Have you ever fallen in love with a city? I have. Twice. The first time, I was nineteen, and I fell for Paris; the second time, I was twenty-five, and I fell for Los Angeles. I still love these two cities to the point where I get tears in my eyes writing about them. I ended up in Cape Town thanks to a promise my seventeen-year-old self made to help kids, but I do as much business as I can in L.A. and Europe.
This summer, I’m returning ‘home’ to Paris to do some research for a script I’m writing, so I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite romantic spots around the city. I also dug out some new ones that I will visit when I go there—and so should you. They’re fabulous.
1. Notre Dame at sunrise
This is one of those tips I can share because of personal experience. Notre Dame at sunrise, when the rest of the world is still sleeping (that’s to say, it needs to be late spring/summer, or the rest of the world will be wide awake at sunrise), is marvelous.
Take in the view of a beautiful cathedral that’s over 800 years old as the sun rises and you (possibly) have a champagne breakfast. Can you beat it? Remember to stand at point zero while you’re there. It’s the place where all roads in France start. That’s to say, you count the distance from that one spot—all roads don’t necessarily start there.
Once the sun is up and the stores are open, head to Shakespeare & Co. and buy one book each for each other. Touristy or not, you have to visit Shakespeare & Co. Besides, once you have the books in hand, you just stroll to the Jardins du Luxembourg and sit and read while basking in the sunshine. The park is as romantic as they come with its old statues and little ponds.
The nearest métro stop to Notre Dame? Saint Michel or Cité.
2. The Temple of Love
There’s a temple of love in Paris, I kid you not. In a park (Bois de Vincennes), with a lake (Lac Daumesnil) and on an island (Île de Reuilly), there is a temple of love, le Temple Romantique. It’s the perfect sunset date. But wait, there’s more. According to MessyNessyChic.com, “To the left of the kiosk, you’ll find a rocky stairway down to the shore of the lake where a dreamy grotto awaits.”
The nearest métro stop? Michel Bizot.
3. Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur
Head to métro stop Abbesses in the early evening to check out the “I Love You Wall” (“Le mur des je t’aime’’) where ‘I love you’ is written in 250 different languages! After that, get lost in the alleyways where there are traditional French patisseries, charcuteries and fromageries. Then, walk over to Sacré-Cœur and watch the glittering lights of the city just after sunset.
After taking in the breathtaking sight of Paris at night, walk down the hill towards Pigalle (not all the way to Pigalle unless you want to head to the Moulin Rouge and explore the red light district), and have a bite at one of the many bustling bistros in Montmartre. There are some quirky ones serving fondue should that tickle your taste buds, or just grab a glass of wine in one of the many trendy boho bars.
If you fancy taking in the sights by day, sunrise by Sacré-Cœur and breakfast in one of the many nearby patisseries isn’t half bad—nor is visiting a surviving vineyard in Montmartre called Clos de Montmartre. Next to it, you will find a very cute, pink café, suitably named La Maison Rose. I’m thinking they serve a nice rosé with their tea?
Also, if there during the day, be sure to pay a visit to the Musée de la Vie Romantique, home of art from the romantic era. It happens to be a picturesque little place with a nice garden where you can sip tea.
4. The Seine
The Seine is made for romance. If you stroll along it at night, the beautiful lights in the city will mesmerize you. Pont de Alma is my personal favorite to stand on at night, gazing out over the river and the sparkling lights surrounding it. Of course, if you want to lock your love (lovers go there to hang padlocks), there’s the Pont des Arts, which also offers some nice sculptures.
During the day, you can plop your firm bottom down anywhere along the river, open a bottle of red and eat a baguette, or walnut bread (Monoprix has a particularly good walnut bread), together with an assortment of cheeses and some grapes. What else would you eat when on a picnic in Paris?
There’s a bonus for evenings in summer along the Seine if you head to the fifth arrondissement, you will find people dancing tango along the river. You could even join them.
5. Canal Saint-Martin
If you fancy something different from the Seine, take a stroll down Canal Saint-Martin. Here, you will find a beautiful iron foot bridge by the intersection of rue de la Grange and quai de Jemmapes. You will also find the Pink Flamingo here—a pizza place that lets you sit down along the river with a pink balloon so that the bike delivery guy can spot you and hand over the order.
Want a bottle of wine to go with that? Pick it up at Le Verre Volé. It’s as cute as wine bars come, but getting a table is as easy as getting a table at Gordon’s Wine Bar in London, so book in advance if you fancy eating there. Alternatively, eat at Le Chansonnier, an old-fashioned romantic restaurant with traditional French food.
6. Le Louvre
It is touristy, but it’s also one of the most beautiful museums in the world. Come here in the evening when it’s quieter, sit down with a sketch pad somewhere and sketch your lover. No one will raise an eyebrow. This is Paris after all—home of the artists.
There are nooks and crannies of this museum that are a lot less quiet than just by the Mona Lisa (it’s small, and there are crowds of tourists and armies of security). Find a nice quiet spot, and sketch away.
7. Passage des Panoramas
Like old treasures? Head to Passage des Panoramas to browse through vintage boutiques. Then stop for coffee at Philippe Starck’s Caffè Stern – dark, cozy and old fashioned charm.
8. Île Saint-Louis
I would love an apartment on this little island, but if, like me, you haven’t got around to saving up the millions yet, just taking a stroll here will turn you into a romantic fool. I particularly like the island when covered in fog, but to be honest, it’s romantic in all weather conditions, save pouring rain.
You can’t really go wrong in central Paris—almost every street offers something romantic. In addition to the romantic places mentioned in this article, the Marais is an area you need to explore. Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest planned square, is a favorite for many lovers. I find it a bit too square, but I’ve heard that the chocolat chaud at Carette is amazing, and I’m never against good hot chocolate. The rooftop at Le Printemps (the shopping center) is also something you need to see because the view is spellbinding.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Guy de Maupassant’s short stories, book your ticket and off you go.