Is this the most romantic city in the world?
Ready to fall in love with Paris all over again? The city of light and love is for true romantics.
“We'll always have Paris,” Rick (Humphrey Bogart) told Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) in the 1942 cinema classic Casablanca. Just like Rick and Ilsa, we all have our favourite memories of Paris. Either from spending time in this beautiful city itself or from experiencing it on the big screen. Woody Allen’s 2011 comedy Midnight in Paris beautifully captures the way so many of us feel about this complex and vibrant city and is worth revisiting if you need a romantic fix.
Want to discover the hidden secrets of this spectacular city? Let’s start with a truly romantic moment… dancing in the street. If you are lucky enough to be in Paris on a Sunday morning, seek out the rue Mouffetard where there’s a Sunday market. Then head towards Square Saint-Medard where you’ll find a wonderful tradition reborn. Christian Bassoul is a musician who has restarted selling sheet music for a few cents and an enthusiastic group gathers with him to sing and dance on the street. Singing and dancing along is a memorable experience and will make you fall in love with Paris a little more. If you’re hungry, there’s a great breakfast place opposite.
My personal quest for the most romantic Parisian restaurant continues but has turned up some delights along the way. On the Left Bank of the Seine virtually opposite the Louvre is Le Voltaire at 27, quai Voltaire, Paris, France 75007. It is quintessentially Paris and is an elegant, simple, yet also expensive setting.
Part of this quest is to find a little eatery in the suburbs that serves great food and doesn’t cost the earth. That’s the perfect description of Le Chateaubriand at 129 av. Parmentier, 11e, Paris in the 11th arrondissement. It’s a simple little place that’s rated number 21 in the world in the 2015 San Pellegrino awards yet the tasting menu costs a reasonable 70 Euro. Booking is challenging as they seem reluctant to answer the phone (and it’s closed Sunday and Monday) but from 9.30pm onwards bookings are not required.
Paris is undeniably the best city for romantic strolling. A personal favourite is an evening walk along the Left Bank looking across the Seine to Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Across the river, Le Marais is preferred by those in the know as old Paris with real city character. I love Saint-Germaine des Pres as has been the old haunt of many Parisian artists and authors and you can still have a coffee in their haunts of Deux Magots and Café de Flore.
The Right Bank offers the chance to walk along historic covered shopping arcades. Le Palais Royal is a 17th Century palace with arcades and gardens so you can wander along the Galerie de Valois and the Galerie de Montpensier. Passage Verdeau in the 10th houses wonderful antique shops and secondhand bookstalls.
Taking the lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower is an experience we should all indulge in at least once. Built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, the 324 metre-high structure was the highest manmade structure at the time. On a clear day the view is superb and one best shared over a glass of champagne at the top of the tower. The only problem with the view from the tower is that the Eiffel Tower itself isn’t in it. For that you’re better off heading to the gardens of the Trocadero or one of the cafes at the top of the stairs.
Driving in Paris is worth avoiding. Being driven is a different matter. It is possible to hire that most Parisian vehicle, a Citroen 2CV, with a driver to see the sights of to simply just clatter around town. Visit 4roues sous 1parapluie or Paris authentic.
There are so many accommodation options in Paris that it’s difficult to recommend a hotel that suits everyone. So I will nominate my favourite for indulgent romance and that’s the grand Le Meurice, Paris’ first palace hotel that opened in 1815. Staying here is like living in a jewel box, all crystal chandeliers, marble pillars and pastel silks. The service is superb, the rooms large, and the restaurant is run by Alain Ducasse. There is a fascinating history to this spectacular hotel. The Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali used to bring his ocelots (sleek small cats) when he stayed here. Best of all, the location on the rue de Rivoli opposite the Tuileries Garden and close to the Louvre is unsurpassed.
Of course, the best known museum and exhibit in Paris is the Louvre and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. However, there are so many museums in Paris that you can pick a favourite artist or interest and find a dedicated museum to suit. For a wonderful grand museum experience, visit the Musee d’Orsay just across the Seine from the Tuileries. Originally a railway station it must have been the most beautiful train station in the world when the grand Beaux-Arts building opened in 1898. Now housing the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artworks, every corner reveals another Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Cezanne or Van Gogh.
What are you favourite memories of Paris? Join our conversation below...