10 Romantic Things to do in Paris (OTHER than Love-Locking on a Bridge)
So you might have heard about our famous “love-locking” bridges in Paris giving way under the strain of thousands of padlocks, calling for authorities to block the practice with preventative barriers. It’s a tradition which has fast become a total and utter tourist cliché. The sheer amount of padlocks simply shows that there’s nothing unique about it. So while the love-locking bridges are currently having a few issues, I thought this might be a good opportunity to suggest a few other romance-related things to do in Paris and give its bridges a little rest…
1. Make a Journey to the Island of the Temple of Love
If you feel like a particularly good sunset might be coming on, there’s a special place in Paris to make a bee-line for with your date. I’m serious about the whole “Temple of Love” thing– that’s what it’s actually called, sometimes also referred to as the Temple Romantique, and it sits on an island in the middle of a lake in the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in the city.
Built by an architect in 1860, influenced by the Rococo movement, the temple has a twin in another park of Paris, the Buttes-Chaumont, except this one is much less well-known, so you won’t be sharing your romantic moment with dozens of other couples trying to do the same.
It requires a little bit of a field trip from the very centre of Paris, but that will make it all the more exciting for your date who doesn’t know where you’re taking them to. Hop on the line 8 metro and hop off at the stop Michel Bizot. Walk up the palm tree-lined avenue, passed the fascinating building that is the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (we’ll have to save that visit for another article) and over the road where the Lac Daumesnil awaits (that’s the lake).
Take a tour round the lake until you spot the Temple of Love from the shore. You can either access the island (Île de Reuilly) by bridge on the other side of the lake, or rent a little rowboat to get you across, which will get you extra points on your date, especially if you manage to nab one with your love’s name written on it…
When you finally reach the Temple of Love, the views will certainly not disappoint.
I dare say it’s a scene good enough view to make a marriage proposal in front of.
And that’s not all, because there’s more to discover beneath the temple.
To the left of the kiosk, you’ll find a rocky stairway down to the shore of the lake where a dreamy grotto awaits.
Birds are flapping about outside the caves to make it even more atmospheric (and we’ll pretend they’re doves and not pigeons).
If you’ve been really clever and brought a picnic, there’s a perfect little grassy beach to perch on with an absolutely awful view of the temple and the mountain rocks of Paris zoo in the distance.
Find the Temple of Love here.
2. A Lady and the Tramp Dinner in a Hidden Alley
If you ever wanted to re-create that spaghetti scene in a cobblestone alleyway from Lady and the Tramp, I have your place. Keep a sharp eye out on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine or you’ll surely miss the hidden passage at number 159. Sample Fabrizio’s homemade pasta and Italian dishes such as clam linguine and melt-in-your-mouth saffron risotto, at this charming little secret of the 11th arrondissement.
When you’ve finished dinner, no need to retreat home. Head back out of the alley, down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine (towards Bastille), and turn right onto Rue Charonne for an off-beat evening stroll through the local neighbourhood with charming bars (avec terrasse) for a drink.
With no more than 10 twinkle-lit tables inside and out, booking is imperative and try for the first-service slot at 7pm when it’s quieter.
The ownership of this spot has changed since I first posted this article, and it now goes by the name of Capucine. It’s still homemade Italian cuisine, but they might not necessarily have spaghetti on the menu everyday. Open everyday, from 9am to 10pm, it’s a little more of a café than a formal restaurant now, perhaps best for a lovely brunch.
159 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine +33 1 43 46 10 14
If you really do feel like some spaghetti in an equally romantic setting, try La Capannina (this will be your dinner view). Situated across from the very steps where Woody Allen filmed his time-traveling scenes for Midnight in Paris, is this no-fuss Italian restaurant with very pleasing prices. After dinner, make sure to wave to Ernest Hemingway’s old window at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
La Capannina, 64,rue de la Montagne Sainte Genevieve, booking not necessary.
3. Tango on the Seine
As long as the weather is good, tango enthusiasts (advanced and never-before-danced) gather at the mini amphitheatres along the Seine in the 5th arrondissement to dance seductively until twilight. If you don’t want to join in, sitting with a bottle of wine on the steps, watching these dancers is still absolutely mesmerizing and incredibly atmospheric.
A little old man sits on the edge of the river with his radio playing tango-esque music and guarding the dancers’ belongings. Spectators watch quietly, listening to the dragging of tango feet on the stone quai. Beautiful Parisian women often turn up alone here in paisley summer dresses, waiting to be asked to dance by strangers. It’s people watching with a very sexy twist– the perfect date spot in Paris.
I’ve dedicated a whole article to it here.
Square Tino Rossi, Quai St. Bernard, in the 5th Arrondissement (Métro stop Jussieu or Gare Austerlitz).
4. A Canal + a Pink Balloon + Pizza Delivery
You’re sat holding a pink balloon in a spot you chose along the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, a four-kilometer-long picturesque canal lined with art galleries and old warehouses converted into trendy lofts. You were given the pink balloon by Pink Flamingo, a pizza parlour down the nearby Rue Bichat, whose bicycle delivery man will use the balloon as a beacon to locate you on the canal and present you with your order– a fresh pizza pie reminiscent of some of the best New York-style slices
A Franco-American couple co-owns the Pink Flamingo, a stylish little company that brands itself “pas comme les autres” (not like the others) on the side of its pizza boxes. Indeed, this will be one pizza delivery you won’t forget.
Pink Flamingo Canal is located at 67 rue Bichat, 75010 (Metr0 Jacques Bonsergent or Colonel Fabien)
PS. There’s good boutique shopping in the area, particularly Rue de Marseille.
5. Go for a Drive in a Vintage Citröen
Chauffered by a local Parisian to show you all their secret spots no less…
Here’s a nifty idea for a special day (or night) out in Paris: a charming Frenchy wearing a striped Breton shirt shows up at your hotel/ apartment to take you on an open-roof tour of Paris in his vintage convertible Citröen CV2. You can tell him to lead the way and show you all his secret spots of the city, or give him a more specific idea of the sort of off-beat things you’d like to see. All the drivers have an encyclopedic knowledge of Paris and speak several languages. This could also be the perfect activity for any parents visiting Paris with a teenage daughter– she gets to sit up front, chatting with the cute young Parisian chauffeur while Mum and Dad make eyes at each other in the back! Just a thought.
Anyhoo, the company is called 4 Rues sous 1 Parapluie rates for one hour drives start at 120 euros and 180 euros for an hour and a half. You can also do evening drives starting at 8pm.
All the information for booking is here and you can call them on +33-6-67-32-26-68.
Or rent your own scooter…
I’ve always said it, Paris is best discovered on a scooter. Rent a ruby red Vespa and do Paris like a local with your sweetheart, zipping around the picturesque streets of Montmartre (pictured left, map & info here). Scooter rates start from €45 a day on weekdays and €110 for the entire weekend. Find the FreeScoot, boutique located next to the Notre Dame at 63 quai de la Tournelle or in the 11eme at 144 boulevard Voltaire.
6. Until Death do us Part…
Sending you to a cemetery in search of romance is probably going to sound a little odd, but then again, this is Paris. Yes, trust the city of romance to have made its largest cemetery not in the least bit spooky but rather, irresistibly romantic. Père Lachaise is like a miniature city of its own; all the winding pathways have their own street signs and names, and the tombs look like beautiful little Wendy houses (Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Maria Callas and Marcel Proust to name a few are all buried here). Strolling hand in hand with your other half, I guarantee you’ll start, rather bizarrely, hoping that one day you can be buried here with the love of your life.
P.S. Notable nearby suggestions for eating/ drinking: Le Perchoir rooftop bar, Les Mondes Bohèmes, a hidden terrace in the 20th arrondissement and Le Soleil Levant, the perfect local schmocal and don’t forget to check out the curious caravan de Paris!