Thursday, 13 February 2014

10 (Inexpensive) Romantic Things to Do in Paris

('romantic' in the universal sense - ie I have actually done these recommendations more with my girlfriends than with an actual um.. boy)

So the other day, I was in the post office waiting in line. Ahead of me was a kid. Well a boy. Ok. Maybe he was a teenager but I would think 12, 13 tops (even though they seem to get younger and younger each year it feels). He placed his "clearly-a-boy-wrapped-this" parcel on the counter to post and I was able to quickly glance to see the 4 words written across the front: "POUR TOI, MA CHÉRIE ❤". All in caps lock. Coloured in love hearts included.  

The woman behind the counter sold him a box that cost 9.50€ in postage (err I'm sure I could have been able to find him a more cost effective alternative), but it didn't matter, he didn't mind at all. Eagerly, he handed over his 10€ to make sure his chérie would receive her parcel for Valentine's Day. 

It got me thinking about how comfortable the French are with displaying affection, even when it might come across perhaps a little.. corny..? (in other countries). I somehow doubt I would see something like that written so openly at a post office in Australia: "FOR YOU, MY DARLING ❤".

Yet, if anything, it was just as beautiful, if not more. I find the corny, the clichéd, the soppy just as beautiful as the discreet, subtle, meaningful and original. Because at the end of the day (for me personally) it's the thought and the courage to express it that is beautiful. Just like that 12 year old boy's courage to place his chérie's parcel on the counter for everyone to see. 

Sometimes, the beauty of the courage involved to take a risk and express how you feel surpasses the beauty of the romantic gesture itself. 

So here it is, my list of romantic things to do in Paris. From the unique and low-key to the clichéd yet not to be missed.

Love is damn hard to find, and even harder to keep. I spent many years looking for it (trust me you can ask my friends, I've only celebrated Valentine's Day twice in my life and I'm 32). 

So if you've found it, celebrate it. 

If you haven't, trust that it's up ahead and perhaps held up in traffic. Otherwise, maybe do something for someone else. I have to say the Valentine's Days where I sent flowers to a girlfriend (with my name on it of course, otherwise that would just be.. cruel) were better than those where I refused to leave the house until midnight haha. 

Joyeuse Saint Valentin!

PS You will notice that none of my recommendations require loads of cash, you really don't need to go all out, it's pretty hard to NOT be romantic in Paris. The cobblestone paths, the beautiful architecture, the breathtaking bridges, that romantic amber lighting, you seriously can't go wrong. I have purposely left out the sexy bars and swanky restaurants (for another blog post) - those places you can visit any time (and pay less for the same thing on another date). 

Celebrating love is best when it is simple, effortless and completely organic.

1. The Padlock Bridges - sure, everyone's done it and the real estate space on these bridges is getting more and more difficult to secure these days but there is still something beautiful in the romantic gesture of writing your initials and the date you met on a padlock, locking it up and throwing the key away in the Seine, forever, never again to be unlocked..   
Pont des Arts (Métro Louvre Rivoli)
Pont de l'Archeveche (Métro Maubert-Mutualité)

** This photo was taken a while ago, as was this post, when the bridges were less crowded. Upon a recent visit, I was very surprised about the sight of the bridges. It now feels like there are too many padlocks. They are being locked everywhere and anywhere, even piggybacking on top of each other, and even climbing up onto the street lamps like creeping ivy. The pretty bridge with a sparkly golden sheen from a distance now looks a lot different, and not necessarily in a good way. You cannot see through the side of the bridge (like in this photo) as multiple layers of padlocks padlocked on top of each other several times over completely blocks any light trying to pass through. It certainly was a prettier view when the padlocks were scattered on the bridge, each with their own surrounding breathing space. 

To add to all of this, just yesterday afternoon, a 2.8 metre panel on the bridge Pont des Arts collapsed due to the extra weight of these padlocks. Uh oh..

To be honest, I don't know how I feel about all of this anymore as while I love the gesture and romantic idea of padlocking your initials to something permanent and throwing away the key forever, I can understand why there are petitions to stop this tradition from getting carried away for the sake of the bridges and to preserve the untouched beauty of Paris.

Of course, it's no one's fault. It has never been illegal to lock a padlock onto a bridge in Paris. It was just a romantic idea that gained popularity and now has taken on a life of its own. One could argue that technically everyone has the right to do something a little romantic during their stay in the City of Love, but I'm not sure if I would count this as my number 1 thing to do in my top 10 romantic things to do in Paris anymore. Maybe before, when it was a lesser known tradition, when you could be the only couple on the bridge discreetly declaring your love for one another, but not so much now when there are people selling padlocks and black textas as well as 30 other couples milling around competing for real estate! 

Ahh, if only we could turn back time.. (or find an alternative..)

2. Montmartre - one of my favourite areas of Paris, think winding paths, cobblestone pavements and cute little stairways. Find an alternate route to walk around the area that will beat the crowds. There's even an "I love you" wall featuring 250 different languages of 'je t'aime' at Square Jehan Rictus, Place des Abbesses (métro Abbesses)

I recommend to take a walk around Montmartre away from the hordes of tourists. Whatever main street you're on, skip it and go in further by a street or two and you might find some privacy like this couple did.. 

Okay, yes I know it was a bit creepy of me to take this photo, but I didn't realise they were in my photo until afterwards, then I thought it was kind of sweet (in a completely NON-CREEPY way).

3. Pack a picnic, grab a fresh baguette, some cheese, wine and fruit and head to the many beautiful parks of Paris. Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Parc Monceau, Buttes Chaumont, there are plenty to choose from. 

4. Take a walk at sunset past all of the beautifully romantic bridges of Paris. Grab a bottle of wine (and some glasses) and find a spot on the banks of the Seine to watch the world go by.

One of my all time favourite shots

5. The Louvre at night - wait until it's dark, grab a bottle of wine and some glasses to go for a wander. Walking around Paris at night time is definitely one of my favourite things to do. All the bridges, the amber lit buildings and the cobblestone paths. The tourists are exhausted and have retreated and the locals are already in bed. Find your own little corner and admire the beauty of the lighting around the Louvre. Paris is all dolled up and taking you out on a date.

6. Catch a view of the Eiffel Tower by night twinkling on the hour, I don't care how touristy it is a thing to do, I still get excited each time it lights up and starts to sparkle, no matter how many times I have seen it. It just feels magical, like something extraordinary is about to happen. Here's my favourite rooftop view for you to consider.

7. Les Bateaux Mouches - book a cruise down the Seine and sneak a kiss underneath the bridges (it's meant to bring good luck). Sunset cruises are the best in my opinion.

8. Go ice skating if you happen to be in Paris during the Christmas season. Outdoor ice-skating rinks are usually open between mid November and early March. Skate hire is normally around 5€. Just don't fall and break your collarbone like I did, trust me, it wasn't very romantic for John and I. 

9. Go carousel riding until you are dizzy and blurry like this photo! Carousels are usually situated near the Eiffel Tower, at Montmartre, Hôtel de Ville etc and are only a few euro for a ride from memory. Just ignore the kids that will be surrounding you and the parents that are looking on (well, at least that's what I did).

10. Lastly, my favourite activity - wander around, get lost and be anonymous.
Catch the scent of freshly baked pastries and wander in a random boulangerie to pick up something fresh out of the oven. Stumble across something like this, then find a bench to sit down to admire your secret find. Wander around aimlessly and get lost in the Latin Quarter, the Marais, Île Saint-Louis (be sure to grab some Berthillon ice cream if you are there in the Summer). 
On the other hand, if it is cold, warm your hands up with some hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors or a freshly made hot crêpe. Linger in a café (while sitting forward facing or alternatively in a cute little booth) and people watch into the evening.
Be anonymous, walk into private courtyards and pretend you are looking for someone. If you get busted just smile, apologise and walk away (giggling is optional). Get a little carried away and imagine you are in a film. I can assure you that no one will bat an eyelid if you or your partner show a little PDA, there will always be someone getting caught up in the moment more than you, and really nobody cares. 

You are in .. Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world after all.


  1. Wonderful blog!!!! I liked the complete article! Thank you for inspiring me with this post and so many others...I wish to be in Paris now to wander around with my lover at least one in ten romantic places on your list, Nhan!.... But never mind. I still very happy today (St Valentines' Day), because I am one of the luckiest lady in the world who had a chance to read your beautiful post about St Valentine's Day and I'm happy to celebrate the DAY with the imagination you've provided =) Love you Nhan! I wish you have a wonderful St Valentine's Day with your LOVER!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked this post and enjoyed my suggestions for romantic things to do in Paris, you really can't go wrong here haha...! X

  2. The photos are excellent Nhan!!! I give you 10/10=) I love all of them, especially the Padlock Bridges! I wish all the people who brought their lovers to lock the padlocks on those bridges, their wishes will come true!

    1. Thank you! The padlock bridges in Paris are really popular, there are other padlock bridges around the world but none really like this one :)

  3. The photos are excellent Nhan!!! I give you 10/10=) I love all of them, especially the Padlock Bridges! I wish all the people who brought their lovers to lock the padlocks on those bridges, their wishes will come true!

  4. Beautiful post, beautiful suggestions, beautiful photos.
    Everything is beautiful Nic, especially you x

  5. Thanks for sharing your list, very helpful!

    1. Not a problem, glad you liked my suggestions Mat!

  6. We were just in Paris last week and did all of the things you listed (minus the skating!) - we replaced that one with the world's best hot chocolate in the jardin des amoureux, not far from the I Love You Wall in Montmartre.... thank you so much for the tips = this was most definitely an incredibly romantic vacation!

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for your comment - so happy to hear that my tips came in handy! I must check out this hot chocolate you have recommended and hope you'll be back for another romantic getaway soon :)

    2. Do you remember what the place was called with the yummy hot chocolate..?

    3. It was in the garden cafe outside of the Musee de la vie romantique in Montmartre.... Very worthwhile!

    4. Perfect! I must try that one then, we were in the area and wanted to hunt down your recommendation - merci!

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you Ana! So glad you found them useful! :)