France's Fête des Lumières Is a Light Festival Unlike Anything You've Ever Seen
Palais Royal, 1st arr
Right in the heart of Paris is Palais Royal. Originally built in the 1630s as the private residence of Cardinal Richelieu, and has been the crash pad of countless members of French bourgeoisie. The gardens, with covered galeries, cafés and trees in straight lines opened to the public in 1784 and has been a favorite place for Parisians ever since, an oasis of peace in the middle of one of the busiest districts in the city. Have a takeaway coffee at super hip Café Kitsuné and enjoy it on a bench under the chestnut trees in the North end of the garden, or pop through one of the archways to visit Verjus for a top notch dinner in a romantic setting. Make sure to book a table though!
Sentier, 2nd arr
Frenchie has been around for a while but this seasoned veteran has no trouble keeping up with the younger, prettier bistronomy restaurants. Not that Frenchie isn’t pretty. The homey atmosphere is a perfect setting for the restaurant’s elegant, five course, set dinner menu, taking the edge off the pretentiousness of edible flowers, and the end product is the perfect balance of relaxed, pretty and impressive -- exactly what you would look for in a date spot. After dinner, go for a stroll along the charming rue Montorgueil around the corner.
Art gallery hopping
Haut Marais, 3rd arr
The top part of the Marais doesn’t just have hip wine bars and minimalist fashion boutiques, there are also heaps of art galleries, making it the perfect place to take your artsy date. Start off at Michel Rein, then make your way in order to Galerie Lahumiere, Addict Galerie, Topographie de l’Art and Galerie Thadaeus Ropac, and then wrap it up at the VNH Gallery. Afterwards, head to japanese bistro Soma for a light and interesting meal. If you are up for something more relaxed (or something to relax you) cult bar La Perle is just around the corner from the last gallery.
On a perch above Paris
Marais, 4th arr
From the rooftop bar of the BHV department store you have an amazing view overlooking the very heart of Paris with the Hotel de Ville and Notre-Dame de Paris extending over the Parisian slate rooftops. Le Perchoir Marais is the perfect place to bring that special someone for a drink or to share a bottle of wine while admiring the eyeful of picture perfect Paris.
Jardin des Plantes
Jardin des Plantes, 5th arr
If your date has any sense of fun and curiosity, this wonderland might just be the ultimate spot to spend a date exploring together. Romantically set in the beautiful park is a zoo, or, if you prefer non-living animals, the Museum of Natural History. Especially interesting it the Galeries d'Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie, housing animal skeletons and kittens in formaldehyde, though perhaps not for the weak-hearted. There is a large herbal garden, a tropical greenhouse and a labyrinth - perfect for getting lost together. When you get tired, retreat to the nearby Mosque of Paris for traditional mint tea.
Saint-Germain-de-Prés, 6th arr
There are basically about three places worth going in the otherwise touristy, expensive and overcrowded 6th arrondissement, but in return they are really good, and you can fit them all into one great date. Start out at L’Avant Comptoir with a stand out, stand up lunch by the counter, sharing plates ordered from the menu in the ceiling and picking your glasses of wine from the huge selection behind the bar. Afterwards, nearby Jardin du Luxembourg is perfect for a stroll before dessert from famous patisserie Gerard Mulot.
Musée de l’Armée
Invalides, 7th arr
This vast museum chronicles the history of France through the wars in which the nation has participated. Don’t be put off by how mundane that might sound, because there is lots to see: beautiful (and sometimes comical) gear worn by soldiers and their horses, interactive renderings of historic battles and even a taxidermy of Napoleon’s trusted white stallion Vizir, bearing the brand of the emperor on his hind leg. When your feet get tired, the Café des Officiers around the corner is perfect for sharing a bottle of red wine and discussing colonialism. Mind you, if you are the more traditional type, the Musée Rodin and the Musée d’Orsay nearby are pretty romantic as well.
Miromesnil, 8th arr
Show your date a bit of your cultural side by taking him or her to the beautiful concert hall Salle Gaveau. There are always things going on, ranging from harp concerts to musicals and singer-songwriter acoustic concerts. Check their schedule to find out what is on the roster at the moment. Afterwards, the excellent and intimate wine bar of the suggestively named Le Boudoir for an interesting conversation over a glass of red, red wine.
Opéra, 9th arr
Take your date to Palais Garnier for a night at the ballet. The stunning setting, the beautiful music and emotional dancing make might make for a stereotypically simple date idea but the classics never go out of style, do they?
La Cinématheque Française
Bercy, 12th arr
For the film buff, this is the perfect place to take a date equally interested in film. Housing interesting exhibitions and retrospectives, it will give you lots to talk about. Buying a film poster in the museum shop will make a nice memory when you tell your grandchildren about how you met.
Butte aux Cailles, 13th arr
The Butte aux Cailles is a charming, village-like area just off the busy hub of Place d’Italie, full of lively bars and bobos. Le Mélécasse, on the edge of the quartier, provides a nice and calm corner for a romantic dinner. The food is simple but delicious. Opt for the tartare de boeuf aller-retour (that is a steak tartar gently singed on both sides) and share a bottle of red -- your server will have a suggestion if you ask. Also, you have the option of a nightcap at one of the roucous bars further down the street -- try La folie en tête for the right cool, laid-back vibe.
Les Grands Voisins
Denfert-Rochereau, 14th arr
This old hospital, right in the heart of the old bohemia of Paris, has been transformed into a modern hippie enclave, with artists ateliers, organisations and creative enterprises having their headquarters inside the ancient walls. Explore the domain together, and have a coffee at the commune café In summer, the courtyard is filled with loungers to recline in while enjoying something from the canteen. The creative surroundings are bound to inspire some interesting conversation, and if not, there is bounds to look at in silence.
Convention, 15th arr
Just a stone’s throw from the excellent Gaumont Pathé Cinema by Convention (where you should head after dinner for a charmingly classic date), is this charming little restaurant, decorated with mirrored ceilings and art nouveau lamps that might be fancy if they didn’t look like they had been there forever. Still, there is a romantic air in the cosy eatery, and tables are hard to come by, which is easy to understand once you sit down and get a waft from the kitchen. Rustic platters of cured meats, duck lasagna and lamb chops glazed in honey feature on the short but lovingly prepared menu. Insiders tip: ask for the Corsican wine.
Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne, 16th arr
For an active date, this large park, one of the two green lungs of Paris, offers a multitude of activities to enjoy together. Go for a hike or a run together, or rent bikes and zoom around the vast area, stopping here and there for the perfect Instagram shot. In summer, you can rent boats by the artificial Lac Inférieur and reenact your favorite Pride and Prejudice moment (preferably the part before Mr. Darcy falls in the water) together. If you get bored just enjoying nature, there is the Fondation Louis Vuitton to tickle your senses with some interesting art, and the Jardin d’Acclimatation, an amusement park with rides and animals - all fun for both kids and adults, but there are also restaurants catering to your adult need of a stiff one when you get tired of overexcited kids.
Batignolles, 17th arr
This very sleek restaurant, named after the rather indecently funny George Brassens song, is the brainchild of Septime alumni Marc Cordonnier and Louis Langevin. At the spearhead of Parisian bistronomy, and with the haute cuisine of their mothership fresh in memory, they serve up intelligent but effortless and breezy dishes in an equally effortless yet polished surrounding. The prices are modest - thus lines are long, so book yourself a table beforehand or prepare to be waiting for a while.
Clignancourt, 18th arr
In a hidden corner on the less touristy backside of Montmartre is a pretty, blue storefront, with a beautiful but tiny restaurant behind. Their specialty is multi course dinners on shared plates -- perfect for romantic dinners, and also checking if you can agree on what to order. Beware that the service can be a bit absent-minded and you can never be sure in which order your orders will arrive (except dessert, that will come last) but you’re not in a rush anyway, right? After dinner, take a walk along the beautiful, quiet, residential rue Caulaincourt with its pretty townhouses and choose your future home together.
Buttes Chaumont, 19th arr
This unassuming bar and restaurant on a corner not far from Parc des Buttes Chaumont is a real hidden gem. Hugely popular with both locals and bobos travelling all the way from the (well, neighboring) 11th to dine, they might make you wait for a little while before seating you - but you can order a glass of wine while you wait. The well-worn leather sofas and bearded faces behind the bar give the place a homely and informal feel. Denim shirt and Stan Smiths are optional.The snails are (obviously) something of a specialty. As your main, order the huge chunk of beef, served for two: Romantic, and it will take a while to finish so you have all the time in the world to get to know each other better.
A tour of hidden Paris
The 20th arrondissement with it’s hidden corners is worth a little tour. Start by metro Bagnolet, heading up the stairs to rue Irénée Blanc. This little enclave, a remain from the area’s history, is called la campagne á Paris, a remain of the area’s history of close-lying villages (before Haussmann annexed the district, and gave it a number in the escargot that is the departemental topography of Paris). Next, continue past Gambetta and enter Cimitière du Père Lachaise. A cemetery might seem like a strange place for a date but this place in all it’s beauty and tranquility is actually super romantic. Leave through the South gate, on rue de la Réunion. After you pass the big market square, take a right on rue des Vignoles and follow the street until you reach Les Mondes Bohémes. Have a seat on one of the colorful chairs and order the house’s Pink Mojito, you’ve deserved it.