Bordering the Seine River, the hip 11th district and the vast Bois de Vincennes woods, the seemingly sleepy 12th arrondissement is actually dotted with many discreet surprises. Sure, it is indeed residential, nevertheless, it’s also home to one of Paris’ best markets, its best promenade, quirky historic sites and great other lovely delights. Ideal for a leisurely amble with your sweetheart, fall in love with the 12th district by visiting the sites below!
Most Romantic Historic Site
At the end of the lovely Parc de Bercy is the Cour Saint Emilion/Bercy Village, the beautifully restored former wine warehouses of Paris. Built in the 18th century, the location was chosen due to its proximity with the edge of Paris and the Seine River, the means by which wines were brought to Paris, including the prestigious ones from its namesake Saint Emilion. It was refurbished, along with the great Parc de Bercy (see below) which is in front of it, it the 1980-90s when the Bercy Arena was being built. It is now home to a collection of shops and restaurants.
Most Romantic Garden
One of the most underrated park in Paris, the Parc de Bercy offers plenty of delights for a romantic jaunt. Being a rather new park from the 1990s, it also has a more modern layout divided up into three gardens: the Flower beds section,”The Meadows” section and, of course my favorite, the “Romantic Garden”. Here you’ll find fishponds, dunes and an array of benches to cuddle and arching foot bridges. The Meadows section has vast shaded lawns, the best place for a picnic in summer.
Most Romantic Museum
One of the most curious museums in Paris is tucked away in the 12th near Bercy Village. The Musée des Arts Forains is a private museum showcasing an excellent collection of vintage funfair rides and related objects. You might actually recall whimsical venue as one of the party scenes in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The perfect time to go is actually around the holidays when it is decked out in its annual holiday season Festival du Merveilleux. Not only is the venue open every day from 10am-6pm from December 26th to January 7th 2019, it’s beautifully decorated and there will be special performances throughout the day, making this time of year a fantastic and easier way to visit the museum. Alternatively, you can book a space on their guided tours (in summer some are held in English, otherwise they give an English handout) during which you can even take a ride on one of its colorful carousels and merry-go-rounds (reservations required, more info here).
Most Romantic Place to Stroll
The original “High Line,” the Coulée Verte René-Dumont (also known as the Promenade Plantée) runs along an abandoned elevated railway and makes for an excellent romantic stroll. It starts just after the Opera Bastille and actually can take you all the way to the Bois de Vincennes, although you can want to skip off it earlier at the market or restaurant/bar suggestions below. Refurbished in the early 1990s, the verdant walkway includes pergolas of crawling rose, seasonal flowers, towering bamboo groves and nooks with benches made with lovers in mind. The street-level spaces under the tracks is now inhabited with artisanal shops and galleries, so you may want to double back to take a gander in their huge windows.
Most Romantic Waterside Place
I wasn’t sure which category I wanted to put this in, but I didn’t want to miss out on including the Bassin de l’Arsenal. Sure, the 12th arrondissement has a long stretch along the Seine River, yet it certainly isn’t the most picturesque waterside promenade of the city. Instead, the 12th has this lovely pleasure port which is virtually hidden in plain sight. Located just between Place de la Bastille and the Seine, it was built in the early 1800s as part of the Canal Saint Martin. This is the closest thing to a real port you can find in Paris and it feels very much like you’re on the seaside. You can take a meander down it and gaze out at the boats from the park that’s been built along the 12th district side. It’s also the departure point of the Canauxrama boat trips which take you from here underground up to the rest of the Canal. More on that in our guides to the 10th and 11th!
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Vous connaissez la Cour d’Alsace-Lorraine ? Elle est nichée dans une impasse du 12ème arrondissement et abrite des appartements, mais aussi des ateliers aux façades colorées, une maison bourgeoise et l’école d’architecture intérieure, l’école Boulle. 📍67 rue de Reuilly, Paris 12ème. En libre accès. . . 📷 @reinecris #courdalsacelorraine #pariscaché #parissecret #facades #color #parisjetaime #iloveparis #prettycityparis #photography #12e #immeubleparisien #ecoleboulle #homelikehome #homelikeoffice #denicheuseshorspair #courinterieure
Most Romantic Street
While one of the most instagrammed street in Paris is in the 12th, the rue Crémieux is now far from a secret and is now hardly romantic given the flocks of people who descend on it. There are, however, a variety of other extremely charming streets in the 12ème, including the one of selected which is also very colorful. Hidden within the hodgepodge of both modern and older buildings of the Montgallet area is the little gem, la
Most Romantic Place for Foodies
The 12th arrondissement is home to the only outdoor food market open six days a week: Le Marché d’Aligre. That doesn’t necessarily qualify it as romantic, but I can convince you of that. The vibrant neighborhood institution is a fantastic place to discover French market culture, but also to pick up some picnic supplies which you can take to the Promenade Plantée or around the corner to the charming Square Trousseau. It has both an open air section, an offbeat flea market section and the covered Marché Beauvau. Around the market is also an excellent range of other foodie venues like the excellent Blé Sucré patisserie (across from the Square and where can pick up some treats to accompany your picnic) and the eclectic Baron Rouge wine bar, a bit grungy but a local favorite. You can also discover the market on the great tours of it offered by Context Travel, learn more about them at this link.
Most Romantic Classic Restaurant
Not all train station brasseries have been created equally and by far the most beautiful in Paris is found at the Gare du Lyon. Aptly named Le Train Bleu, the vast Belle Epoque dining room takes you back to the grand era of train travel with frescoed walls and guided mirrors. The restaurant was built for the 1900 World’s Fair and was designed by the same architect as the station’s famous clock tower, Marius Toudoire. The menu features beautiful presented French classics with a modern touch, available at lunch within somewhat more reasonable lunch menus. The setting is worth the prices for a special occasion. You can also get a drink or lighter fare at the restaurant’s bar area.
Most Romantic Cool Bar/Restaurant
Few would consider traveling all the way to the 12th to go out, that is until Ground Control moved here from the 18th. What started as a summer pop-up bar occupying former train yard buildings of the SNCF, this permanent version of Ground Control is added a dash of cool to the district. The vast complex includes a number of different atmospheres, all with a hint to its railway origins. You can sip coffee on a rapt bus, have a craft beer in old TGV seats or dig into a killer pizza or more offbeat African dishes in the large hall while making new friends. During the day are workshops and yoga, whereas special events and DJs keep the evening ambiance pumping.
Most Romantic Place with it All
There’s one place in the 12th that could actually provide you with a whole day of romantic fun and that’s the Bois de Vincennes. Part of Baron Haussmann’s new designs of Paris made in the mid 1800s, this is the east end “lungs of Paris” along with its west end counterpart the Bois de Boulogne. You could start out by touring what’s left of the medieval fortress, the Château de Vincennes (well, technically it’s located in Vincennes but the park, within Paris’ city limits is right behind). Then just nearby is the Parc Floral, a beautiful botanical garden best in summer when you can attend a classic or jazz concert on weekend afternoons. Any time of year you can take a romantic boat ride around Lac Daumesnil (don’t miss out on gazing up at or walking up to the Temple of Love). It’s also not far from the unusual Buddhist Temple, the Pagode du bois de Vincennes, located in the former Togo and Cameroon Pavilions of 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition. You can end your time in this lovely woods at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, another remnants of the Colonial Fair, now the Musée de l’Immigration. In addition to interesting exhibits on the different ethnic backgrounds who have migrated to France, it has a range of interesting special events and a pop up bar in summer/autumn (and a cool aquarium).
Happy romancing in the 12th! Find these places via the Google Map below and continue your romantic wanderings in Paris in the other articles in the series:
- 1st Arrondissement
- 2nd Arrondissement
- 3rd Arrondissement
- 4th Arrondissement
- 5th Arrondissement
- 6th Arrondissement
- 7th Arrondissement
- 8th Arrondissement
- 9th Arrondissement
- 10th Arrondissement
- 11th Arrondissement
And you can tons more ideas for offbeat romantic outing ideas in our Paris date ideas section here.