One of the oldest areas of Paris, the fifth arrondissement contains an incredible abundance of romantic places. Much more than the touristy streets of the Latin Quarter, the district spreads south from Notre Dame, up past the Pantheon and down towards the 13th and 14th arrondissements. Its ancient streets contain the few remnants of the Roman town of Lutetia, medieval religious fixtures, the historic core of the Sorbonne University, beguiling squares and an array of living culture in the form of art house cinemas and curious bookstores—it was extremely hard to narrow it down to 10 places! Enjoy the perfect romantic stroll by including some of the following magical spots around the neighborhood.
Most Romantic Historic Site
The district has a number of interesting historic sites and among its very oldest is its most romantic: the Arènes de Lutèce. Hidden away from the street and reachable via a doorway from the street, the remains of the city’s Roman era arena are now a public park ideal for a romantic break. You can settle in on the stone “stands” to ponder what it was like to attend a gladiator match here, stretch out for a sunny snooze with your chéri/e or find a secret bench amidst the trees for a cuddle.
Most Romantic Street
It was very difficult to choose just one romantic street in the area, because the 5th has so many tiny and historic streets. There is a particularly romantic network of these hugging the south and east sides of the Pantheon. So if we have to pick one, I would choose the small rue St-Etienne-du-Mont. Extending along the church of the same name, whose tower and steps starred in Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris, the pedestrian lane is especially romantic at night. Plus on the one side it has soaring views of the Pantheon (another great site of the 5th to check off your list) and on the other ends at rue Descartes. You can turn right, look up at number 45 for a section of the old city wall) and shortly you’ll arrive in the pretty Place de l’Entrescarpe. You can have a drink on one of the squares lively cafés or carry on down picturesque rue Mouffetard.
Most Romantic Mysterious Place
The ancient streets of the 5th arrondissement must contain tons of secrets—one of them is found on the narrow l’impasse Maubert. Located a stone’s throw from the Seine, this little cul de sac was once known as l’Impasse d’Amboise, named after the 14th-century l’Hôtel d’Amboise which previously stood here, then later in the 1800s it took on the name of the large square down the street. For a time, the building housed a gang of professional potion makers… more precisely poison makers… made by female alchemists(!). Hopefully these medieval “lady killers” also made love potions. Either way this alley is the perfect place to steal a kiss and see if your partner falls under your magic spell.
Most Romantic Garden
The fifth district contains one of the loveliest larger gardens of Paris, le Jardin des Plantes, which is admittedly very beautiful, however, it’s also rather popular, so I’ve chosen a smaller garden for this article: Square Paul-Painlevé. Sitting in between the Sorbonne and the l’Hôtel de Cluny, one of the only Medieval civic buildings of Paris and now home to the Medieval Museum (which is soon to reopen after extensive renovations), the garden is a quiet oasis in the neighborhood. Nestled down on one of the park’s benches and take in the building’s intricate gothic features and gargoyles. You can extend your lovers’ moment on the other side of the museum, which houses a garden dotted with plants used for medicinal purposes back in the Middle Ages and views of the remains of the Roman baths. Though be warned the latter park is noisier due to the traffic from the busy boulevards which flank it and the kids who play here after school.
Most Romantic Café
For an enchanting and exotic escape, lead your lover to the magical café of the Grande Mosquée de Paris. The centre of France’s Muslim community, the Grand Mosque was built from 1922-1926 by the French State as a token of gratitude to the Muslim soldiers who fought for France in WWI. The attractive tea salon, set in both the courtyard and a Moorish decorated interior, provides a tranquil ambiance for a romantic moment, especially if you come in the afternoon during the week. An original date idea, you can share some mint tea, North African cakes and even a hookah.
Most Romantic View
There are several romantic panoramas in the area, but it’s hard to beat the view from the rooftop of the Institut du Monde Arabe. Strategically located near the above Grande Mosquée, the contemporary building was designed by famed French architect Jean Nouvel and opened in 1986 with the objective of promoting the culture of the Arab world. There’s a charge to enter the museum (worth having a look if you’re interested in art and history), however, it’s completely free to enter the building and take the lift up to the top floor. Here you’ll find a spacious terrace with stunning views over the back of Notre Dame, the Seine, and, from certain vantage points, even the Eiffel Tower. On your way back down, stop to admire the windows, modern metal versions of Arabic windows which are meant to adjust to let just the right amount of light it. They might not always be working, but they are still cool to inspect.
Most Romantic Shop(s)
The literary roots of the fifth district go back more than millennium via the former religious colleges which were scattered around the area. Here monks dedicated long hours to copying illuminated manuscripts and assiduously studied scriptures, practices which led to the founding of the Sorbonne University in 1257. The monks were replaced by the printing press whose reproductions gradually filled the area’s bookshops. While a sadly dying breed, there are still a number of wonderful bookstores in the area, my two favorite romantic ones (for English speakers) being big name Shakespeare and Company and the more offbeat Abbey Bookshop.
A Parisian institution, Shakespeare’s is often buzzing with people, that said, you’ll find a more romantic ambiance in the evenings. Go upstairs and imagine what it must have been like to stay overnight in one of the tiny beds, which passing through budding writers, called Tumbleweeds, were once allowed to do. Situated a few short blocks away on a tiny street of the Latin Quarter, the Abbey Bookshop is a true gem. Hailing from Toronto, Brian Spence has been selling and promoting English new and used books in his whimsical shop since 1989. An adventure in books and more … which could involve a free cup of “Canadian coffee,” an impromptu apéro (like the one pictured above in the presence of Heather Stimmler of Secrets of Paris Brian, me, a few characters of my books and Abby De Bruyne of Set in Paris – see below) or a stack of books falling on your head—it’s quite literally overflowing with charm.
Most Romantic Bar
I don’t often go out for drinks in the 5th district, so I sought inspiration from the excellent Paris Cocktail App, by our friends at 52 Martinis. The app is a great resource to help you find the perfect Paris bar and it’s free for a limited time only (learn more about it and their favorite romantic bars in Paris here). Their suggestion for the a romantic bar in the fifth is just perfect. Located in the south part of the arrondissement, Solera was opened by Christopher Gaglione, the former head bartender of the luxurious Prince de Galles hotel. Its chic and sultry decor are well matched with its creative cocktails and tapas, the perfect combination for a seductive date in the district. Before you leave the area, be sure to stop to gaze up at the Val de Grace church, another favorite romantic place in the district.
Most Romantic Restaurant
There are a few really romantic restaurants in the area, I’m going to cheat and include two. The first is the uber romantic, Le Coupe-Chou. The romantic ambiance begins even from the outside as you arrive on the small laneway where it’s located, just south of the Pantheon. Inside, the cozy ambiance is accentuated by plush arm chairs, wooden beams a toasty fireplace in winter or enjoy the quiet street on their small terrace in summers. Its menu of French classics with a contemporary twist is a tad pricey, but comparable to other good quality restaurants in the city. A very commendable second choice, that’s a little cheaper and more laid back, is the Fourmi Ailée. I’ve been going to this restaurant, and its twin in Montmartre, for years and have even had some dates here. The lovely romantic vibe might not have sparked true love, however, we won’t blame it on the cozy dining room of this former tea salon. Read more about it and some of my favorite vegetarian restaurants here.
Most Romantic “Place With It All”
As always, this is category is a tricky one to narrow down, but there are few places in the 5th which exude so much varied romance in one place as the Quai de la Tournelle. This stretch along the Seine River is a mere block behind Notre Dame, yet it gets a fraction of the crowds found a mere 20 meters further west. From here you can admire exquisite views of the cathedral from both the river bank and street level. To complete its splendour, the Quai is home to a row of the Paris’ famous bouquinistes book sellers, La Nouvelle Seine boat which has a reasonably priced restaurant with an unobstructed view of Notre Dame and a fun cabaret show on Friday nights and the headquarters and café of Set in Paris. The run great tours of places “Set in Paris,” including a movie tour, a market walk and Coco Chanel’s Paris. In addition, they also have a fantastic café, open during the day through apéro time. You can enjoy those spectacular views of the Quai from their terrace or cozy up with your sweetheart on the interior’s red velour sofas. Otherwise you can also simply pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks from the shops at nearby Place Maubert and sit down by the Seine for a picnic, especially beautiful on summer evenings with the setting sun descending over Notre Dame.
Happy Romancing in the 5ème! You can use the below Google Map to discover these places and if you’re looking for more unique romantic places in Paris, check out the other articles in the series:
And there are lots more ideas for cool romantic outings in my Paris date ideas section here.