There are plenty of romantic places in Paris, however, many of these are overrun with other couples, children playing or mobs of tourist groups. If you are looking to take in some unique historical sites in Paris, in addition to some sweet kisses, surprise your sweetheart by stopping in at one of these rather hidden romantic spots. And yes, smooching benches provided!
Square Henri Galli
Impress your history loving chéri/e by showing them what’s left of the Bastille Prison. Yes, lots of people who come to Paris exit the Bastille métro station and say “Hey! Where’s the fortress?” Well, it was torn down during the Revolution, smaller artefacts were actually sold off as collector’s items during revolutionary times like chunks of the Berlin Wall (okay, I admit I was one of the suckers that bought one of those when I was in Berlin age 20). A good deal of the blocks went towards building the Concorde Bridge (crossing the Seine from Place de la Concorde to l’Assemblée Nationale), and then there is a collection hidden in the shrubs of this little park. Mind you it’s a somewhat small collection of blocks, but it’s a veritable section of the infamous prison: the “Liberté” tower which was uncovered in 1899 at the start of rue Saint-Antoine during the construction of the métro line 1 and subsequently moved here. The charming little park has some benches perfect for a little snack, perhaps a brioche with thoughts to Marie Antoinette’s “Let the eat cake,” which helped enflame the era’s revolutionary fever.
Address: 9 bd Henri IV, 75004
Métro: Sully Morland or Bastille
Gardens Across & Behind Hotel de Sens
You’ve got two-for-one romantic places at one of my favorite historic sites in the whole city: the Hotel de Sens. One of the last buildings constructed in the Gothic style in Paris, it was built as the city mansion for the bishops of Sens. There is actually some passion connected to the building, and no, not stemming from the monks. To help pay the bills, part of the building was rented out to the sultry Reine Margot. The rejected first wife of Henri IV, and daughter of Henri II and Catherine de Medici, lived in the house in 1605 while awaiting her new city mansion to be built over on the Left Bank. Divorced she may have been, without a man by her side, she was not… or rather several! It was allegedly during her stay here that a 20-year-old lover assassinated her new 18-year-old lover in a fit of jealousy. Margot would have none of that behavior and promptly had the assailant also executed. Yikes! Enjoy a safer romantic moment in the little garden tucked in the trees across the street, or make your way to the more public, but ever so splendid garden at the back (pictured at the top), both with ideal lovers’ nooks. It’s also not so far from the first on the list so you could do both in one outing.
Address: 7 Rue des Nonnains d’Hyère, 75004
Métro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie
Arènes de Lutèce
I said hidden, I didn’t say completely secret. There is no question that the Arènes de Lutèce, one of the few Roman-era remains in the city, isn’t one of the most “hidden” historic sites in the city. In fact, if you think your amour has never been or heard of it, surprise him or her by entering through the passageway at 49 rue Monge (instead of well marked rue de Nevers side) and you’ll definitely achieve the wow factor as you discover the large circular space behind a row of Parisian buildings. Built in the 1st century AD, the amphitheater could fit up to 17,000 spectators. It was located next to the Roman city of Lutetia which extended mainly from the Seine to where the Pantheon current stands. Much of the arena’s blocks were repurposed over the centuries before being filled in around 1210 during the construction of the Philippe Auguste wall. It was rediscovered in the 1860s while building the adjacent Rue Monge, but was saved at the end of the century, in part thanks to cultural heritage hero Victor Hugo. It’s been a public park since 1896 and is an excellent place to bask in the sun before taking a little wander in the not-so-trafficked paths of the garden (cue stealing a kiss along the way).
Address: 49 rue Monge, 75005
Métro: Place Monge
Expiatory Chapel – Square Louis XVI
Hidden a tiny side street a mere few blocks over from the hustle and bustle of the Opera district is one of the city’s most curious and lesser known sites. The Madeleine cemetery used to occupy the land of this now quiet treelined square. It was here where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were buried after being guillotined in 1793 in nearby Place de la Concorde. Their bodies were moved to the Cathedral of Saint Denis (where most royals are buried) in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy. The cemetery was replaced by the Expiatory Chapel, a homage to the beheaded royal couple and funded by their daughter, Marie-Therèse and the next king, Louis XVIII and completed in 1826. In the crypt there’s a black and white marble altar above the spot where the royal remains were found. The chapel can be visited most weekends, however, the little park, with its cozy benches, is open daily. Albeit slightly macabre, it’s an intriguing romantic place to visit.
Address: 29, rue Pasquier, 75008
Metro: Saint Augustin, Saint Lazare, Havre Caumartin
Port Royal Cloister
You would never guess walking past the Cochin Hospital that, hidden behind its walls, is one of the prettiest secret gardens of Paris. One of the hospital buildings was actually an abbey first constructed in 1626. It became a center for the strict Catholic Jansenism order and long or short term residence of a number of important aristocratic ladies. During the revolution it was closed down and used as a prison from 1790-95 (not like the revolutionaries really needed more prisons!). It was then converted into a maternity ward and thus it’s not surprising the it developed into a full hospital. Surprise your date by not telling him/her where you are going (they are surely bound to wonder!). Whisper to the security control that you would like to visit the cloister (“On peut visiter la cloitre?”) they will wave you in, then walk on the right side on the building that is right there. You can reach the cloister through middle door to find a beautiful tranquil garden bordered by arches and rose gardens. You can savor the tranquility for a moment on one of the benches, mind you a few patients and hospital staff are milling to and fro.
Address: Via the entrance of the hospital at 123 Bd Port Royal, 75014
Metro: RER B Port Royal