A trip to Paris with your special someone is a romantic rite of passage. Everyone comes here en couple at some point, probably multiple times – so the pressure’s on to find some seriously magical things to do while you’re here. If you’re keen to avoid the clichéd tourist traps, we’ve hand-picked a range of the less obvious, more under-the-radar date spots and other romantic things to do in Paris. From a gentle stroll through one of the French capital’s prettiest parks to cocktails à deux at one of many world-class bars, there’s something to impress any date here.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Paris
Romantic things to do in Paris
Date idea: An early-evening picnic in a stately square
Place des Vosges is pure eye-candy – a 17th-century peach stone beauty that was built for Henri IV, with shop-filled arcades and a stately park that lets you lounge on the grass (a rarity in Paris). It’s the ideal spot for a picnic on a warm summer evening, and there’s plenty more to get up to afterwards in the vicinity, including the Maison de Victor Hugo and countless charming cafés, restaurants and bars.
Date idea: Rent a rowing boat on the Grand Canal
It goes without saying that the flamboyant gardens at Versailles are a decent place to take a date. But if you want to do something that’ll really blow them away, then why not rent a rowing boat on the Grand Canal? Be sure to explore the rest of the garden as well – terraces, parterres, lush groves and a spectacular series of fountains mean a date at Versailles will definitely be one to remember.
Date idea: Stroll along an abandoned city-centre trainline
On this spot there used to be a trainline between Bastille and Vincennes. While the Bastille station was eventually replaced by today’s Opera house, the viaduct was converted into glass-fronted workshops and boutiques for local artisans and the old lines became La Coulée Verte – a 5km long trail (also known as the Promenade Plantée) made up of elevated gardens, the Jardin de Reuilly and tree-lined cycling paths.
Date idea: Catch a vintage movie at a Left Bank institution
Let’s be honest, taking a date to the movies is a pretty safe option. But in Paris, even this becomes a whole load more romantic. We say try the Grand Action, in the historic area around the Sorbonne on the Left Bank. One of our favourite independent cinemas in Paris, it’s renowned for screening new prints of old movies. Heaven for anyone who’s nostalgic for Tinseltown classics and quality US independents.
Date idea: Explore one of Montmartre’s most charming buildings
Hidden down a cobbled street around the back of the Sacré Cœur, this museum must be one of Montmartre’s most charming buildings (and there’s plenty of competition). Formerly a home and meeting place for artists, number 12 Rue Cortot overflows with recognisable works by Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo.
Date idea: Admire kaleidoscopic stained glass on the Île de la Cité
Devout King Louis IX had a hobby of accumulating holy relics. In the 1240s, he bought what was advertised as the Crown of Thorns, and ordered Pierre de Montreuil to design a shrine. The result was Sainte-Chapelle. With 15m (49ft) windows, the upper level appears to consist almost entirely of stained glass. The windows depict hundreds of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, culminating with the Apocalypse in the rose window.
Date idea: A massage à deux in a Japanese salon
A massage may not be the most obvious date suggestion, but we think Yuzuka in the 7th arrondissement is pretty special – and definitely worth taking someone special to. The décor of this Japanese salon is calmly minimalist, with soothing neutral tones bathing the walls. If you’re after a first-rate massage à deux, Yuzuka is a great way to let off steam together.
Date idea: Five-star bottles and delectable small plates
A superb selection of wines, delectable smoked meats on toast, and a cosy environment to enjoy it all in. Sounds a bit like heaven, or maybe just the annex of Septime, Bertrand Grébaut’s buzzing Michelin-starred restaurant, which has become particularly popular since Beyoncé’s much publicised visit in 2013. A rotating selection of five whites and five reds are sold by the glass (between €4.50 and €8), including an exquisitely fruity Fleur Sauvage Jouret.
Date idea: Snuggle up at Paris’s top jazz club
Cosy up at this venerable jazz spot that goes from strength to strength, attracting a high calibre of performer and a savvy crowd. Claim a pew, order a glass of wine, and enjoy a foot-tapping evening ensemble.
Date idea: Tea and cake in a quaint, tucked-away museum
Sure, it’s the wrong kind of Romantic, but this place is romantic with a lower-case ‘r’ all the same. When Dutch artist Ary Scheffer built this small villa in 1830, the area teemed with composers, writers and artists. Novelist George Sand was a guest at Scheffer’s soirées, along with great names such as Chopin and Liszt. The museum is devoted to Sand, plus Scheffer’s paintings and other mementoes of the Romantic era. The museum’s tree-lined courtyard café and greenhouse are the perfect secret summer retreat.
Date idea: Share a carafe at a book reading
A tranquil boozy and literary escape from the frenetically trendy streets of the Marais, La Belle Hortense with its pretty blue frontage is all about settling down with a good book and a nice wine. Hosting readings and literary events, the bar-boutique’s walls are lined with bottles and books, including new releases, rare volumes, independent poetry and classic collections. The wine list is enormous – quite pricey by the glass but much better value by the bottle or carafe.
Date idea: A luxury cheese tasting in a dinky setting
This tiny cheesemonger by the Canal Saint-Martin brims with dairy delights. Selling a wide range of cheeses, wines and cured meats to take home, La Vache dans les Vignes also serves its produce on the spot for just a few extra euros. With seating for just 14, the owners have created a warm atmosphere with bottles of wine stacked to the ceiling on wooden shelves, and a glass shop front looking out onto the canal.
Date idea: Browse upscale boutiques at an atmospheric passage couvert
An elegant arcade dating back to 1873, the Galerie Vivienne is in perfect condition, all polished wood, glass and wrought iron, its mosaic-inlaid corridors lined with plants. Even during busy times it feels relatively tranquil, making it a pure pleasure to browse the chic boutiques – look out for Jean-Paul Gaulthier, Nathalie Garçon, bijou toystore Si Tu Veux and venerable wine cellar and deli Legrand Filles et Fils. At the entrance on the Rue des Petits-Champs, Bistrot Vivienne is a charming and reliable pitstop, with a romantic private dining room upstairs.
Date idea: Classy cocktails – with panoramic views
For a night at the top, the bar of Montmartre’s Terrass hotel is exceptional even by Paris’s standards. Yes, it’s had a swanky, contemporary makeover, mixes expensive cocktails, and serves an above-average menu to its extremely well-heeled clientele in an atmosphere of velvet-lined chic. That’s all very nice, but can be found in endless permutations across the city. But nowhere else has this view.
Date idea: Kick back at Paris’s hilliest (and most beautiful) park
If you’re looking for something a little less formal than the Tuileries, one patch of greenery definitely worth a stroll is the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Set high up in Belleville and often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, this 19th arrondissement paradise is one of the city’s most magical green spaces. Expect meandering paths, waterfalls, temples... and cliffs. In Paris.
Date idea: Sample fine international wines at a magnificent cave
Lavinia stocks a broad selection of French alongside many non-French wines; its glassed-in cave has everything from a 1945 Mouton-Rothschild at €22,000 to trendy and ‘fragile’ wines for under €10. Try the dégustation machines on the ground floor, which allow customers to taste a sip of up to 10 wines for €10.
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Going on somewhere afterwards?
We all know Paris has a decent rep when it comes to food. You might even say it’s Europe’s gastronomic capital – just walk down any road off the Place de la Bastille and that should become quite clear. But it’s only recently that this city’s turned into one of the coolest places to drink too. Here’s where we think you should head first.