Paris has been long considered one of the most romantic cities in the world for more than obvious reasons. It’s the city of beautiful people (many of them look like Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet and it’s horrifically unfair to the rest of us gargoyles) and most importantly it is the city of wine, cheese, and bread- if that doesn’t scream romance at you then you and I are not romantically compatible. Which is fine, because that means more bread and cheese for me.
Anyway, with Valentine’s Day having just passed, I was thinking about all of the people I know who come to Paris on their honeymoon, anniversary, birthday etc. and are looking for ways to make their time here a little more romantique. As Americans, I feel like we come to Paris and are romantically-optimistic; we expect every restaurant to have moody candlelight and dark velvet curtains, full of people quietly whispering over their wine and laughing demurely.
What I have come to realize here is that romance in that stereotypical idealistic kind of way does exist, but usually comes with a pretty price tag, because every tourist is looking for it. Instead, I have gathered here for you a few ways to make Paris romantic when you don’t have the budget of a B-list celebrity to drop on date night. If you’re like me when I first came to visit Paris, you’ve already spent 1k on flights, 1k on accommodation for the week, and 16 euros per person getting in to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (don’t get me started), so maybe you’d like to have a nice night out that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If that’s you, read on. If you want to know about dinner at the restaurant inside of the Eiffel Tower, I’m not (and probably never will be) your girl.
Easy on the wallet:
The small side streets of Paris are insanely romantic. A sunset stroll along the Seine is basically the perfect date in itself. Bring a bottle of wine (make sure its screw top or bring a bottle opener), a bouquet of flowers and some cheese and bread and you literally have my most favorite cheap date in existence. There are plenty of amazing spots to picnic along the Seine, weather and flooding levels permitting. If the Seine is too high (a possibility in any season) I would have this picnic somewhere along the Canal Saint Martin or in one of the many beautiful parks (just be sure you are allowed to sit on the grass). My favorite less touristy parks are Parc Monceau, Buttes Chaumont and the long haul, Parc de Sceaux (bonus points if you go during the cherry blossoms)
*Pro-Tip* order a picnic basket from Paris Picnic and they will deliver it to you when/where you want. Ultra Romantic, ultra easy.
If walking along the flooded Seine or picnicking in the park aren’t your thing, Montmartre is a great second choice for a good walk. The small streets are cute and romantic, although the epitome of touristy. If you go all the way up to Sacre-Coeur, you’ll get to hear accordions playing ‘La Vie en Rose,’ people will offer to draw your portrait, and you may even see a mime. If it helps, whenever I take people to Montmartre they always say to me “this is what I thought Paris would be like.” If you’re having a day-time stroll, swing by the I Love You Wall at metro Abbesses. This lesser-known tourist location is just a blue wall in a park, but the blue wall has “I Love You” written on it in every language in the world. A really nice photo op and if you’re into PDA (like the French) it’s a good place to get in a smooch or two.
*Bonus tip* Flowers. I don’t know how to make this more clear, but buy your honey flowers if they like them. A thing of tulips is like 7 euros. Come on. This is the easiest way to be romantic and the French love to gift their partners a nice bouquet. Find a big cup in your Airbnb and get over the fact that you’re only here for a few days. Flowers, people!
Dinner for Two:
While you’re in Montmartre, swing by my favorite tiny restaurant (but make a reservation) Le Potager du Père Thierry. It’s itty bitty but the food is good. In recent years it has become pretty touristy, but I would brave the loud American (we are loud, face it) crowds for their cute ambiance, their specialty Oeuf Cocotte, perfect Magret de Canard and unbelievable White Chocolate Mousse with Speculoos.
Another restaurant suggestion came from a friend, Le Petit Prince de Paris. A description of this restaurant once read that it was almost too cozy, so read into that what you will. My friend had a romantic dinner there with her beau and the staff noticed they were on a date and moved them to an even cozier and more romantic little corner of the bar so they could be more alone. It’s that kind of place. Meow.
I have never been on one, but it is totally a romantic dinner date goal of mine: a dinner date on a peniche, here is a list of them from La Fourchette. What could be more romantic than taking in all the sights of the city of lights from the water, while eating a fantastic meal? They have various price points – so choose accordingly. I once knew a girl who was proposed to on a dinner cruise as the boat passed by the sparkling Eiffel Tower. What more evidence do you need?
The next is a classic restaurant that I always recommend to friends coming through Paris and they are rarely disappointed, Canard et Champagne. Tucked inside the Passages des Panoramas, the name tells you the basics of what is on the menu, their specialty is duck and champagne. There are other options if you’re not into eating duck, but I wouldn’t recommend this place for vegetarians. You order an appetizer and a main plus however many glasses of champagne you think you might want at the beginning. The main comes with seasonal vegetables, fries and a carrot/potato puree that is ‘à volonté’ which means you can have as much as you want, they will continue to bring more. They have several deserts but their chocolate mousse is also ‘à volonté’ so… yeah.
Just a Drink:
My favorite wine bar in the world is Bubar. The owner works every day and has traveled all over the world (including the states, so he speaks amazing English) and has one of the most profound loves of wine I have ever encountered. He loves to recommend bottles to his clients- just describe what you’re into (a red that isn’t too dry for around 25 euros, for example) and he will make your wine dreams come true. The only caveat to this, however, is that he often likes to recommend wine from places other than France, so if that is a deal breaker for you, I’d head elsewhere. While small, this dark bar has lots of snuggly armchairs and corners to sit and enjoy your wine and companion. The owner also chooses his own music every night and puts out small plates of things to nosh on if you get a bit peckish. Last I checked, he also would let you carry in takeaway orders from the restaurants nearby.
Maison Souquet is a luxurious 5-star boutique hotel that has a bar with fantastic cocktails. It is cushy and elegant with multiple rooms and table service. They have wine by the glass and cocktails as well as a food menu if you’re flush with euros. The velvet, fireplaces, and lavish decor transport you back to the vintage Paris of Fitzgerald and Stein and everyone I interacted with spoke excellent English (for those who are timid about their French).
The bar at Hotel Particulier is self-described as “lively and sensuous” and I’d have to agree. It’s always been busy when I’ve gone but it feels romantic and hidden away with speakeasy vibes and an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower from the entrance. There is indoor space, an outdoor terrasse, a glass observatory; each room is unique but somehow they seamlessly blend together into an excellent date night location.
If a fantastic view of Paris is high on your list of priorities then Le Perchoir should be your drink destination – I have written about it before (read here) but this particular rooftop bar has insane views of Sacre Coeur and the rest of les toits de Paris with fun cocktails and a great vibe.
Around metro Sentier, there is an excellent cocktail bar, Lockwood. The main floor is usually crowded and brimming with people but if you continue all the way to the back of the restaurant and go down the stairs, you’ll find a basement level full of catacomb-like rooms that all lead into the main bar. This is a great place to grab a cocktail pre-dinner or post-dinner- it’s darkish, it’s not too expensive and the cocktails are fantastic and above all, unique.
No Entry is another fun and secluded cocktail bar hidden in the basement of one of the newest installations of an Italian restaurant group in Paris. Head to Pink Mamma (or eat there beforehand because their truffle pizza changed my life) and then down the inconspicuous stairs on the left. If you continue through the two refrigerator doors and find yourself in their lush underground speakeasy. Cocktails are inventive and fun with a board-game like spinner to help you determine which type of drink to have.
These are simply a few of my favorite date night ideas, but of course, in a city where romance is around every corner, there is simply no end to the number of adorable wine bars, cozy restaurants and fantastic scenery that make this city famous for l’amour. I’m always open to suggestions, as I love a good date night, so if you know of a place that isn’t on my list, please let me know! I’m sure my boyfriend and I will be more than happy to try it out. *wink*