Paris: 25 Romantic Things to Do in the City of Love

  1. Go to a crowded bistro and pretend you’re the only people there.  You can try this out at two of my favorite places, Fish, La Boissonerie (69 rue de Seine, Paris 6), and Le Bistrot Paul-Bert.
  2. Take time to have tea.  Have a grand tea complete with piano music and stunning flowers at the Hotel George V; tea made from first-rate tea at Mariage Freres (they import and blend it themselves); or tea with a little pastry upstairs in the blue velvet and silk room at Laduree on the rue Jacob.
  3. Walk around the Luxembourg Gardens, magnificent at any time of year (the circuit is only about a mile, so it’s doable no matter the weather), and finish by stopping into a cafe for a vin chaud, mulled wine.  I like to stop at either Au Petit Suisse, across from the park and the Odeon Theatre, or Cafe Tournon, near the Senat.
  4. Have a big plate of oysters at the tiny Regis (where they only serve oysters), or splurge on a towering seafood platter at Le Dome.  Eat with your fingers, slurp the liquor from the oysters and drink Chablis, Sancerre, Muscadet or lots of Champagne.
  5. Watch the sun set from the Pont des Arts.
  6. Have a leisurely lunch.  Lunch is such a luxury, especially if you’re a tourist with a long to-do list, but there’s nothing lovelier than stopping in the middle of the day for something sybaritic.  The two most romantic splurges for lunch are the Jules Verne, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, and Le Grand Vefour in the gorgeous gardens of the Palais Royale.  Le Grand Vefour is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Paris and it’s beautiful, the service is perfect and every seat is named for a patron of the past.  Once I was seated at the Empress Eugenie’s place (which meant my husband would have been Napoleon III) and another time I was in Colette‘s seat (be still my heart).  A stroll down the garden’s tree-lined allees is the perfect way to cap lunch.  For a far, far less extravagant lunch, my favorite place is Le Comptoir (but it doesn’t take reservations — aarrrgh).
  7. Buy chocolate-covered marshmallows at Pierre Marcolini or something with praline at Patrick Roger, two of the city’s best chocolatiers.
  8. Drink hot chocolate every chance you get.  The richest chocolat chaud is at Angelina’s.
  9. Have anything — oh, if only you could have everything — at Pierre Herme, hands-down the best and most exciting patissier in Paris and no, I’m not impartial.  If you’ve never had the Ispahan macaron — rose, raspberry and litchi — you must.
  10. Have a glass of Champagne for no other reason than because you can.
  11. Buy a bag of (the absolutely fabulous) chocolate-covered Sauternes-soaked raisins from Da Rosa and eat them in bed.
  12. Visit Sartre and de Beauvoir’s tombs at the Montparnasse Cemetery, which is a fascinating place, or go see Proust at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, another beautiful place (but much larger, so you might want to wait until the weather’s a bit warmer).
  13. Set off without a map, get thoroughly lost and celebrate your freedom at the closest cafe.
  14. Go to the Jacquemart-Andre Museum and imagine that you live there.  Of course you can do this at Versailles, but it’s easier at the palatially cozy J-A.
  15. Buy a slice or two from several kinds of terrines from master charcutier Gilles Verot (3 rue Notre-Dames des Champs, Paris 6) and have a picnic in your hotel room.
  16. Get a bottle of wine from La Derniere Goutte, one of Paris’s best and most interesting wine shops (everyone there speaks English), to go with those terrines.
  17. Take an evening cruise up the Seine in a Bateau Mouche.  Sure it’s a touristy thing to do, but I figure if it was good enough for Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade, then it’s good enough for me.
  18. If you can’t take the cruise, stand on the Quai opposite Notre Dame (the Left Bank side) and wait for a Bateau Mouche to sail by and shine its lights on the church — the effect makes you catch your breath no matter how many times you see it.
  19. Visit Claire Damon’s pastry shop, Des Gateaux et du Pain.  Damon is one of the few, I want to say only, but I’m not sure, French women with her own world-class patisserie.  There’s something lovely, light and, yes, feminine about everything she makes, even her breads.
  20. Go to Berthillon and have one ice cream sundae with two spoons.  If you and whomever you’re with can agree on what flavors to have, you’ll know it’s true love.
  21. Have a drink at the sumptuous Bar 228 in the Hotel Meurice or at The Ritz’s Hemingway Bar.  It will cost as much as a dinner, but it will be memorable.
  22. Window-shop along the Faubourg Saint-Honore and finish with a fancifully decorated eclair at Fauchon.
  23. Buy a scented candle at Diptyque and keep it burning late into the night.  
  24. Head for Poilane and buy not one, not two, not a dozen, but a sack full of their buttery cookies.  After all, when it comes to love, nothing beats abundance.
  25. Go back to Pierre Herme and buy just one more macaron to share.

Dorie Greenspan