Many consider Paris to be the most romantic city in the world and with good reason. There is a wide array of romantic things to do in Paris, something to suit all interests, tastes and ages. As such, it maybe be hard to decide what to do when planning a romantic trip to Paris, however, I’ve pulled together a well-balanced itinerary, combining romantic places to stroll, secret spots, great bistros and seductive bars, for a perfect romantic weekend in Paris. There’s also a Google Map at the end to help with your exploring.
Friday Night, Dinner Date
If you’re arriving on the Friday, I would suggest getting your romantic weekend off to a great start with a special dinner. This can be had anywhere around the city, however, to include a different part of the city from what is featured in the coming days, you may like to spend your Friday night in the Montorgueil area. Extremely charming and hip, this pedestrian market street gives you a quintessential Parisian feel, which is also buzzing with locals. The side streets have plenty of restaurants as well as cool bars.
Poulette is a great local bistro set within a marvelous Art Nouveau decor, or for beauty on a budget, try the Petit Bouillon Pharamond which also has a gorgeous Art Nouveau design and a very reasonably priced menu (no reservations). For excellent contemporary cuisine, in the area there’s Pirouette and Baltard at the Louvre. If you would like to add on drinks in the area, there’s Mabel or further north, Jacques at the Hoxton is perfect for stylish drinks. You can also combine drinks, dinner and a comedy show at Le Fridge, a cool comedy venue in the area (which sometimes has English comedians).
The Montorgueil area is also not far from the Seine, the ideal place for a romantic twilight stroll. The riverside is so beautiful at night with the twinkling lights on the water. If you can walk from around Pont Neuf to the Pont Alexandre III, then you’ll be able to take in some of the most spectacular vistas of Paris and its most beautiful bridge. There are also great views of the Eiffel Tower from the riverside and on the bridge. If you want a last drink, hop across the river to the Les Berges promenade, where there are some lively barge bars, like Rosa Bonheur with seating along the river too.
Saturday Morning, Left Bank Wanderings
Start your Saturday over on the Left Bank, with a walk up rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest roads in Paris. The bottom section of Mouffetard is a lovely street market, with a number of excellent food shops, ideal for picking up lunchtime picnic supplies. Goodies in hand, continue climbing until you reaching the charming Place de la Contrescape, which adds to the village-like feel to the area.
Take rue Cardinal Lemoine (straight right), and stop to gaze up at #74. This is where Ernest and Hadley Hemingway first lived in Paris, described in his memoir A Moveable Feast. Turn left on the next street, rue Clovis, where you can spot a section of the city wall built around from city from the 1190s jutting out of the buildings on the left side of the street. At the next street turn right then cross and take the next left to walk along the romantic lane, rue Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. This runs along the beautiful late-Gothic, early Renaissance church Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, at the end of the street and at the corner of the church is a set of steps, the ones the character “Gil” sits on awaiting for magic to happen in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris, above which is the churches quirky clock-bell tower.
Go around the corner to admire the churches facade, or pop inside as its interior is quite pretty and hosts the remains of one of Paris’s patron saints, Geneviève. However, you might be distracted by the towering building on the right, the awe-inspiring Panthéon. A national monument and final resting place of France’s greatest heroes, you could take a quick look inside, especially to climb up into the dome to admire its spectacular views of Paris, an alternative to going up the busy Eiffel Tower.
The wide rue Soufflot, which has sneaky views of the Eiffel Tower at the top, takes you down to the beguiling Luxembourg Gardens, one of Paris’s loveliest parks. These were originally the private gardens of Queen Marie de Medici’s 17th century palace, found on the north side of the garden. This side of the park has a nice outdoor café, just in time for a mid-morning coffee break, or you can also go around to the other side of the Senate where there is a branch of the famous café Angelina. Be sure to admire the Medici Fountain, located on the right side of the Senate, before you leave.
From here, weave your way through the quieter streets of the Saint-Germain area until you reach the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Across the street, to the right of its intersection with the Carrefour de l’Odéon and rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, is an archway. This will take you into the hidden Cour du Commerce-Saint-André, a cobbled alley home to the oldest café in Paris, Le Procope and another relic of the former city wall, this time a large watchtower, which you can see if you peer in through the window of the closed café with the grey facade, a little down and across from Le Procope.
More alluring streets, lined with art galleries and small shops, lead you to the Seine River and Le Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris dating back to the early 1600s which also has wonderful views over the river and central Paris. If you had picked up picnic supplies, you can settled down for lunch with stunning views over the city, either at the tip of the Ile-de-la-Cité in the Square de Vert-Gallant or along the Seine on the Right Bank. If you’d rather a sit down lunch, suggestions to below.
Saturday Afternoon, Hidden Gardens & Passageways
Crossing through the courtyards of the Louvre, you’ll reach the Palais Royal, home to a hidden garden which marries history, art and natural beauty. It also has double chairs which have snippets of poems on them, a fun place for a break! The park also has various cafes and restaurants, for a takeaway coffee, there’s the café Kitsune. For restaurants, in the northwest corner is the stylish but relaxed Muscade, which has a nice terrace overlooking the garden, while in the other northern corner is the Restaurant du Palais Royal, which has one Michelin star. Lastly, on the north side is Le Grand Vefour, which has been a restaurant, albeit with different names since 1784. Once a two Michelin-starred establishment, its chef Guy Martin has decided to shift the concept of the restaurant and will be serving market based cuisine at more reasonable prices so more people will be able to enjoy the stunning venue. Alternatively, there is the Bistrot Vivienne in our next stop, it’s a lovely historic restaurant with a pretty decor.
After the Palais Royal, spend some time exploring the historic covered passageways of the Opera district, full of charm and surprises. Start with the gorgeous Galerie Vivienne. Opened in 1826, it features a graceful neo-classical, Pompeian style decor with mosaics, reliefs of goddesses and nymphs, atop which is a glass canopy, allowing beauty natural light to descend into the shopping arcade. It has nice small designer boutiques and two historic shops, Cave Legrand, a wine shop and bar opened in 1880 and the Librarie Jousseaume, a bookshop as old as the passageway.
From here weave your way through the neighborhood to visit a few more of these covered passageways. The Passage des Panoramas, although slightly run down, has plenty of charm. Then across the boulevard is the picturesque Passage Jouffroy and the Passage Verdeau found just afterwards. If you have a little more energy, around a ten minute walk from here is the Opera Garnier, lovely to see even from the outside. Behind are Paris’s two famous department stores, which I wouldn’t normally suggest going to on a romantic weekend, however, they each sport breathtaking views from their free rooftop viewing decks. Going inside the Galeries Lafayette also allows you to gaze up at its stunning stained glass dome.
Saturday Night in SoPi & Montmartre
Get your evening kicked off with a cocktail in one of the hip neighborhood of South Pigalle’s seductive cocktail bars, occupying former escort girl bars or bordellos, like Lulu White, Dirty Dick, Le Lipstick or the posher bar of the Maison Souquet (more on these in this article).
Or, this area is also at the edge of Montmartre, which is perfect for a romantic evening stroll, once the day-time tourists have gone. You could end your evening with a nightcap at L’Hotel Particulier, a chic hotel within a private garden, or at the Terrass Hotel‘s rooftop bar, from where you can take in the twinkling Eiffel Tower from afar.
Sunday Morning, Marais Meanderings
Sunday morning head over to the Marais, one of the loveliest and most romantic historic districts of Paris. The neighborhood is dotted with secret gardens, pretty squares and former private mansions. The spectacular Place des Vosges is a must, then of my favourite secret gardens in the area, I suggest tracking down Square Saint-Gilles du Grand Veneur, Jardin Rosiers – Joseph Migneret, the Square George Cain (less hidden but lovely nonetheless), and the gardens of the archives (more on it below)
Many of the area’s historic homes are now museums, including the recently restored Musée Carnavalet, the City of Paris History Museum. I also recommend the Musée Cognacq-Jay, a smaller museum created by a couple, the Cognac-Jays who founded the Samaritaine department store and had a fabulous collection of 18th century paintings and decorative arts, many with a romantic theme typical of the Rococo period.
For a different cultural, and romantic experience in the area, I highly recommend popping into the National Archives museum at the Hotel de Soubise. The grand mansion was begun in 1700, commissioned by the Prince and Princesse de Soubise. The Princess was a mistress for King Louis XIV and it is thought that their affair, and consequently the gifts bestowed upon her by the king, funded it. The interiors are stunning, like a mini Versailles (small entrance fee). Then to the right of the courtyard is an entrance into a collection of hidden gardens.
There are some great bistros in the area, like GrandCoeur (big heart), which has market based cuisine and beautiful courtyard. Other great options are Jaja, within a small courtyard and with a modern French menu, or Griffon, which found within a historic and very quiet courtyard, it’s more casual but delicious! Alternatively, you may like to simply get a falafel to go on rue des Rosiers, the historic hub of Jewish Paris, and eat it in Rosiers gardens.
Sunday Afternoon, along the Canals
After lunch, wander north through the district to reach the Canal Saint-Martin. The picturesque waterway is lined with funky boutiques, street art and modern cafés, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. At the end of this canal you hit the Basin de la Villette, the beginning of a second canal, the Canal du l’Ourcq. It’s also nice for strolling or you can even rent out small boats from the Marin de l’Eau Douce to add some fun to your outing.
Finish off your stroll with a late afternoon drink and one of its relax bars, like the quirky Pavillon des Canaux, found within a former lock keeper’s house or a drink or meal at Gustu, a contemporary restaurant and bar within the historic Rotonde de Stalingrad, at the beginning of the Basin de la Villette. If you still have more energy… the Parc de la Villette is located a short walk away!