A cruise on the Seine, kissing on the Eiffel Tower, a show at the Moulin Rouge, dinner at the Tour d’Argent…despite the tired clichés, Paris still has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable rendez-vous that fits any couple’s definition of romance.
10. The Place to be Treated like Royalty
Nothing is more romantic than being treated like royalty. Crystal chandeliers, fine linens, antique furnishings, marble baths, the latest technologies discreetly hidden from sight, beds fit for a king… Paris’ historic palace hotels certainly know how to roll out the red carpet. If you agree that marriage proposals on the crowded Eiffel Tower are passé, pop the question to your princess at La Suite Shangri-La, a luxurious 220m² rooftop retreat with a private 100m² terrace overlooking the iconic Parisian monument. Champagne, check. Flowers, check. You know what time it sparkles, right? You can still experience the royal treatment without springing for a room. Enjoy a decadent afternoon tea with piano accompaniment at the Four Seasons George V, a rejuvenating massage for two at Hôtel Meurice’s Spa Valmont, a leisurely feast of a Sunday Brunch at the Hôtel Lancaster, or late-night cocktails at the stylish bar of the Plaza Athénée. To truly experience France’s royal heritage, hire a driver for an unforgettable evening excursion to the countryside. Château Vaux-le-Vicomte offers enchanting candlelight visits, while the Château de Versailles hosts magical Fountains Night Shows in the Sun King’s vast gardens, with Baroque music and a dramatic fireworks display over the Grand Canal.
9. After Dark Art Appreciation
Museums might bring to mind long lines and a blur of endless artworks you feel guilty for not appreciating enough. But done the right way, Paris’ museums are underrated places for couples to appreciate each other in beautiful surroundings. Since groups tend to visit in the mornings, kids tire out early, and almost everyone else is off to dinner, you’ll avoid both ticket lines and crowds. And like night swimming, night museum visits have an intrinsic naughtiness about them. The Louvre’s top floor Richelieu wing of European paintings is practically deserted. The midnight blue walls of the Orsay’s neo-Impressionist gallery are delightfully dark even when July’s sun doesn’t set until 10pm. And even if you’re not into primitive arts, the theatrical lighting of the contemporary Quai Branly Museum adds a bit of drama to any night visit. You could also surprise your lover with a full frontal view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower from the windows of the Cité de l’Architecture on the Place du Trocadero. The Rodin Museum’s vast garden is full of places to discuss the artists’ suggestive sculptures in private. Not that we’re condoning any illicit behavior, but what better place to steal a kiss than in front of The Kiss?
8. Discreet Pleasures
Considering how long couples have been coming to Paris – to propose, to wed, to honeymoon, to celebrate anniversaries, or simply to enjoy a sexy getaway – it’s no surprise the city’s service industry strives to cater to their every fantasy. Over the past five years a new category of designer boutique hotels have been seducing couples with their whimsical themes, large beds and small closets perfect for a weekend rendez-vous. No longer the seedy dives of yesteryear, stylish properties like The Seven and Vice Versa are often decorated by star designers and staffed with friendly yet discreet staff dedicated to helping guests make the most of their evenings. And for those who feel a little more daring when on vacation, couples’-only clubs are another way to add a little spice to your trip. The exotic themed Moon City Sauna has become so popular they’ve added two new locations, and bashful newcomers can test the waters during the festive all-you-can-eat buffet evenings with their friendly Club Med atmosphere. What happens in Paris, stays in Paris.
7. Parisians Want to Seduce You
For the French, seduction isn’t just for the bedroom. They consider the power to seduce an essential skill in everyday life, useful for everything from getting their own way in an argument to winning over clients in business. When Parisians decorate the windows of their boutiques, they’re not simply trying to get the attention of the busy pedestrians rushing past: they aim to seduce. The secret is in the art of presentation — a veritable degree in design schools in France – used to entice, tease, and lure in their customers. Clothing, candies, toys, and artworks…with a whole city of boutique windows designed to please, it’s no wonder the French phrase for window shopping is faire du lèche-vitrines (window licking). Enjoy the priceless pleasures of strolling arm-in-arm past the city’s oldest boutique windows in Les Passages Couverts, historic 19th-century shopping passages pre-dating today’s department stores and shopping malls. The Passage Jouffroy (10 boulevard Montmartre, 9th) and the Galeire Vivienne house unique boutiques, tearooms, art galleries, antique bookshops and local designers, while the shops under the stone arcades of the romantic Palais Royal Gardens are known for their vintage clothing and perfume shops.
6. Exploring à Deux
One of things we love most about Paris is that despite its many grandiose monuments, it remains a human-scaled city perfect for exploring on foot. Forget about maps, itineraries, and couples’ quarrels over whether to ask someone for directions. The true Parisian flaneur – or one who strolls aimlessly – knows that the best way to find the hidden surprises is to simply heed your whims, following any charming cobblestone street or pedestrian passage that tickles your fancy. The scent of freshly baked bread leads to a delightful boulangerie, Parisians with their shopping caddies lead to the bustling open-air market, and a whimsical boutique window leads you into an antique shop too off-the-beaten path to be included in any guidebook. Take turns deciding which way to turn or flip a coin. If you don’t want to leave it completely to chance, start off in the Marais district (known for its many hidden gardens), the Latin Quarter (where you may come across the famous stairs from “Midnight in Paris”), the Butte aux Cailles (often compared to Montmartre “before the tourists”), or Nouvelle Athènes (where a lucky turn down a garden path will lead you to the cottage housing the Musée de la Vie Romantique).
5. World Class Feasting
Romance is so intimately intertwined with drinking and dining that Paris could beat most cities in the world on its culinary heritage alone. It’s not merely the food itself which the French treasure. The actual act of enjoying a gourmet meal in good company – the French répas – is now protected as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage. The French don’t eat and drink to stay alive as much as they live to eat and drink, and sharing the experience with someone you care about only heightens the experience. Both the meal and the company are elevated with each sip of wine and each shared bite of a new dish. And in Paris you can be sure the waiters know well enough to leave couples alone unless they signal for him. Stay at your table as long as you like, you’ll rarely be rushed out to make room for other diners. And don’t overlook more simple pleasures, such as a shared cone of roasted chestnuts from a street vendor in winter, scrumptious pastries consumed with abandon on a park bench, oysters eaten informally from an open-air food market stand, or the traditional Parisian picnic of cheese, bread and wine along the banks of the Seine – don’t forget the corkscrew!
4. Pleasure for Pleasure’s Sake
When it comes to pleasure-seeking, the Parisians don’t just stop at food and drink. Perhaps it’s their Latin roots, but they harbor no guilt when it comes to taking care of themselves in the most self-indulgent fashion. Spas aren’t just for facials and manicures, but for body-awakening massages and treatments that make your skin smooth, silky…sexy. Many spas even offer couples’ treatments where you get a room to yourselves. Try the sensual 28 Spa, with its candlelit pool that gives you the impression of night swimming, or the exotic Ban Thai Spa with its four-hands massage treatments. The French are also completely unashamed when it comes to sexy lingerie. You can’t miss the flamboyant window displays at Fifi Chachnil or Chantal Thomass. Like colorful birds primped to attract a mate, French lingerie uses ruffles, lace, bows, silk and ribbons to flatter, enhance, and make sublime the female form. They neither have to be practical nor invisible beneath your clothing. Au contraire. Parisian women consider lingerie to be a personal pleasure she can enjoy without waiting for special occasions, so it’s not uncommon to see it peeking out from beneath her otherwise conservative outfit, oh la la!
3. Monumental Setting
Never underestimate the power of a romantic backdrop. You have to make some serious efforts to find a view of Paris that isn’t framed by an iconic monument, a Gothic church, a winding medieval street, an elegant wrought iron balcony, or stunning architecture. But don’t let the surroundings distract you from the person standing next to you. Getting photo fatigue? We doubt your partner will argue if, instead of pulling out the camera at every turn, you simply snuggle up and say “Let’s just enjoy this view together for a few moments without the camera, our own private moment in our memory.” Some of the best views aren’t just from the Eiffel Tower (which reduces everything to ant-like proportions anyway). Try the view of the Ile St Louis and Notre Dame from the rooftop of the Institut du Monde Arabe, panoramic views of the Left Bank from the Tour Montparnasse’s 56th floor Champagne bar, Ciel de Paris, or, as an alternative to the overcrowded steps of Montmartre’s Sacré Coeur, try the mime-free viewing terrace at the top of the Parc de Belleville: you actually see more monuments from this angle and there’s not a postcard shop for miles.
2. Publicly Display Your Affection
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Parisians have a soft spot for romance. They may be discreet about many things, but not when it comes to showing off their passionate side. Unlike most American cities where blatant PDA (public displays of affection) is chastised, in Paris holding hands as you walk, cuddling on park benches, and even shamelessly locking lips are not only accepted, but openly admired. There’s even a popular guide book to the best spots for kissing in Paris. We like the Pont des Arts (where Carrie and Mr. Big kiss in the last episode of Sex in the City). You can even hire your own private photographer to immortalize your own Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville (standing on the Pont d’Arcole if you want the same backdrop as Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give).
1. Choose Your Own Adventure
In the end, romance is really a matter of personal taste. The best thing about traveling to Paris with your sweetheart is that you’re not limited to the same cookie-cutter “romantic experience” as everyone else. Sure, this cosmopolitan city has world-class art galleries, antique markets, theatre, opera, fashion houses, live music, dance, wine tasting and cooking classes. But did you know you can also attend a pirate-themed costume party held in medieval cellars? Visit thoroughbred racehorse training grounds in a scenic forest just 35 minutes from the city center? Catch a rowdy performance of the latest up-and-coming burlesque performers in an East Parisian nightclub? Maintain your sporty physiques on a sunrise tour of Paris with your very own running guide? Catch a Saturday night screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or a 1920s silent film with live musical accompaniment in one of the city’s art house cinemas? Attend the latest graphic novel release party at a Steampunk-themed bar? Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Paris metro? Visit the Gothic tomb of the legendary 12th-century French lovers Héloïse and Abélard at Père Lachaise Cemetery? Being able to satisfy almost any desire is what really makes Paris the most romantic city in the world.
Looking for more inspiration? The new edition of Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City is now available in bookstores in the US and Paris, as well as online bookstores. Discover Heather’s insider tips for visiting Paris with your lover, with a group of your best gal pals, or as a woman traveling solo. Includes hotels, dining, shopping, culture and nightlife.
Heather Stimmler-Hall wrote this article for Thai Airline’s February 2013 in-flight magazine, Sawasdee. You can download the PDF (7Mo) with (much better) photos and illustrations here.
Great article, Heather!
I have been to Paris with my partner and It's the most romantic place I have ever seen. Now I am planning to go alone to Paris. I hope my trip turns out well.
Wish I showed this list to my husband before we went to Paris. Prior to our departure, I told him numerous times how I wanted our first trip to Paris to be romantic. He just didn't get the hint. I might as well have gone there with a stranger because he planned nothing special, never told me he loved me, never put his arms around me or kissed me or did anything else to make it seem romantic. In fact, he planned absolutely nothing as part of that trip. I keep blaming myself for expecting too much from him …. when all I really expected was a romantic kiss. I am so deeply hurt that he couldn't even make an attempt at being romantic that I cry every time I think of it. So, my memories of my first romantic trip to Paris are not that great. I can see how romantic the city can be — if you are with the right person. Maybe someday, I'll get back there with that romantic someone — whoever he may be.
Ahh, Paris! Yes, this is a great list. There are lots of things to enjoy there, for everyone's taste. Thank you so much for sharing some of your favorites!
I like your list!
Jenny, They can be if they're not crowded, but it depends which one, what time of day, if there's a theatre show getting out right next door…dinner cruises are only for tourists, but it doesn't mean they're necessarily bad.
I have reading in one other sitethat a visit of 19th century arcades can be a romantic moment.Do you agree with that?Concerning dinner cruises is it really romantic or just a tourist trap?Thanks
Excellent article, and so true… Paris has many faces, and you can find romanticism in all of them ! We Parisians are often described as the champions of romance, I have to say that we have no merit for it, it's all in the air and landscapes of Paris !
Terrific aritcle, Heather. Although it has been a while since my last visit to La Ville-Lumiere, I am total agreement with your thoughts on all this. Parisians wanting to seduce you? Yep, even if you are—like me—older than Moses. Now about that spa that can make my skin "smooth, silky….sexy." It would probably tax their abilities beyond all reason, but I'm game to give it a try.