In a cozy bakery in Boston’s South End, where sticky buns drip with caramel pecans and donuts are sold out by noon, a cheeky sign above the register proclaims: “Make life sweeter—eat dessert first.”
There’s no arguing with pastry chef Joanne Chang, whose Flour bakery sees crowds lining up as early as 7 a.m. for her signature treats. Indeed, the best places for dessert inspire you to throw out all the rules—eat with moderation, save the best for last—and give in to sugary bliss, no matter what the time of day.
We surveyed the globe for the finest desserts, such as ricotta-and-chocolate-stuffed pastries in Rome and the “mango avalanche” in Taipei, shaved ice piled high with fresh fruit, mango pudding, and sorbet. Whether as an antidote to a long day of exploring or a quick pick-me-up between sightseeing stops, these sweets can define their destination in just one bite.
Mr. Minsch, Berlin
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The vibe is Mad Hatter meets 1950s hausfrau at this Kreuzberg takeout bakery, where master pastry chef Andreas Minsch turns out his extravagant confections. You’ll be hard-pressed to choose between an enormous cinnamon roll or a slice of the popular Black Forest cherry cake.
Cristalli di Zucchero,
Adjacent to a farmers’ market just off the Circus Maximus is a pretty-in-pink pasticceria where Parisian-style tartlets are made with regional ingredients like apricots and pistachios. Order the flaky ricotta-and-chocolate-filled Romanella at the counter with an espresso—then get another one to go.
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream,
Behind a distinctive lavender façade on Inman Square, the shop’s intense, exotic flavors (more than 50 each day) include burnt sugar, licorice, honey-lavender, apple cider, and cinnamon-spiced Mexican chocolate.
For the city’s best knafeh, follow the queue down an alleyway near downtown’s Arab Bank. The generous pockets of shredded phyllo and sweet cheese are crowned with local pistachios and syrup, and served piping hot.
Ignore the candy-colored popsicles up front. What you want is the “mango avalanche”—shaved ice piled high with cubes of fresh fruit, mango pudding, condensed milk, and mango sorbet. It’s enough for four dainty eaters or two ravenous ones.
Even the most jaded epicurean succumbs to the Willy Wonkaesque sense of wonder at this haven for the cocoa-obsessed. Lose yourself amid the shelves of chocolate bars, truffles, and pralines—some house-made, some globally sourced—then sign up for a class in creating your own.
Though it’s welcomed plenty of tourists over its 137 years—not to mention habitués like Freud, Lenin, and Trotsky—the utterly grand café inside the majestic Palais Ferstel is known among pastry-obsessed Wieners for serving the best, flakiest strudel in town.
Lamingtons at Flour & Stone,
At bite-size bakery Flour & Stone, these quintessentially Aussie squares of vanilla sponge cake, slathered in chocolate icing and dusted in coconut, come stuffed with panna cotta and berry compote.
Loong Fatt Eating House & Confectionary,
A tiny bakeshop with superior tau sar piah, crumbly sesame-seed-encrusted pastries filled with sweet or savory bean paste.
In the laid-back Tin Hau neighborhood, groups of boisterous families head to this cheery café for traditional Asian desserts, including terrific tong shui (sweet Cantonese soups and custards), durian-and-tofu pudding, and our favorite: super-rich black-sesame ice cream.
See more of the best desserts in the world.