – or don’t speak French – you can still get your hands on some real Parisian saffron at Monoprix at 42 rue Daviel in the 13th arrondissement, just below one of their rooftops, or, for a more central location, at the Bring France Home souvenir boutique in the Marais.

Dried saffron flowers from the rooftop garden at Opera Bastille.

Other products made in Paris

Saffron isn’t the only food product that rooftops are used for. There are about 700 beehives on Parisian rooftops, some of them above restaurants that produce and use their own honey, and many rooftops have entire fruit and vegetable gardens. On the ground, there is a small vineyard in Montmartre. Admittedly, Parisian wine is pretty terrible, but you can go for the saffron or the honey without hesitation.

Do Paris differently

Why share your experience with thousands of other tourists when you can have a unique trip that not only gives you a real, authentic Paris experience, but is also 100% tailored to you? Get your personalized guide to live Paris like a Parisian.