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Paris, the City of Love

Tête-à-Tête Dining
Paris, the City of Love
Blame it on the water, the dramatic sunsets, the intoxicating food, or the sparkling champagne. Regardless of the reasons, Paris has drawn lovers since even before the legendary Héloïse and Abelard.
By Sylvia Sabes, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Tête-à-Tête Dining
    Tête-à-Tête Dining
    Parisians are hopeless romantics, quick to show their affection. As early as the 1780s, guests were enjoying the plush, private rooms and fine cuisine at the restaurant Lapérouse. Alléno Paris is a romantic Michelin three-star restaurant, nestled in the discreet gardens of the Champs-Élysées, where diners are served heavenly meals by candlelight. Café de l’Homme is a chic table for a kiss with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Even with others onboard Le Calife, you and your dinner partner will feel the city's magic as the lovely glass-topped barge slips under the bridges.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    The French Art of Strolling
    The French Art of Strolling
    The Tuileries Garden was open to the public in 1667, giving birth to the art of the flâner, the ambling version of sitting at a café for hours on end. After the revolution, the narrow streets of the capital were razed and wide boulevards were built so that rebels couldn’t build barricades and so that Parisians could stroll. The Grands Boulevards are not the only place for a leisurely walk: Exploring the city’s large parks provides an intimate peek into French life. Stroll the Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a look at off-duty Parisian life, away from the crowds of the Luxembourg Garden. The rive gauche Berges de Seine, opened in 2012, have given locals a taste for the bucolic, while the nostalgic Canal St.-Martin is perhaps the liveliest place for a stroll today.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Where to Sneak a Kiss in Paris
    Where to Sneak a Kiss in Paris
    Lovers strolling hand-in-hand is a common sight on the boulevards of Paris. Oscar Wilde fans can no longer kiss his grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery, but it is still a romantic place to kiss your date. The Je t’aime wall at Place des Abbesses has emboldened more than one to get down on bended knee. Catching the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower—shining every hour on the hour—from the Pont Alexandre III has encouraged just as many to reply “Oui!” If you're lucky enough to get a cabin to yourself, the Ferris wheel in the Tuileries Garden provides the perfect, private place to kiss with all of Paris at your feet, and the shared privacy in the back of a tuk-tuk may feel like a cozy respite in this busy city.
    Photo by Knud Nielsen/age fotostock
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    Parisian Picnics
    Parisian Picnics
    Picnicking is so beloved by Parisians that once a year they throw a Dîner en Blanc, a formal picnic where guests wear white and bring out their china to dine by the hundreds at landmarks like the Carrousel du Louvre or Place de la Concorde. For your picnic, there is nowhere more romantic than the western tip of the Île de la Cité, as the sun sets behind the bridges with the Seine below, or at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars, or on a Marin d’Eau Douce boat at La Villette. Near the Luxembourg Garden, Maison Verot makes it easy to assemble an impromptu picnic: pâtés baked in pastry, charcuterie, artisanal cheeses. The service ParisPicnic.com will even meet you with a ready-to-eat treat.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Romantic Escapes
    Romantic Escapes
    There are dozens of romantic adventures near the City of Love. A visit to Versailles, followed by lunch at the covered market and a stroll in the posh gardens, sets the mood with rich history and lavish architecture. For simpler tastes, it is an easy and picturesque bike ride from the Vernon train station to Giverny, where Monet painted his water lilies and cultivated a garden in the impressionist palette. Considered the 21st arrondissement, Deauville is a quaint Normandy town with timber-frame homes and a star-studded boardwalk that runs along a wide beach. Across a bridge, in Trouville, tables line the fish market, setting the scene for a memorable meal of the day’s catch and a crisp glass of wine to celebrate the moment.
    Photo by Werner Otto/age fotostock
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    Cozy Cocktail Clubs
    Cozy Cocktail Clubs
    For centuries, a celebratory drink in Paris has meant champagne. Fortunately, there are now some great bars for cocktails, too. For hotel bars, visit the plush, cozy hangouts at L’Hotel and the St. James, or the trendy bars of Mama Shelter, Terrass Hotel, and the Hotel Royal Monceau. The Experimental Cocktail Club of Beef Club Ballroom introduced Paris to cocktail culture. The movement was quickly joined by Andy Wahloo, Tiger, and L’Entrée des Artistes. Rooftops are the newest thing, with Le Perchoir and Wanderlust in the lead. The Rosebud and Closerie des Lilas are historic venues offering a vintage time-machine vibe, while La Vue, Le Quarante Trois, L’Oiseau Blanc, and La Terrasse add a stunning view of Paris to their high-end mixes.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Picture-Perfect Paris
    Picture-Perfect Paris
    Robert Doisneau photographed a couple kissing at the Hôtel de Ville in the '50s and started a fad that is still popular today. Technology has evolved, allowing couples to stroll the city taking photos of themselves everywhere from Trocadéro to the Pont des Arts, or wherever the Eiffel Tower pops into view. On the Champ de Mars there are all kinds of games to play with the perspective of the iconic symbol of France; at the Louvre, visitors spend hours trying to catch the perfect angle of themselves pinching the glass pyramids between their fingers. For a perfect snapshot, Pictours Paris will follow couples on their journeys to the most romantic corners of the city, immortalizing each romantic moment along the way.
    Photo by Christian Goupi/age fotostock
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    A Little Luxury: Shopping in Paris
    A Little Luxury: Shopping in Paris
    Paris is an undeniably extravagant city, and one of its greatest accomplishments is ensuring a little bit of luxury for everyone. Sample the decadent macarons from the gorgeous Ladurée tearoom, or order a flute of champagne at Café de Flore and watch the fashion world swagger by. Stepping into the original Chanel boutique and leaving with a camellia-clad bag can make some weak in the knees. Designer boutiques on the Faubourg St.-Honoré may even welcome visitors with a petit coup of bubbly, enticing them to try on silk dresses, satin shoes, and leather handbags. Gab & Jo is the city's first made-in-France store, full of très Parisian memories to take home, and Parfum sur Mesure blends haute couture fragrances.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    The City of Light by Night
    The City of Light by Night
    Paris lives up to her reputation, staying just as romantic by night as she is by day. The best way to take in the city sights after sunset is from the top of a Seine riverboat or in the back of a chauffeur-driven Citroën, the artistically lit monuments passing before you as you indulge in a glass of champagne. After the ride, the Bataclan and La Cigale are historic concert venues staging contemporary live music from across the globe. L’Alimentation Générale and Le Batofar are smaller clubs with an intimate atmosphere. For upscale clubbing, Le Baron and Le Madam attract the jet-setting crowd, while Club Silencio, designed by David Lynch, and Le Montana are the hottest addresses.
    Photo by Tara Donne
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    A Nostalgic Trip Through Music
    A Nostalgic Trip Through Music
    The French are faithful lovers of Edith Piaf’s voice, filling concert halls for tributes to le Piaf—the Sparrow—and chansons françaises evenings at Le Vieux Belleville, where dancing is heartily encouraged. The small cabaret at the historic Lapin Agile in Montmartre pleases crowds just as it once seduced Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Every weekend, Chez Louisette in St.-Ouen is an experience in time travel as accordionists beguile reserved, refined Parisians into singing the songs their grandmothers adore. Club Rayé plays a jazz brunch on Sunday as Left Bank musicians gather in front of the St.-Médard church near the Mouffetard market to provide songbooks for sing-alongs and serenade dancing couples.
    Photo by Mike Kemp/age fotostock
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    Go with the Flow
    Go with the Flow
    A trip along the Seine, which flows through the heart of the City of Love, is ideal for sitting back and taking in the sights with your true love. Enjoy the back seat on a dinner cruise or on a vintage Venetian water taxi, or float your own boat with a rental at Marin d’Eau Douce and take charge of romance.
    Photo Courtesy Marin d'Eau Douce