Romantic Paris: best hotels, best restaurants, best experiences

There's nothing more romantic than a Parisian sunset.Ah, Paris and Romance…the two go hand in hand like, well, those in love.  And the only way to enjoy Paris as a couple is to be “flaneurs” or saunterers. It’s not about rushing around ticking off the sights.

The City of Light makes a perfect backdrop for couples: from its tree-lined boulevards and parks to the quays and bridges of the Seine. Forget the tourist-clogged Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower and stroll arm in arm with your beloved admiring the city’s voluptuous sculptures and luminescent light.

Why not indulge in a sublime pastry then choose an art exhibition or a performance at the Opera Garnier or buy your sweetheart a bouquet of blushing roses. You won’t find more exquisite blooms than those in Paris’ tucked-away flower shops. Luxuriate on a café terrace clinking glasses of the palest pink rose. Eschew a cab, and take out a free Velib bicycle to peddle slowly along a boulevard bike path under the dappled light of plane trees. Or descend into the white-tiled metro where the notes of a gypsy’s accordion or the ethereal voice of a woman singing Hallelujah resonate as in the grandest concert hall. Whisper sweet nothings to each other over an exquisite meal in the city that invented both fine dining and informal bistros and return to your hotel, perhaps a bijoux boutique or a grand palais, for a night of romance.

Whatever your budget or age, the world’s most beautiful city honors those who take the time to live in the moment. Isn’t that what romance is all about?

To help you get in the mood, here are a few insider tips.

 

Romantic Hotels in ParisBoutique hotel Pavillion de la Reine offers the perfect romantic getaway in the Marais district of Paris.

Le Pavillon de la Reine

For a calm sanctuary, stay at Le Pavillon de la Reine, a discreet four-star hotel set behind vaulted archways that frame the exquisite Place des Vosges square in the Marais. The hotel’s ivy and red geranium facade overlooks a tranquil garden where you can enjoy a glass of champagne or a morning coffee. Ask for one of the light-filled split-level duplex suites or splurge on the Suite de la Reine with soaring ceilings, chandelier and evocative literary wallpaper. Enjoy a delicious breakfast in your room or in the pretty lounge area and make time for a massage and hammam in the serene basement spa. (Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

Le Royal Monceau Raffles

If you are a contemporary art lover, look no further than the Philip Starck-designed, five-star Le Royal Monceau Raffles. The landmark palace has been transformed into a playful palette of mirrors, swirls, and walls crammed with art. An in-house art concierge will even design your Paris art itinerary and the boutique and design shop cater to every whim. There’s a guitar in each room and the mood-lighting options are infinite. Luxuriate in the enormous white-on-white Clairins Spa, where you can swim under a skylight in the 23-metre turquoise pool, then head upstairs to La Cuisine to savour Pierre Herme’s hand-crafted ice cream and macarons after a Michelin-star feast.

La Belle Juliette

For those with a bohemian bent, the bijou four-star La Belle Juliette on the café and boutique-dotted Rue du Cherche Midi is in the bosom of the Left Bank. Named after a beautiful 18th century salon hostess, the hotel has been fashioned like her home. The interior colours range from the palest violet to midnight blue. Designed by Anne Gelbard, who creates fabrics for Dior and Hermes, each room has unique engravings, books and even an old-fashioned telephone. But the service is 21st century as is the large-screen iMac computer/television. There’s a basement spa where you can reserve the Jacuzzi for private use.  A new restaurant, terrace and garden open in November.

St James Paris

If you hanker after a country chateau in the heart of Paris, the five-star Saint James Paris is the place. The site of the world’s first hot-air balloon launch, this classy estate has been flamboyantly updated by English interior designer Bambi Sloan. Consider staying in the gatehouse Pavillon d’Amour, with spa bath, massage tables and steam room, or a top-floor suite with winter garden. The garden terrace is perfect for cocktails or to savour the contemporary fare of Michelin-star chef Virginie Basselot on a warm evening. The atmospheric Library Bar is the place to cosy up when the weather is inclement.  And the spa, well it’s Guerlain. (Relais & Chateaux).

 

Romantic Restaurants in Paris

La Grande Cascade

Located in the expansive Bois de Boulogne, La Grande Cascade is the perfect spot to enjoy a romantic lunch on the flower-decked terrace or under crystal chandeliers in the glass-walled rotunda. This sumptuous Michelin-starred Belle Epoque restaurant is beautifully ensconsed in an Art Nouveau folly that dates back to the Napoleonic era.  The food and the service are classic haute cuisine which, while formal, is far from stuffy…more like a theatrical experience.  In summer, enjoy a lobster and peach salad, in cooler weather indulge in the likes of celeriac macaroni filled with foie gras and truffles. The wine list is a thing of beauty.

La Grande Cascade offers the quintessential Parisian romantic dining experience.

1728

This heritage protected ‘hotel particulier’ is something of an insider’s secret…not really a restaurant but an homage to fine art, architecture and cuisine in the heart of the 8th arrondisement, Paris’ haute couture district. Designed by Antoine Mazin, chief architect under Louis XV, it was also the home of Marquis de La Fayette, a general in the American Revolutionary War and a leader of the French Revolution. You dine in splendour in one of three ornate salons dripping with chandeliers, ceiling friezes and historic artwork. The cuisine is a delicate fusion of French and Asian influences. The gravlax beef fillet is a house specialty.

Laperouse

Located on the Quais des Augustins in the Latin Quarter, the ornately decorated Laperouse Restaurant has had colourful history. “The cook of kings and king of cooks” Auguste Escoffier was chef here once upon a time and the private first-floor salons have long been the site of romantic liaisons (underground galleries even linked the restaurant with the French Senate). You can still rent a salon or enjoy a view of the Seine from the upstairs dining room where you indulge in pricey classics like lobster soup, sole meuniere, and guinea fowl with truffles and chanterelles.

Laperouse restaurant was once a secret dining destination for Parisian senators and their mistresses.

Septime

For those after something utterly contemporary, do your darndest to get a reservation at Bertrand Grebaut’s edgy neo-bistro in the hipster 11th arrondisement. The décor is pared-back urban rustic, the staff and the clientele are achingly chic, and the degustation menu offers pure flavours from the finest sourced ingredients in France. This is farm-to-table with attitude and cooking finesse. You’ll also discover some wonderful natural wines from small producers.

Septime restaurant offers spectacular modern food along with a romantic atmosphere in Paris.

Other Romanic Parisian Diversions

Parks

The parks in Paris are for promenading hand in hand.

  • Walk the length of the Tuileries Garden, named for the roof-tile workshops that existed here before Queen Catherine de Medicis planted Italian gardens modelled after her native Florence. There are ponds, shady groves of trees and, at one end, Monet’s waterlilies at L’Orangerie and, at the other, all those luscious Italian masterpieces in the Louvre.
  • The Jardin du Luxembourg in the Sixth Arrondisement may be a children’s paradise with puppet theatre, Eiffel Tower climbing frame, and an old-fashioned carousel, but there are also quiet nooks with gorgeous sculptures and inviting green garden chairs beside exquisite flower beds.
  • The Palais Royal Gardens are tucked inside a rectangular square not far from the bustling Rue du Rivoli. With double rows of lime and chestnut trees framing fountains and flower gardens, gallery arcades shading boutiques and antique shops and a convivial café or two, this bucolic spot offers a calming respite.

 

Bars

After promenading all day relax on the terrace of a romantic bar and watch the world go by. These three are all linked with remarkable cultural institutions. Avoid their over-priced food; stick to drinks and drink in the ambiance.

* Tucked under the arcades of the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, Café Marly offers dress-circle views of the inverted pyramid. Enjoy a Lillet with a dish of spiced olives.

* The terrace of the Mini Palais under the archways of the deliciously ornate Grand Palais. The cocktail list is wide ranging and the bar is open late seven days a week.

* Perched on the top of the Pompidou Centre and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, Georges is the perfect place to watch the sun set across the mansard roofs of Paris as the   lights come up on the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.

The Mini Palais offers all day bar and dining service in a romantic setting.

 

Bridges over the Seine

When Paris’ soft light bathes everything with a golden glow, there isn’t a more beautiful place to be than on one of the bridges over the Seine.

  • Avoid the pedestrian Pont des Arts with its tawdry love locks, and head to the Pont Neuf (New Bridge, which is actually the oldest bridge in Paris), linking the Louvre with the Left Bank. Soak up the views from its circular enclaves.
  •  Two other lovely old bridges are the Pont Marie, between the Isle St. Louis and the Hotel de Ville, and the Pont Royal, linking the Left-Bank Rue du Bac with the ornate Pavillon de Flore.
  • The elaborate Pont Alexandre III, connecting the Grand Palais with Les Invalides, has gilded statues and elaborate street lamps, and the Pont de la Tournelle, joining Isle St Louis to the Left Bank, holds a statue of Sainte Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. Andwhile we’re talking about Isle St. Louis, take the stairs down to the quays below the streets for a romantic promenade by the Seine.

 

Museums

In addition to the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, here are three must-visit museums for romantics.

  • The Musee Rodin is located in the light-filled Left Bank mansion and grounds where the sculptor once lived. Wander in the gardens dotted with many of his most famous sculptures.
  • The Musee Marmottan is a tucked-away gem with the world’s largest collection of works by Monet, including Soleil Levant which gave its name to Impressionism.
  • The newly refurbished Musee Picasso (opening October 25), housed in one of the grandest 17th houses in Paris, is home to more than 5000 works by the master.

 

Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.
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